Dodge Journey, 2012: Carlike SUV offers subtle ride, good cargo space

James Raia

The Dodge Journey mid-size four-door hatchback crossover was substantially upgraded for 2011 to address shortcomings. It had everything from a redesigned suspension and sharp new interior to a more powerful V-6.

The handsome 2012 model is virtually unchanged from 2011. Moreover, there are few changes for 2013. Grab a reduced-price 2012 Journey if it appeals to you.

But avoid the standard 173-horsepower four-cylinder engine because it’s underpowered for the Journey, which is heavy at approximately 4,000 pounds. Moreover, this rather noisy engine works with a dated four-speed automatic transmission.

The other choice is the quieter, smoother 283-horsepower V-6, which provides quick merging into fast traffic and fast passing above 65 m.p.h. on highways. The V-6 works with an alert six-speed automatic transmission with a decent manual-shift feature.

I tested a 2012 Journey SXT, which adds the V-6 and has a list price of $24,495 with front-wheel drive. Several versions of the Journey are offered with all-wheel drive, including the SXT.

Estimated fuel economy of my test Journey was a so-so 17 miles per gallon in the city and a decent 25 on highways with front-wheel drive. The four-cylinder does better, at 19 and 26.

List prices range from $18,995 to $31,795 and offered are base, SE, SXT, Crew and R/T models.

My handsome, solidly built SXT version, with its chromed dual exhaust outlets, listed at $24,495. However, options such as a power driver’s seat, remote start system and $800 destination charge upped its price to $26,685.Even the entry Journey is fairly well-equipped, with such items as multizone air conditioning, cruise control, adjustable steering wheel with audio controls, AM/FM stereo and CD player, keyless start, power windows and heated power outside mirrors.

The SXT has the V-6, larger tires on aluminum wheels and an easily read touch-screen display. The Crew version adds climate control, automatic headlights, remote engine start and a trip computer. The top-line R/T adds heated leather-covered front seats, premium sound system and a cargo shade.

All have plenty of safety features.

There’s a bunch of options for various models, including second-row-seat child boosters, heated front seats for the SXT and Crew, navigation system for the Crew and R/T and rear-seat video for those models to keep the kids occupied. After all, this is primarily a family vehicle mainly aimed at younger families.

A small optional fold-flat third row seat increases seating capacity from five to seven, although this seat is strictly for kids. The front seat area is roomy, but a passenger with tall legs will wish he had a little more room behind the driver.

The center of the rear seat is stiff and best occupied by a large armrest with dual, deep cupholders. Front cupholders are large, but they’re put low below the dashboard and I sometimes found the transmission shifter partly blocking access to them.

My test Journey had an especially large cargo area with the second-row seatbacks folded forward, although the cargo floor is rather high.

The Journey is very carlike. The quick steering has a nice feel. The ride is supple, although some bumps can definitely be felt. Handling of my SXT was secure, even during decreasing radius freeway on-ramps, which can fool drivers into moving too fast as the ramps “tighten up.” Electronic stability and traction control systems help keep the Journey moving steadily.

The pedal for the anti-lock brakes has a linear action to provide easy stops, especially during often-erratic stop-and-go rush hour crowded freeway driving.

Large door openings make it easy to slide in or out of the quiet (at least with the V-6) upscale interior. And occupants sit high for good visibility. Large outside mirrors help driver rear visibility and fold in to prevent damage when the Journey is parked. Rear power windows went all the way down on the SXT.

My test Journey had supportive seats in curves, and gauges could be quickly read. Sound system and climate controls were fairly simple to use, and air conditioning dashboard vents were strategically located.

The Journey has plenty of storage areas, including a deep covered console bin and floor bins. However, door pockets are slim. An upscale touch is dual lighting for sun visor mirrors.

The hood has a prop rod instead of hydraulic struts, although fluid filler areas can be easily reached if a person is adding, for instance, engine oil or brake fluid.

My test Journey SXT wasn’t exciting to drive, but it’s not supposed to be. Rather, it was extremely competent.

Pros: Carlike. Fairly roomy. Large cargo area. Strong safety credentials. Quick V-6. Good model range.

Cons: Underpowered four-cylinder. Dated automatic transmission with four-cylinder. Rather tight in rear behind driver.

Bottom Line: One of the nicer md-sized crossover vehicles.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

Article Last Updated: October 8, 2012.

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