Introduced as a 2009 model, the Dodge Journey midsize crossover SUV gets a simplified lineup for the 2018 model year. Still appealing to budget-minded families, the 2018 Journey comes with seven-passenger seating. Journey Crossroad models now ride on 19-inch Black Noise aluminum wheels. The optional Blacktop Package is now available on the 2018 Journey SE, as well as SXT and GT versions.
Four value-focused trim levels are offered: SE, SXT, Crossroad, and GT. Front-wheel-drive versions except the GT come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel-drive models get a 3.6-liter V6 that develops 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet. It’s optional on front-wheel-drive models and standard on GTs.
Every four-cylinder Journey uses a 4-speed automatic transmission, at a time when competitors have turned to transmissions with several more gear ratios (though many have refinement issues with 8- and 9-speed automatics). That’s just one of the ways in which the model is clearly behind the times. Fortunately, a 6-speed automatic mates with the V6 engine.
The Crossroad edition, in particular, retains some rugged design features, suggesting off-road potential. In reality, that model is no more capable of off-pavement driving than its mates.
Journey’s appeal as a family vehicle is diminished by crash-test scores, as well as a lack of modern, high-tech safety equipment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2017 Journey a five-star rating in its side-impact crash test, but only four stars overall and for the frontal-impact collision. Rollover prevention also is rated four stars, but that’s typical of relatively tall vehicles. The 2018 Journey has been given only a partial crash-test score by the federal government: four stars for frontal impact and rollover. Partial crash-testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety yielded Good scores on side-impact and moderate-overlap frontal tests, but the small-overlaps frontal test for the driver’s side earned a Poor score. Headlights also were rated Poor.
As for safety features, only the Crossover and GT trim levels can be equipped with a rearview camera, and it’s part of a Driver Confidence Group. Even comparatively common safety features, such as blind-spot monitoring, are not available at all. Neither are adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.
The Journey was not a class-leading product when it was introduced as a 2009 model, and now it’s a dated product. Look for deals on these.
Journey SE ($22,495) has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive, power windows and locks, 4.3-inch touchscreen audio with USB, three-row seating, and 17-inch steel wheels. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.) Journey AWD SE ($26,895) has the V6 engine and all-wheel drive.
Journey Crossroad ($27,895) comes with leather/mesh seat upholstery, an 8.4-inch infotainment system, Bluetooth, unpainted cladding, and 19-inch alloy wheels. Options include navigation and rear-seat entertainment. AWD Crossroad ($31,395) gets the V6 engine and all-wheel drive.
Journey GT ($32,495) has a stiffer suspension, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and comes standard with the V6. A trailer-tow package is optional only for GT. AWD GT ($34,395) gets all-wheel drive.
The Blacktop Package, available on all except Crossroad trim, includes black roof rails, black mirrors and grille, and 17-inch alloy wheels (19-inch on SXT and GT).
The Crossroad relies on more rugged looks, not unlike Subaru rivals, but off-road capabilities are no better than other versions. The chrome roof rails and a body kit jazz up the Crossroad a bit. The bright bars front and rear, intended to suggest skid plates, visually stand out too much.
Measuring a modest 192 inches overall, a Journey might fit into some garages that would be tight for a minivan.
No Journey qualifies as luxurious, by any means. Yet, interior materials are generally good in view of Journey prices. Cloth upholstery in SE and SXT editions feels durable. Easy-clean leather-faced seats are optional on Crossroad and standard for GT. Leather/mesh in the Crossroad is the most enticing choice.
Though it’s contoured, with soft edges and good-looking graining, the dashboard can only be called dull. Crossroad and GT trim brings an 8.4-inch infotainment system that’s delightful to use. Unfortunately, it’s incompatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Cabin space is decent, for a three-row vehicle of the Journey’s size. Front seats are average, with no height control for the passenger. Two riders fit neatly into the second row, but three will be a squeeze. The bench slides fore/aft, but the seat-folding mechanism trails that of newer crossovers. Children are the best candidates for the third row, which falls short on space.
With both the second and third rows folded flat, cargo space totals 67.6 cubic feet. Raising all seatbacks leaves only 10.7 cubic feet behind the third row. Small-item storage is ample, abetted by under-seat bins in the second-row floor.
Journeys handle confidently, though all models suffer considerable body lean when cornering. Hydraulic-type power steering feels natural and centers appropriately during highway driving.
Chrysler’s four-cylinder engine isn’t strong enough to propel a two-ton Journey with much vigor, and can feel overmatched when carrying several passengers. The 4-speed automatic is a relic from an earlier era, and deserves to be ditched.
Especially with all-wheel drive, the V6 engine is the wiser choice. Acceleration is strong, but the 6-speed automatic can grow confused at times, especially at low speeds.
Journeys trail the competition on noise and refinement. Both engines emit a rumbling that intrudes into the cabin.
Aged transmissions impair fuel economy, which trails most rivals. Four-cylinder models are EPA-rated at 19/25 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined. With front-drive, V6 models are EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined. Estimates drop to 16/24/19 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Considering the number of three-row crossover competitors that are way more refined nowadays, the dated Journey’s only real drawing card is its price. Substantial discounts should be available. Even so, standard features are limited, and a Journey feels well behind the times in just about every area.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.