Reviews

2011 Dodge Journey Driving Impressions


The Dodge Journey is nondescript when it comes to road manners, though suspension changes for 2011 make it more controlled and a bit sportier. Those changes include stiffer springs and shocks, new lower rolling resistance tires with more grip, a retuned steering gear and stiffer steering mechanism, and modified rear suspension geometry.

The result is a ride that is generally good, with little pounding over bumps. The head sway that is associated with a high seating position is also minimal. Even with the available 19-inch wheels, the Journey does a good job of ironing out most jolts. But there are plenty of midsize crossovers and SUVs with similar ride characteristics.

While the high seating position affords a good view of the road, it seems to hurt the feel behind the wheel. This is not an off-road-oriented SUV, and as such it seems that Dodge could have made it sit a bit lower, which would have made it feel more carlike. The way it's engineered however, means the Journey leans more in turns than some other crossovers. The 2011 suspension changes control this issue a bit better and also make the vehicle more willing to react to quick changes of direction. It's still not as nimble as competitors such as the Nissan Murano, or even the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer. The steering is light, but predictable, and the brakes are easy to modulate.

The engines are comparable to the handling: Capable but not as good as the best in the class. The base four-cylinder, Chrysler's 173-hp 2.4-liter World Engine, is loud in the Journey and delivers too little power in this 3800-pound package. The four-cylinder will certainly get you and your kids around town, but passing will require some planning and it's not rated for towing. With a 0-60 mph time of somewhere between 11 and 12 seconds, a four-cylinder Journey is one of the slower vehicles in its class.

The new 3.6-liter V6 is standard in all 2011 Journey models except the Express. The 3.6-liter V6 is plenty modern, but the tuning choices Dodge made with the throttle and 6-speed automatic transmission often leave it feeling unresponsive. Power is decent from a start, but the transmission shifts up as quickly as it can, meaning power is no longer readily on tap. It requires a deep stab of the throttle to coax a downshift and you practically have to floor it to get a two-gear downshift needed for highway passing. The problem is exacerbated by numb throttle response. We also found that with front-wheel drive, those foot-to-the-floor blasts can cause some torque steer (felt as a slight tug on the steering wheel) that temporarily disrupts fine steering control.

On the positive side, the new 3.6-liter engine is quieter and more refined than the outgoing 3.5-liter, and it should provide 0-60 mph runs in the high seven-second range, about a second quicker than its predecessor. It also offers improved fuel economy, though towing capacity is down from 3500 to 2500 pounds.

Fuel economy numbers are decent. With the four-cylinder engine, the Journey is EPA-rated at 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The V6 is improved by one mpg all around. With front-wheel drive, it is rated at 17/25 mpg, and with AWD, it gets 16/24 mpg.

The all-wheel-drive system is mainly meant for slippery surfaces, not off-roading. It does not have low-range gearing. It sends the power to the front wheels in most conditions, but when more traction is needed, such as in wintry conditions, rain or on any slippery surface, it can send some of the power to the rear wheels. It can also aid handling, at least a bit. When traveling over 25 mph into a turn, the system sends power to the rear wheels to help the vehicle turn. It's not as sophisticated as systems from Acura and BMW that send the power to the outside rear wheel in turns, but it's a help.

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