To be honest, we had low expectations for this crossover. Peter had a bad experience with a Journey as a rental car and Lyra isn't much of a Chrysler fan. But the Dodge proved to be a pleasant surprise, perfect for those who want all the people-moving amenities of a minivan, but don't want to drive one.
Appearance: Kind of Jeep-like, much like its cousin the Cherokee, except with a more rounded front that has a wraparound grille and headlights. The design — with minimal folds and creases in the sheet metal and a slight step-flare around the wheels — lacks wow factor.
Performance: The 3.5-liter V-6 High-Output engine with a six-speed automatic transmission had plenty of pickup. Lyra found it handled corners well, even on curvy back roads in Lutz. Sure there was body lean — it's an SUV — but the ride feels controlled. Peter found the ride and driving feel to be competent, if unexciting. Another downside: The Journey lags behind much of its competition with the mpg numbers of 16 city, 24 highway. The numbers — especially for city driving — can, and should, improve.
Interior: The roomy cockpit's gauges — green and white on black — are easy on the eyes and the console layout is uncluttered. The materials are a bit plasticky all around. Unlike the exterior, this is where the Journey shows creativity. All three rows of seats, except for the driver's seat, fold flat for a cavernous cargo area. Our tester had the tilt/slide second row. For storage, there is a bin under the front passenger seat and handy second-row, in-floor storage. Access to the third-row seating is surprisingly easy. Then there's the built-in booster seat, which really impressed Lyra ("awesome"), who frequently has to move her young son's car seat between vehicles. One seating complaint: The protruding seat belt buckle can catch you when you scoot into the driver's seat. Ouch. Like some other Dodges, the Journey has the Chill Zone glove box cooler for drinks. Our SXT tester was loaded with electronic goodies such as backup camera and satellite TV to keep the kids happy. The 9-inch, ceiling-mounted video screen can bring in Disney, Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, as well as play DVDs. Another nit: The gear shift is too easy to bump out of drive when you reach for the navigation controls in the dash console. The screen is positioned much too low. You'll have to take your eyes off the road and look down. Not very safe.
Our 3 favorites
Chill Zone: The glove box cooler keeps cans cold.
Convenience: There are plenty of options for entertainment and storage.
Safety: The Journey gets top scores in crash tests.
Built-in booster seat: When not in use, it's out of the way as a seat cushion. Brilliant.
Storage: There are lots of nooks.
Remote start: In the Florida heat, get the AC working before you get in.
The bottom line: The Dodge Journey isn't the most nimble crossover on the market, and we'd like to see better performance (attention, Fiat), but its price points and functionality make it a capable minivan alternative.