If you need a minivan but don’t want a minivan, the Dodge Journey is for you. Except for the doors, that’s basically what it is. It’s the most affordable seven-seat crossover on the market. It’s also the longest running without a redesign. It hasn’t gotten the attention of Chrysler in the way that the Dodge Durango or the Jeeps have.
Base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making just 173 horsepower, mated to an obsolete 4-speed automatic transmission. That powertrain is inexpensive but outdated.
Chrysler’s fine 3.6-liter V6 is the upgrade engine and is necessary to move the 5000-pound Journey. It makes a that’s-more-like-it 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive available.
Without modern technology, the four-cylinder engine gets 19/25 mpg City/Highway, or 21 miles per gallon Combined, while the much more powerful V6 gets an EPA-estimated 16/24/19 mpg.
Because of its ancient design, the Journey doesn’t score all that well in crash tests. It gets an acceptable four stars overall from the NHTSA, but scores a Poor on the IIHS’s difficult small-overlap frontal crash test.
Still, the thing is, the base Journey SE is special. There’s nothing like its affordability and utility. The Hyundai Santa Fe with three rows is a better car than the Journey SE, but it’s more costly. The upper-scale Journey models with the V6 are better, but no better than their competition.
For 2017, the R/T models have been rebadged as GT.
2017 Dodge Journey SE ($20,995) comes with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine cloth upholstery, power windows, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel audio controls, storage bins in the floor, and a six-speaker sound system with 4.3-inch touchscreen. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional ($26,595). The third-row seat is an option. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Journey SXT ($24,895) adds foglamps, LED taillamps, and power mirrors. There’s also an appearance package with black trim and 19-inch wheels. Journey Crossroad ($26,295) gets 19-inch wheels, and a 8.4-inch touchscreen. The V6 engine is optional.
Journey GT ($31,795) comes with the V6 engine, leather upholstery, upgraded audio and other features.
The Journey’s slab sides are dated, as nowadays crossovers have rounded edges. The Durango is all warm and organic, but Dodge designers haven’t been assigned to give the same treatment to Journey. It’s angular and creased. But, looking on the positive side, the flat surfaces are easy to wash.
Unlike the outside, the Journey is smooth and swoopy inside, and easier to love. The cabin is not as modern as that of the Durango, but it’s attractive enough. The instrumentation is simple, with big dials and knobs and high-quality plastics on the sculpted dash and contoured centerstack. The materials are dark, but there’s enough brightwork to balance that. The fabric upholstery is rugged, and the optional leather has mesh inserts.
Where the Journey is strong, is in storage, with plenty of cubby holes and bins, including under the front passenger seat. There’s a ton of cargo space, with 37 cubic feet behind the second row, 10.7 cubic feet behind the available third row, or 67 cubic feet if the seats are dropped to the flat floor.
Outward rearview vision is poor. The optional rearview camera is needed.
The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is rough. Its 173 and 166 pound-feet of torque can’t move the Journey very well, certainly not with the 4-speed automatic transmission that would be at home in a Caravan from the 1970s.
The smooth 3.6-liter V6 comes from the modern world, with 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and its 6-speed automatic is an appropriate match.
We saved the best for last. The Journey feels like a lower and leaner vehicle than it looks, with handling that’s fairly well sorted for a vehicle this size. The steering ratio is a bit quick, but at least the old-school hydraulic steering has the right amount of resistance.
And the Journey’s ride is one of its strengths, with proper damping and good roll control. The suspension loads and unloads with confidence, with no wallowing over pavement ripples that might come in the middle of a corner.
Dodge Journey delivers big passenger space and is inexpensive. It’s a dated product, however, especially with the standard four-cylinder, 4-speed. The 3.6-liter V6 brings it more up to date, but there’s also a lot of competition at that price point.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports from The Car Connection.