Dodge’s Journey is a good example of a carmaker not being satisfied with its work, with its own status quo.
How so? To look at the Journey you’d think it’s long in the tooth. On its face, that’s true. Journey joined the Dodge lineup 7 years ago and looks pretty much as it did then, when it was one of the first mid-size crossovers on the market, a blend of minivan and sport-utility vehicle.
But Dodge has kept improving the Journey year after year to keep it relevant as a low-cost option for folks needing to haul up to seven people along with their stuff, plus providing enough power and all-wheel-drive security to get them where they want to go.
This year, for example, Dodge has broadened Journey’s lineup of 10 models in 5 trims to include the Crossroad Plus model with leather seats and Dodge’s large 8.4-inch nav/radio screen. I tested a bright red Journey Crossroad Plus with AWD that started at $29,595 and after options ended up at $34,360. That’s at the lower end of pricing for mid-size crossovers with AWD.
Better yet, Dodge starts the base SE model at $21,890, but be aware that it features a modest 2.4-liter I4 with 4-speed automatic. Wisely moving up to the SE with AWD and a 3.6-liter VVT V6 jumps the price to $27,190. So Dodge accommodates buyers with varying budgets. There’s even a racier R/T version, but to be realistic, racy isn’t the reason to buy a Journey.
Still, the overall drive quality, which has always been pretty good, is a bargain.
Ride is comfortable, the interior is quiet and power is reasonable along with light easy handling. AWD also keeps its wheels firmly planted in sloppy weather.
Journey is easy to drive with its six-speed automatic shifting smoothly and its V6, which uses variable valve timing, is strong. The V6 is rated at 283 horses and if you tromp the gas pedal it’ll get up and go. Better yet, in this test model, the noticeable lag in acceleration experienced in past tests had been eliminated.
Handling also is light and Journey’s turning radius is good, making it easy to park. Braking is fine with four-wheel discs plus stability and traction control. This model rides on 19-inch tires and the wheels are blacked out giving it a sporty look. Hey, it’s more interesting looking than any minivan!
Inside, Journey is comfortable and quiet and the Dodge has earned a 5-star crash rating for front and side impacts, plus a 4-star rating for rollovers.
The test unit had a black leather interior with soft black textured dash. The leather seats included white stitching at the edges, giving the interior a more upscale look. Trim is a dark graphite looking plastic and the steering wheel is covered in thick leather. Good sound deadening keeps the interior quiet.
Journey’s dash and controls are well laid out and easy to understand and the 8.4-inch nav/radio screen mid-dash is easy to see and use. There are large volume and tuning knobs below it, plus it being so large the touchscreen buttons are easy to use, even when wearing gloves. Dodge’s Uconnect voice command system also is standard.
The crossover’s main gauges are easy to see, gone is the odd placement of the manual tilt/telescope steering wheel from the original Journey. It used to block about a third of the gauges from the driver’s view.
Seats are fairly flat on the bottom with mild back contouring, both comfortable on daily and longer drives. The test vehicle added a $1,100 option package that includes a power driver’s seat with power lumbar support. Another $1,250 package includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, two items I consider “musts” for our climate. Also included in the package are remote start, a security alarm, automatic lights and a few other items.
This model includes a third-row seat so up to 7 folks can take this Journey cross country. The rear seat is the right size for small kids, but five adults will fit in the first two rows, which include several clever features. First, the rear seat folds flat for better storage. Second there’s additional storage in the floor of the second row, plus the front passenger’s seat folds flat to allow for longer loads such as lumber. That front passenger’s seat also has storage under the bottom cushion.
Another package added a Garmin navigation system and ParkView back-up camera and ParkSense rear park assist, plus SiriusXM Traffic and Travel features. The package costs $1,195. I had no electronic glitches with any of the systems in this Journey, while I’d had some issues in past drives.
A few other points: the sun visors slide and I still like the big open bin in front of the console so you can store odds and ends, leaving the cup holders open for a bottle of water or two. Push-button start is standard, however, there is no sunroof here, a bit surprising, and the parking brake pedal still sticks out too far above the dead pedal for your left foot. The brake can catch pant legs as you exit. Journey’s A pillar also creates a large blind spot due to its thickness and side mirror placement.
Gas mileage also was poor in the test model. I got just 17.0 mpg in about 60% city driving. That was down considerably from my past drives, one where I averaged 24.4 mpg in mostly highway driving and 22.5 mpg in about a 60% highway and 40% city drive. The EPA rates Journey at 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
Again, pricing is value-oriented for many of Journey’s trim levels, so consider what all you need and find the right trim level for you. Others to consider in this price and size range are the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Chevy’e Traverse, which offers more legroom in its third row.
STATS: 2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad Plus AWD
Hits: Quiet, roomy, well-appointed interior that will seat 7. Seats are comfy and heated up front, plus heated steering wheel. Ride is nice and power is good, plus AWD helps in winter. Big nav/radio screen and large buttons and knobs and mucho storage under floor and in bottom of front passenger seat. Clever!
Misses: No sunroof or blind-spot warning here, plus huge A-pillar blind spot and poor MPG. Parking brake pedal remains awkwardly placed.
Made in: Toluca, Mexico
Engine: 3.6-liter, VVT V6, 283 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 4,238 lbs.
Length: 192.4 in.
Wheelbase: 113.8 in.
Cargo: 67.6 cu.ft.
Tow: 2,500 lbs.
MPG: 16/24 (EPA)
MPG: 17.0 (tested)
Base Price: $29.595
Dealer’s Price: $30,335 (includes delivery)
Package 28V (Crossroad equipment group, leather seats w/sport mesh inserts, premium door trim panel w/stitching, cargo net, 8.4-inch touchscreen, light gray accent stitching, power 6-way driver’s seat w/4-way power lumbar, front passenger fold-flat seat, passenger in-seat storage, passenger assist handles, front/rear amiable LED lamps, overhead console, 3-zone auto temp controls, sun visors w/illuminated vanity mirrors), $1,100
Popular equipment group (security alarm, high-beam daytime running lights, universal garage door opener, automatic headlights, heated steering wheel, heated front seats, remote start), $1,250
Nav/backup camera group (Garmin nav, SiriusXM Traffic/Travel 5-yr. sub., ParkView backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist), $1,195
Second row seats w/2 child boosters, $225
Test vehicle: $34,360
Sources: Dodge, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Mark Savage