The Bottom Line
The 2011 Dodge Journey finally graduates to the big leagues. Though its uncontroversial exterior remains mostly unchanged (save a new front fascia that's more aggressive on V6 models, and a few subtle rear-end tweaks), Dodge engineers focused on upgrading the underpinnings that actually make it a better car. Improvements include a new V6 Pentastar engine that yields more power and better fuel economy, a re-worked suspension and chassis for improved ride and handling, a more palatable interior treatment, and reduced noise, vibration, and harshness.
- Hugely improved interior
- Handling finally feels connected to the road
- More power, better fuel economy
- Same ole uninspired styling, for the most part
- Optional third row seats are designed for (really) little people
- Despite added power, V6 feels a bit hampered by gearbox's shift points and slow reaction times
- Base prices: Express ($22,245), Mainstreet ($24,245), Crew ($29,240), R/T ($28,245), Lux ($32,740); all prices exclude $750 destination charge
- Engines: 2.4 liter inline 4-cylinder (Express), 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 (Mainstreet, Crew, Lux, R/T)
- Horsepower/Torque: 173 hp/166 lb-ft (I-4); 283 horsepower, 260 lb-ft (V6)
- Fuel economy: 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway (I-4); 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway (FWD V6); 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway (AWD V6)
- Curb weight: 3,793 lbs (Express, FWD); 4,195 lbs (Mainstreet, AWD)
- Dimensions: 113.8 inches (wheelbase), 192.4 inches (length), 83.7 inches (width), 66.6 inches (height, with P225/65R17 tires, no roof rack)
- Cargo: Behind 1st row: 67.6 cu ft; behind 2nd row: 39.6 cu ft (5-passenger version), 37.0 cu ft behind 2nd row (7-passenger version); 10.7 cu ft behind 3rd row
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (basic), 5 years/100,000 miles (powertrain)
Guide Review - 2011 Dodge Journey
In the competitive midsize crossover segment, the first generation Dodge Journey seemed like the answer to a question nobody asked. Its exterior styling was bland, and its interior… well, let's just say it had more plastic than a Playboy centerfold. I mean, seriously—why did Dodge even bother?
But in the year following their bankruptcy, the Chrysler Group worked overtime ("8 days a week," according to one exec), and the improvements they gave the Journey are actually quite impressive. Though the front fascia and rear end receive a mild update, the big news is enough to make most buyers take a serious second look at this sport 'ute.
For starters, the new Pentastar V6 produces 283 horsepower, a 20 percent improvement over its predecessor, and the mill also gets better fuel economy. Suspension has been retuned for sharper steering, less body roll, and a smoother ride. Noise, vibration, and harshness have also been reduced. And finally, that thankless interior receives a much-needed redesign.
All those changes sound great on paper, so I spent a few hours behind the wheel to find out if Dodge really put their money where there mouth is. Climbing into the top-line "Lux" model revealed a dramatically improved interior; unlike the hard plastic found in its predecessor, the '11 model wears soft materials everywhere—from the dash to the doors, even the insides of the grab handles. The instrument cluster features an "Electronic Vehicle Information Center" between the speedo and tach, and a large 8.4-inch touchscreen is centered prominently on the new, gently sculpted one-piece dash that promises less rattles down the line, not to mention a more streamlined assembly process. Novel under-seat storage options are still part of the package, as are available built-in booster seats.
Settled into the comfy leather driver's seat, I set out on the winding roads that connect San Francisco with the coastal town of Stinson Beach. Power from the V6 feels adequate but not overly aggressive, and the six-speed transmission shifts smoothly, if a bit too early (likely tuned that way for optimal fuel economy.) Though the powertrain package is an improvement over the last-gen Journey's, it takes annoyingly long for the revs to rise and the gearbox to downshift when the gas pedal is dropped; again, most likely a way to boost MPG numbers, though our car was a pre-production model, which might have explained that. At least at 60 mph, revs settle at a very mellow 1,500 rpm.
Apart from those niggling driveline issues, Journey performed like an entirely different vehicle; it handled more securely than the outgoing version, offering reassuring and communicative handling as I hustled it across tight switchbacks on one-lane highway. Though its two-ton curb weight is far from slight, the '11 Journey offers surprisingly predictable road manners, good body control, and communicative steering feedback. Small bumps tend to transfer through the suspension a bit abruptly, but the suspension otherwise feels composed.
As the miles wore on, Journey became even more likable; not only is the interior a vastly more pleasant place to spend a few hours, the cabin is wonderfully quiet. Though the central touchscreen handles quite a few functions, the screen is big enough to make climate, stereo, navigation, phone, and other features easily manipulated.
My time spent aboard Journey left me impressed. Its creature comforts are second only to its higher-end cousin, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, drivetrain is more compelling (though still far from perfect), and the handling and ride significantly refined. Bravo, Dodge: you've gone from making a vehicle that, as Jason put it, was "hard to love," to building a serious contender.