2014 Dodge Journey SXT Plus Blacktop SUV (3.6L V6 6-speed Automatic)
Driven On 2/12/2014
The Dodge Journey is not the penalty box it was when introduced, as its cabin quality, electronic controls and V6 powertrain have been dramatically improved. It scores high for comfort and its clever cargo spaces, but in most other respects the Journey is still outdone by similarly priced and sized competitors.
PerformanceIt's not that the Journey is objectionable to drive, it's that most competitors are more responsive and/or refined. Opting for the V6 engine is a must given the weak base 4-cylinder. Even with the six, the Journey's acceleration is still below average.
The 3.6-liter, 283-horsepower V6 feels robust, but 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds is slower than most rivals (with similar engine upgrades). But considerably better than the weak, inefficient base 4-cylinder.
Its panic-stop distance of 124 feet from 60 mph is average for compact SUVs, though there was significant nosedrive and some squirming. Pedal has a comfortingly firm feel, though.
Slow reactions (you'll be turning the wheel a lot), and it doesn't transmit much to the driver's hands. It makes most rivals feel lithe by comparison.
Feels bigger and heavier than other compact SUVs. There's lots of body roll through corners, it doesn't feel planted nor does it instill much confidence. It's definitely more of a highway hauler.
The 6-speed automatic transmission is too quick to upshift in most situations and too slow to downshift on steep grades. Otherwise, the Journey is perfectly pleasant to drive. But others do it better.
Towing capacity of 2,500 pounds is 1,000 more than a turbocharged Subaru Forester, but 1,000 less than a Ford Escape 2.0T or even a four-cylinder Chevy Equinox.
Even if our front-drive-equipped tester had the optional all-wheel drive, its 7.4-inch ground clearance makes this an on-road vehicle. Which is typical for the segment.
ComfortThough lacking in other areas, your family should be plenty comfortable in the Dodge Journey. While some competitors offer more rear legroom, the seat's adjustability is a bonus. It's a good road trip vehicle.
Six-way power driver's seat (fore/aft, tilt, height) with manual recline was supportive and comfortable during a four-hour drive. The back seat reclines and slides -- nice.
The ride was controlled on undulating pavement, and didn't get harsh even on the truly rough stuff. The Journey feels solid and secure on the freeway, and would make a good long-distance vehicle.
Apart from the slow-reacting transmission which causes excess engine revving on any kind of a climb, the Journey is impressively quiet most of the time.
InteriorAlthough the Journey is midsize on the outside, its interior has roughly the same passenger and cargo space as compact SUVs like the Ford Escape or Chevrolet Equinox, but less than a Honda CR-V. In total, a decent family-ready cabin.
Excellent optional 8.4-inch touchscreen features large "buttons" and understandable menus -- it's easy to use. Radio and climate controls are annoyingly jumbled together, however.
Vehicle and seat height are typical for a compact SUV, as is door size. You won't need running boards to get the kids inside.
You'll find more legroom in a Honda CR-V or Chevy Equinox. Rear headroom is sufficient, but tall folks will be staring at the back end of the sunroof. Optional third row is for kids only.
Big windshield pillars and enormous rear headrests limit visibility, and it can be difficult to see over the front of the Journey when parking. Rearview camera display is large but resolution is poor.
Hidden compartments under the cargo area, passenger seat and back seat floor compensate for the tiny glovebox. Similar max cargo capacity as Ford Escape and Chevy Equinox, but the load floor is high.
ValueThe Dodge Journey offers more equipment for less money than competitors, some of which don't offer a similarly powerful engine upgrade. However, we experienced some electrical glitches and unimpressive fuel economy.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Keyless entry, Homelink and iPod interface were intermittently unresponsive. Questionable construction, but material quality is above average with soft touch points and solid switchgear.
The as-tested $30,960 Journey SXT costs $1,000-$5,000 less than similarly equipped, powered and sized rivals. Other than lacking some advanced safety tech, it offers everything the others do.
More stuff for your money, yes, but you're paying for a less advanced machine. A base $20,990 Journey with the weak 4-cylinder engine and minimal equipment would be even harder to recommend.
Averaged a paltry 21 mpg on our 116-mile evaluation loop. EPA estimates are 19 mpg Combined (17 City/25 Highway) for the FWD V6, 21 mpg Combined (19 City/26 Highway) for the 4-cylinder. Both below average.
Dodge's 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty is typical, but 5-year/100,000-mile coverage for the drivetrain and rust protection are generous.
The Journey's 5-year/100,000-mile roadside assistance coverage is lengthy. But be aware there have been owner complaints about reliability in consumer reviews, and we experienced some electronic gremlins.
Fun To DriveFew expect a family-hauling SUV to be fun to drive, but the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester prove they don't have to be dull, either. The Journey is an uninvolving A-to-B appliance.
A few SUVs encourage you to drive them with at least some vigor, offering a commendable degree of driver involvement. This is not one of them.
With its bright red paint and black wheels, our test Journey SXT was definitely on the cool side. A silver one with regular wheels, on the other hand, would have a hint of "rental fleet."
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