Full 2011 Dodge Journey Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Dodge Journey receives a number of significant changes, including a new, more powerful 3.6-liter V6, retuned suspension and steering, and a revamped interior featuring higher-quality materials and a new touchscreen interface.
Know that old expression about the journey being its own reward? Well, in the case of the 2011 Dodge Journey, we can definitively say that this new version is a lot more rewarding than the 2010 model it's replacing.
To be honest, we haven't much cared for Dodge's midsize seven-passenger crossover SUV since it debuted back for 2009. While it featured a number of clever details like multiple hidden storage bins and family-friendly wide-opening rear doors, its anemic engines, lackluster handling and low-budget interior made it difficult to recommend.
Well, that's all changed now that the folks at Dodge have given the Journey a thorough makeover that addresses those specific complaints. At the top of this list of major improvements is an all-new 283-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that's significantly more powerful and refined. A similar makeover has been applied to the suspension and steering, and as a result the Journey is noticeably more buttoned-down.
An even more noticeable aspect of the 2011 Journey's transformation concerns the interior. The combination of a handsome new design and soft-touch plastics gives the interior a level of sophistication that was sorely lacking in the previous version. An 8.4-inch touchscreen that dominates the dash of upper trim levels adds to the modern look and allows easy access to both audio and climate controls and cutting-edge features like the available Sirius Travel Link satellite infotainment service.
All these tweaks make this Journey a much more serious contender for a crossover SUV. The Journey's size and price also give it some niche appeal; it's larger and roomier than similarly priced small crossovers like the 2011 Honda CR-V, 2011 Kia Sorento and 2011 Toyota RAV4, yet less expensive than most midsize and large offerings such as the 2011 Chevrolet Traverse, 2011 Ford Flex and Toyota Highlander.
That's not to say it's perfect -- the four-cylinder engine is underwhelming, for instance, and cargo capacity isn't all that impressive. Ultimately, though, we think these well-targeted improvements make test-driving the 2011 Dodge Journey a trip that's definitely worth taking.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Dodge Journey is a midsize crossover offered in five trim levels: Express, Mainstreet, Crew, R/T and Lux.
The entry-level Express model comes reasonably well-equipped with a four-cylinder engine, 16-inch steel wheels, heated outside mirrors, roof rack side rails, dual-zone air-conditioning, illuminated cupholders, a 4.3-inch touchscreen interface, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
Move up to the Mainstreet trim level and you get a V6 engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning, body-color mirrors, a rear cargo compartment cover and satellite radio. The Crew model adds 19-inch alloy wheels, foglights, tri-zone automatic climate control, a power driver seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat with built-in storage compartment, reclining 60/40-split second-row seat with fore-aft adjustment, an overhead console with conversation mirror, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote engine start, a 115-volt AC power outlet and a premium Infinity audio system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen and SD card slot.
The R/T model gets you all the Crew's standard features but with dual-zone climate control and distinctive interior and exterior trim. The top-of-the-line Lux adds a handful of desirable extras, including 19-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and a Garmin-sourced navigation system.
Many of the features included on the upper trim levels can be added to the lower trim levels via optional packages. Other notable options include a sunroof, a 50/50-split third-row seat, built-in child booster seats, a navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Dodge Journey is available with a choice of two engines. The entry-level Express model gets a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 173 hp and 166 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy estimates are expected to be 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
All other Journey trim levels are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature is standard, as is front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is offered as an option. Dodge estimates fuel economy at 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway for front-drive and 16/24 mpg with all-wheel drive.
For 2011, the Dodge Journey is equipped with antilock disc brakes, stability control with a rollover sensor, traction control, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags, a driver-side knee airbag and side curtain airbags for all three rows.
The Journey has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) were a perfect five stars in all front- and side-impact categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the Journey its highest "Good" rating for both frontal-offset and side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Dodge Journey's switch to top-quality soft-touch plastics, along with a sleek new design, projects a far more refined image. Worthy of special mention here are details like hidden storage bins and available child booster seats.
The long and wide-opening (nearly 90 degrees) rear doors make getting little ones in and out of car seats a hassle-free affair. The second row is comfortable for two good-sized adults. The third-row seat is best left for small children. With both the second and third-row seats folded down, the Journey offers 68 cubic feet of total cargo capacity -- a useful amount, although many competing models offer more.
Perhaps the most significant change for the 2011 Journey is the incorporation of the huge 8.4-inch touchscreen that dominates the dash of upper trim level models. Besides providing a slick way to access everyday controls, the screen plays a role in some of the cooler tech features offered here, including displaying the image from the rearview camera and the wide range of useful info delivered by the available Sirius Travel Link service.
On the road, the 2011 Dodge Journey's character depends greatly on what's under the hood. We'd suggest avoiding the four-cylinder engine that's standard on the base Express model, as it just doesn't have enough oomph to get this 4,000-pound vehicle up to speed quickly enough in common scenarios like merging onto a freeway. The new 3.6-liter V6 is a far better choice, as it produces quicker acceleration with only a slight sacrifice in fuel economy.
This year's complete redesign of the suspension and steering gear has completely transformed the driving experience. Handling feels much more confident now and the ride, while not silky-smooth, is still quite good. The steering is now much more precise and predictable, with a light but still nicely weighted feel to it.