First Test: 2011 Dodge Journey
When John and Jane Skip the Minivan, a Journey Awaits
As the old saying goes, having kids can be a blessing and a curse, and what to transport the little ones in is of the many issues John and Jane Doe have to address as the family expands. Once upon a time, the minivan and station wagon were the usual suspects. Today, there's a multitude of options for modern families, with updated 2011 Dodge Journey one of several choices on Dodge lots alone.
Like its Dodge stablemates, the Journey has been refreshed for 2011 in an effort to make the midsize crossover more attractive to modern families. Journey press materials profess that the mid-level Crew model we recently tested possesses "the flexibility of a minivan, the image of a crossover, and driving dynamics of a performance sedan." The last part is more than a bit of a stretch, but the rest of the statement is spot-on.
While memorable driving experiences and technological wizardry aren't exactly the Journey's strong suits, John and Jane could care less. What's more important is getting little Doe to their play date safely and easily, and the Journey is a viable option if they find the minivan too lame and larger SUVs too intimidating.
The Journey has been criticized for a lack of refinement in the past, and Dodge has made a solid effort to address the crossover's shortcomings with the 2011 model. Not much has changed on the outside, with the Journey retaining much of its original shape while infusing subtle, modern revisions to the front and rear ends for the new decade.
The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 has been a welcome addition to the Chrysler/Dodge lineup, and not surprisingly, it finds its way under the Journey's hood as well. Our Pentastar-equipped Journey tester with all-wheel drive and six-speed automatic was good for a 7.5-second 0-60 mph time and 15.9-second quarter-mile run, which is spritely enough for the more heroic merges onto the highway. As peak torque and horsepower come later in the powerband -- 4400 and 6350 rpm, respectively -- drivers may experience the need to get the six-cylinder's revs up. There's 4350 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic that won't get moving on its own, after all.
Driving the Journey is utterly prosaic, and that's not a negative. The transmission is slightly sluggish but under normal driving conditions passengers will be unaware the crossover is swapping gears. A high driver's seating position aids visibility. Its 128-foot stopping distance from 60 mph is a middle-of-the-road number for its class, but more than adequate.
John and Jane may not fully comprehend how the steering was recalibrated or how the suspension was stiffened, but the Journey's revised innards will be the talk of the post-PTA meetings. The old Journey's subpar materials and button after button on the center stack assaulted driver and passenger. The new model has been significantly improved: The smartly designed gauge cluster with Electronic Vehicle Information Center and vibrant 8.4-inch touch-screen display should more than draw in a few looky-loos. An attractive three-spoke steering wheel, simplified center stack, and softer touch materials are now standard. When you're cooped up on the road during daily schlepping duties, an inviting interior is a godsend.
Second-row seating is on the tight side for full-size adults, the third row even more so -- one of the compromises that come with a smaller crossover. Stow the third row and there's more than ample cargo space for the in-laws' luggage come holiday season (37 cubic feet for the seven-seater to be exact). A bevy of usable storage compartments, hidden and in plain sight, are spread throughout the cabin. Keeping the kiddies safe is of paramount importance, and parents and parents-to-be can sleep soundly knowing their Journey will perform should some unfortunate contact with another vehicle occur.
Versatility may not win the heart of the enthusiast, but it'll earn commendation from those with dollar sense. Now that the Journey has undergone a thorough refreshing, it's about time to let it venture onto our wild roads.
|2011 Dodge Journey Crew AWD|
|Price as tested||$34,550|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door crossover|
|Engine||3.6L/283-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Curb weight (f/r dist)||4350 lb (55/45%)|
|Length x width x height||192.4 x 83.7 x 66.6 in|
|0-60 mph||7.5 sec|
|Quarter mile||15.9 sec @ 87.2 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||128 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.76 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||28.3 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||16/24 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||1.03 lb/mile|