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