This was my first time behind the wheel of a Journey, so I didn’t have the previous bad experience others have mentioned here, but I can confess that I EXPECTED to be disappointed. The over-the-top masculine Ram-derived exterior styling of this car (and its lookalike brethren Nitro and Caliber) has never done anything for me and I dreaded the plastic cabin within.
Boy was I wrong. This updated interior is NICE. Very nice. A handsome dash, with nice grains and details and a good layout, but the real impact came on the doors with their soft and luxuriously stitched inserts.
The touch-screen interface is attractive and reminiscent of Ford’s MyTouch. I like that the basic controls for climate and stereo remain independent of the electronic screen, but burying the seat heater controls in the screen interface seems like a poor choice.
I also never realized this car had a third row until now. It simply didn’t look that big. Once I reached home and parked next to my wife’s Odyssey and realized it was nearly the same size did I notice how large the Journey really is.
And as I circled the car to get a better look at the size I started to notice that the exterior has been subtly improved all the way around. The bold Mango Tango orange paint and chrome wheels might be a bit much for me, but overall it was less objectionable than my first impression.
The Pentastar V-6/six-speed combo is familiar territory after the Chrysler minivans we’ve had through here of late, but it felt a bit more exciting propelling a less boxy vehicle.
For $35K, Dodge is offering two nicely equipped options for families on somewhat of a budget: this Journey and the Grand Caravan. It’s up to the buyer to decide where they sit on the sporty/style versus family truckster/utility scale when choosing between these very well executed vehicles.
Matt Tierney, Art Director
I’m not sure if Chrysler sent its engineering staff to medical school, but it certainly seems they’ve mastered the art of the face-lift. Most of its 2011 products have been slightly overhauled for the new model year but manage to feel like substantially revised products.
Such is the case with the Journey. Admittedly, when compared with vehicles like the Chrysler 200, the makeover is relatively mild — a new V-6, a refreshed interior, and a few exterior cosmetic tweaks here and there — but apart from some subpar interior plastics, there wasn’t really anything that egregious about the 2010 Journey. In fact, many of us were quite impressed with the sample we tested late last year.
Without a doubt, the most substantial improvement lies with the Journey’s interior. The crude, rough-edged plastics previously strewn all over the dashboard are virtually eliminated, or at least relegated to surfaces (i.e. door pocket inserts, kick panels, etc.) that users will likely never touch. Upper door panels and armrests receive soft-touch materials (our Lux test car also wears handsome stitched-leather accents on the door inserts). I’m also surprised by Chrysler’s new infotainment system — unlike other attempts at integrating climate, audio, and navigation controls into a single touch-screen (I’m looking at you, MyFord Touch), the system responds to inputs in a lightning-quick manner.
I wish the same could be said about the powertrain. Yes, Chrysler’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 — the only V-6 offering for 2011 — is smoother, more torquey, and more powerful (283 hp versus 235) than the outgoing 3.5-liter, but it doesn’t feel much quicker when behind the wheel. I’m also a little annoyed with the calibration on the 3.6 — move your foot off the gas following a bout of hard acceleration, and the throttle tends to briefly hang open until the transmission can schedule an upshift. Chrysler dubs the chassis tuning used on this top-end Lux model as its Performance Suspension package, but it seems too soft for the nomenclature.
Mainstays like Toyota’s Highlander and Honda Pilot may continue to dominate the segment, but the Journey is — as it has long been — a solid, competent crossover. Now that it’s got an interior to match, it’s worth adding to the shopping list when in the market for a mid-size CUV.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The fact that Dodge can offer the Journey with a “Lux” trim level and not be laughed at is a pretty incredible accomplishment given how poorly the original Journey was received. Like my coworkers, I really enjoyed the new cabin and much, much more upscale materials that were used. I think Dodge is reaching a little with the Lux moniker, but I can’t think of a nicer utility vehicle interior outside of the premium brands.
I drove the Journey to Chicago and back and did a fair amount of suburban driving with it while I was in Chicago. Overall the Pentastar V-6 is a huge improvement over every six-cylinder Chrysler engine I can remember. I wish the torque peak came a little lower, but that might just be because we’re spoiled with the sudden influx of small displacement engines that use turbochargers and direct fuel injection to create flat torque curves that start below 2000 rpm. Again, echoing my coworkers’ comments, the transmission could offer smoother shifts but it’s nice to see a six-speed automatic in a Dodge product.
The 2011 Dodge Journey‘s strengths are a very flexible (though not exactly capacious) interior, available all-wheel-drive, and desirable footprint. I’d personally rather have a minivan than a crossover from this class if I ever intended to use the third row of seating, but I can’t fault anyone for choosing a Journey now. I really can’t wait to see what Chrysler is able to do with all-new vehicles under Fiat’s guidance since these emergency refreshes are coming together so well.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Now that its second-rate interior and uninspiring engine have been addressed, the Journey has entered the fray of vehicles worth consideration by those in the market for a reasonably priced crossover — this top spec model is a bit more than $36,000 but the base Journey comes in just under $23,000. It’s a crowded field but what the Journey has going for it is a tight but livable third row — it can seat up to seven — a quick and easy-to-use infotainment system, and cool innovations such as the second-row pop-up booster seats. (The mechanisms that control the pop-ups as well as the flip-forward second-row seat that enables access the third row required some serious muscle to use in our test vehicle.) The Journey still has some shortcomings — fuel economy could be better — but at least for the short term, Dodge has done a good job of fixing the Journey’s most egregious faults and breathing new life into this model.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
Now that its aesthetic and dynamic shortcomings have been addressed, I was very happy to spend a weekend with the 2011 Dodge Journey. Granted, this was a Lux, the top trim level, which comes with a whole host of premium features and is priced in the mid-$30,000s. However, you don’t need to spend that much to get into a Journey, with the base trim level priced about at only $23,000. The Express (base) trim level is powered by a 173-hp four-cylinder, however, which many prospective buyers may find somewhat underpowered. Happily, you can still get into a Journey with the new Pentastar V-6 for a very reasonable $25,000. The V-6 puts out plenty of power, but the transmission doesn’t always deliver it as smoothly as you’d expect, sometimes taking too long to grab the proper gear.
As others have stated, the interior of this Journey is a huge improvement over that of the last Journey. I’m really impressed with the uConnect infotainment system and its ease of use. I find it much more user-friendly than Ford’s MyTouch. The rest of the interior controls are very easy to decipher and the instrument panel is very clean, without too many buttons. The Journey comes in either 5- or 7-passenger configurations, but I think I’d opt for the 5-passenger version if I were buying this vehicle, as the third row requires some serious gymnastics to access.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
With the impressive interior face-lift that others here have described, the Journey is now a highly competent, affordable family crossover. The styling is a nice break from the more rounded forms of most competitors. I feel that most people with seven passengers to haul around would, for this price, be happier with a Dodge Grand Caravan minivan. Yet I realize that many people categorically refuse to drive a minivan, even if it means their two youngest children will be shoehorned into the tight third-row seat of a Journey. So be it.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Amazing the difference a new interior can make. The old Journey was an absolute mess of rock-hard plastics, balky controls, and ugly design. I distinctly remember driving a rented model a few years ago and wondering just how Chrysler would survive. Now, the dashboard is simple, elegant, and well constructed. The LCD touch-screen works noticeably better than the one Ford is touting. Poof! Just like that, the Journey is a competitive mid-size crossover.
Competitive, but not outstanding. That’s mostly because Dodge still takes a decidedly old-school Detroit approach to suspension tuning. Soft ride, numb steering, squishy brakes. The 3.6-liter V-6 is a perfectly good engine but still doesn’t work seamlessly with the transmission, a problem we’ve also noticed in our Four Seasons Jeep Grand Cherokee.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I’ve always liked the Dodge Journey, but its subpar interior — particularly in the dashboard and switchgear — was a huge weakness. Now that the Journey has been heavily revised for 2011, its cabin is no longer a place that I’d be embarrassed to show friends. I was particularly fond of our top-of-the-line Lux model’s attractive light brown leather upholstery. The Journey’s seven-passenger capability is useful, and I can actually fit in the third row with decent headroom (granted I’m only five-foot-six, and climbing back there is tricky). The back row is low to the floor, though, so your knees are up in your chin, but that’s to be expected from the third rows of most crossovers. That the Journey can make hospitable accommodations from a relatively small footprint is fairly impressive. The second row, however, is lacking in the headroom department; I didn’t hit my head, but there wasn’t a lot of extra room up there. Integrated second-row booster seats — like the ones Volvo has — are nice for older kids, but I had a hard time locking the cushion back into its “adult” position; you have to push down pretty hard.
The Journey’s steering is very light and overboosted, although the steering itself is quick. The Journey is not a very sporty vehicle, but it’s more fun to drive than most minivans. Speaking of minivans, though, the front-wheel-drive, six-cylinder Journey’s EPA fuel-mileage rating is 17/25 mpg city/highway, the exact same as a Dodge Grand Caravan with the same engine and a couple ticks below the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna. Pricing is very similar to the more spacious Caravan, too, but the Journey buyer does have the important (to some) option of adding all-wheel drive.
The new infotainment system is good, I will agree, but why are the heated-seat controls buried in the infotainment system? I, too, found the powertrain lacking in some refinement. The transmission isn’t particularly smooth under normal part-throttle acceleration.
Nonetheless, I still like the Journey overall.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2011 Dodge Journey Lux AWD
Base price (with destination): $35,190
Price as tested: $36,060
3.6-liter V-6 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
Electronic stability control
Remote engine start
Parkview rear backup camera
Parksense rear park assist
Tire pressure monitoring system
Leather-trimmed bucket seats
Heated front seats
60/40 2ndrow split seats
50/50 3rd row folding seats
8.4-inch touch screen display
6 Infinity speakers with subwoofer
Sirius satellite radio
Steering-wheel mounted audio controls
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation convenience group — $500
Garmin navigation system
Uconnect touch screen CD/DVD/MP3/Nav
Universal garage door opener
Second-row seat with two child booster seats — $225
Trailer tow prep group — $145
Key options not on vehicle:
Power sunroof — $845
16 / 24 / 19 mpg
Horsepower: 280 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Curb weight: 4329 lb
Wheels/tires: 19 x 7.0-inch aluminum clad wheels
225/55R19 all-season tires
What’s new? The vehicle was updated with an all-new interior 2011.