The Dodge Journey is the epitome of the term “mixed bag.” It does some things pretty well and some not so well. I found the Journey to be weakest in the city — running short errands, ferrying one person or driving narrow streets. By comparison, it’s at its best making grocery runs and cruising on the highway. But that’s not to say it’s a slam-dunk winner in either role.
City & Highway Acceleration
If you’re considering buying this car, the most important thing you need to do is take it on a highway and pass someone. The Journey isn’t great at accelerating at any speed, but going from 40 to 60 mph really took more time than I thought it should, including waiting for the engine to rev up and the transmission to kick down.
I tested the top-of-the-line R/T with a 235-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Dodge also sells a base Journey with a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder that’s paired with a four-speed automatic.
You can get the Journey with either front- or all-wheel drive, and it’s possible that the approximately 200 pounds of extra weight that all-wheel-drive models carry contributed to the lackluster acceleration.
The Journey moved decently in the city. It took off from stoplights well for something this big, but that was the lone bright spot in terms of acceleration. The city was also where the Journey’s mixed bag of attributes really became evident.
Visibility & Ride
Don’t ask me where the Journey’s front bumper is — I still don’t know. And that’s after driving it for a week. In other words, visibility out the front wasn’t very good. I was always misjudging how far into a parking space I was.
The Journey also feels bigger than it is. No matter where I drove, it felt like the Journey was as wide as whatever lane I was in. In reality, it’s smaller than the Audi Q7 I tested recently, though it feels much bigger. (And before you say, “The Journey doesn’t compete with the Q7!” I’m merely pointing out the difference in how the cars feel.)
The Journey’s ride is also mixed. Cruising on the highway, it’s comfortable. There’s some floaty sensation when going over hills and the like, but overall I liked it. Tooling around town, however — especially in Chicago, where the roads stink and the traffic is stop-and-go — the Journey feels like an older SUV. There’s a lot of jiggle — almost like the chassis was shuddering, but not severely — and a lot more of that floaty sensation when traveling over rough spots. I wasn’t a fan.
Utility & Interior
Our Journey came with an optional third-row seat that must have been designed for small children, because it’s tiny. Fold the seat, though, and you’re treated to a very large cargo area. I was almost able to fit a large ironing board in back without folding the second row. I’ve also used the Journey for ski trips and tested it as a Weekend Athlete vehicle, and it’s fairly handy.
The Journey’s interior makes it one of a couple cars I’ve driven lately that I actually prefer to drive at night. The version we tested came with an option package that included LEDs for the driver and front passenger, but Dodge really nailed the lighting for the buttons and controls — things not touched by the LEDs. It’s not too bright and distracting, but it’s also not so dark you can’t see what you need to see. It’s very well done.
The steering wheel is the right size, and the leather you can get it wrapped in feels good. As you spend most your driving time with your hands on the wheel (hopefully), a little effort in this area goes a long way.
Second-row room is … OK. Bear in mind, I climbed in back with the driver’s seat set for me, and I’m 6-foot-1. Two taller people would find it tiresome to share that space on a long drive, but shorter folks probably wouldn’t be bothered. Also, the second-row seat is comfortably wide, so as long as you’re not tall, the Journey’s backseat would be fine on long highway trips.
Yes, there were some things I wasn’t over the moon about. The good news for people considering the Journey is that almost all those problems are solvable. Basically, whether I was folding the seats, changing the radio station or inputting a destination in the navigation system, nothing worked as I expected it to. Everything required at least two steps, one of which made no sense at all, and the controls for the radio and navigation system felt cheap and responded sluggishly.
These kinds of things are usually a bigger deal for auto critics than auto owners, because if it’s your car, you learn the steps, get used to them and it all becomes second nature. But I’ve driven cars more advanced than the Journey that took only 30 minutes to figure out. This car took my entire week with it to figure out, and I never got used to the controls’ hesitation. It could be better.
Also, whoever designed the navigation readout made a mistake, because it’s impossible to read street names; they’re all lettered in black and edged in white. I gave up even trying to read them two days into my test and was much happier.
Mileage, Safety, Reliability, Compare
The 2010 Dodge Journey is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick. It earned scores of “Good,” the highest rating, in frontal-offset, side-impact, roof-strength and rear-impact tests. Check out the Standard Equipment & Specs page for a full list of safety features.
According to Consumer Reports, though, the Journey’s predicted reliability is much worse than average. The Journey is dragged down by poor ratings in the squeaks and rattles and power equipment categories.
The V-6 Journey’s EPA-estimated mileage is 15/23 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive, but the crossover is rated as high as 19/25 mpg with front-wheel drive and a four-cylinder.
The Journey was introduced for the 2009 model year, and changes for 2010 are more incremental than major, but judge for yourself here.
Journey in the Market
The Journey is not my favorite three-row crossover, but what really hurts it is that it is a three-row crossover. The fact is, if you want to haul that many people and cargo, a minivan is a superior vehicle. I’ve tested the Chrysler Town & Country, and it was easier to drive than the Journey. It’s more expensive than the Journey, sure, but if you pick the Town & Country’s sibling, the Dodge Grand Caravan, you’re looking at roughly the same price for a more practical vehicle.
Now, in the real world, I know once people decide on a crossover they won’t cross-shop it with a minivan. Fine.
In the field of three-row crossovers, the Journey doesn’t offer anything that makes it an outright winner. Yes, the highway ride is good, and the ergonomic things that annoyed me would fade the longer I drove it. Seating room is OK, too, if you’re not a giant. So maybe if I lived in the suburbs, had a small family and spent most of my time cruising (but not passing) on highways, I’d like it more. Even at that, though, I’m still not sold on it. The fact is, sooner or later, I’d find myself stuck in a city or stuck trying to pass someone at speed, and I wouldn’t be happy.
If I were shopping for this type of car I’d also give a lot of weight to predicted reliability, so the Journey’s poor performance in this category would weigh heavily, even though the things that drag it down aren’t transmissions or engines. Its safety ratings are excellent, but, sorry, I just don’t weigh that as heavily as other factors. That’s just me, though.
In the end, I’d recommend giving the Journey a test drive, but I’m betting it will turn out to be the car that sets the baseline for you. Anything I would actually buy would have to perform better than the Journey did.
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