• Dec 3, 2010
An Also-Ran Matures Into A Real Competitor

2011 Dodge Journey - Click above for high-res image gallery

With all of the Chrysler models receiving updates both significant and otherwise, it's understandable if you've gotten a little lost in the fray. Here's what you need to know: One of the most surprising bright lights to come out of the company's refresh bender is the 2011 Dodge Journey. While the 2011 Dodge Charger and Durango may have stolen the spotlight with their new sheetmetal, the Journey has transmogrified into a small family hauler that offers plenty of horsepower, acceptable fuel economy and a massively updated interior. There's even one of the quickest and largest touchscreens of any vehicle we've come across nestled in the dash.

Given Chrysler's recently discovered love of installing much-improved interiors in its vehicles, the newfound goodies indoors should come as no surprise. But the company's engineers seem to have spent just as much time tweaking the crossover's driving character, resulting in a complete package that has turned it from being a washed-up never-was into a competitor almost overnight.

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Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

Despite the significant changes under the Journey's skin, the designers at Dodge decided to stick close to the refresh playbook outside, giving the high-riding MPV a few mild aesthetic tweaks instead of a complete reskin. Look closely, and you'll notice a new fascia up front, complete with a revised corporate split-crosshair grille, along with fresh 19-inch alloys. The rear wears new LED tail lights, but otherwise, don't expect any bold styling announcements to differentiate the 2011 from the 2010 model.

Jump indoors, and that story changes instantly. Dodge said that when it came time to rework the cabin, the company's designers looked around and realized that coming up with new shades of gray plastic wasn't doing anyone any favors. While we're assured that Dodge plans on implementing more interesting colors in the future, right now we're quite smitten with the Pearl leather thrones of our tester. The white, high-quality hide stitched with dark orange thread make for three rows of beautiful, if stain-inviting, seating.

2011 Dodge Journey side view2011 Dodge Journey front view2011 Dodge Journey rear view

Chrysler is making a big push to implement single-piece, soft touch instrument panels in the majority of its products, and the 2011 Dodge Journey benefits from the effort. Moving away from multi-piece dashboards reduces the likelihood of squeaks and rattles while slimming the chance that something will be installed improperly at the factory. The soft-touch material, while nice to poke, also has the added bonus of allowing designers to throw in zero-millimeter tolerances for things like HVAC bezels. The combined effect is one very clean, very well-put together dash – a colossal improvement on what was one of the most haphazard and discount instrument panels in the industry.

But chances are that most buyers won't even notice the micrometer-thin tolerances thanks to the epic 8.5-inch touchscreen that hogs all the attention indoors. Along with crystal-clear graphics, the screen is lightening quick, offering none of the press-and-wait hassle of older units. Flipping through satellite radio stations is instantaneous, with no discernible pause between the second you click the next button and when the tunes kick in. We love it, and other manufacturers would do well to invest in similar tech.

2011 Dodge Journey interior2011 Dodge Journey front seats2011 Dodge Journey navigation system2011 Dodge Journey engine

Like most of the Dodge fleet, the Toluca, Mexico-built Journey is now available with the company's new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6. In this guise, engine delivers 283 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. With 20 percent more than before, this seven-passenger bruiser feels downright spry compared to its predecessor. With shifting detail soaked up by a smart-swapping six-speed automatic, we couldn't find much of anything to complain about under the hood. With the V6 kicking all four tires, buyers can expect an acceptable 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, though front-wheel-drive guise nets a marginally better 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. For the truly frugal, the Journey is also available with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, but its 173 hp at 6,000 rpm and 166 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm strike us as a bit underwhelming for toting around a vehicle of this size – particularly because it's yoked to a humble four-speed automatic.

From behind the tiller, the Journey doesn't drive like a beast capable of hauling around seven well-fed Americans, but it will do exactly that in a pinch (the third row accommodations remain a bit skimpy). Thanks to a quicker-ratio steering rack and a host of stiffer springs and bushings, the 2011 Journey is neither soft nor all that cumbersome in the corners given its size and weight. We're not sure how Dodge engineers managed to pull off this feat of physics, but we hope to see more of the same action in the future. The only time we got a sense of the substantial mass we were lugging around was after a quick decent down a winding mountain road on the launch around San Francisco. By the time we reached the bottom, the Journey's brakes had grown soft trying to scrub momentum.

2011 Dodge Journey rear 3/4 view2011 Dodge Journey headlight2011 Dodge Journey wheel detail2011 Dodge Journey exhaust system

Dodge will ask for just $22,245 for the base Journey Express, though that model packs the anemic four-cylinder engine from last year and not much else. Fortunately, if you want the more capable V6 (and believe us – you do), the oddly named Journey Mainstreet starts at $24,245. Our Crew-spec tester came in around $5,000 more than that figure, and threw in tricks like the excellent touchscreen and impressive leather seats among other niceties. Expect to tack on around $750 worth of destination charges for each model.

It's nothing short of amazing how much Dodge has managed to change the Journey in such a short period of time. By going back and addressing woes that kept this crossover from being competitive, the company has churned out the next best thing to a completely new generation of vehicle. With a little more work in the fuel-economy and exterior styling department, this could be an unlikely top-runner in a hotly competitive segment.

Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've always wanted to like the Journey but the interior and the mpg were deal killers for me. So now they've fixed the interior, it looks great (to my eyes) from all angles, inside and out. However, am I the only one that thinks that 16 mpg city is not "acceptable"? We currently own a 2006 Odyssey equipped with a 244hp V6, 5 speed auto that weighs in close to 6,000lbs that regularly gives us low 20's for city mileage. Even our old 2000 Grand Caravan got better mileage. Seems like Dodge could do better than 16. Maybe that's next on the list?
      • 4 Years Ago
      So Obama bails them out to save our jobs and it's built in Mexico?

      Makes sense to me. Hope. Change. Hope.

      Not workin' out so good is it?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Isn't this basically a "cosmentized" Jeep Liberty? Why not buy the "real thing" ?

      "There is nothing like a Jeep "! Have had 6, all went over 250,000 with NO MAJOR REPAIRS and the second owners are still driving them.

      My currrent 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee continues at 160,000...........likely to go many more. It is a "Classic" however with a 4.0 Fuel Injected straight six made of a cast iron block , with OHV and a TIMING CHAIN (not a belt). I don't believe it is possible to wear one of these out and damn happy about it.

        • 4 Years Ago
        No Joe, the Journey has no direct relationship to the Liberty, which is RWD based and the Journey is built off the Avenger/200 FWD platform. Although the press panned the ex-Sebring with some merit, the basic design was well done as proven by the Journey which most writers believe to be a well built and popular crossover.
        But Joe , you do touch on a very important question. If the next generation, Fiat based Liberty is really to become a "crossover" that is front wheel drive biased as is the Journey, then how do you differentiate the two and justify two seperate platforms?
        I'd much perfer to see the next gen Liberty/Nitro based on a shortened Grand Cherokee platform that incorporates traditional Jeep capability, with fewer "standard" features than the G.C./Durango and only the Pentastar V-6 for motivation setting it apart, then to see Chrysler struggle with a case of market schizophrenia and costly duplication of resources. I also think the potential to develope Fiat/Alpha badged derivatives off this SUV makes this idea worth considering. The Jeep Liberty should be a little smaller in size and capability than GC/Durango, but still keep it's traditional and highly popular characteristics. The Liberty is the smaller more affordable GC and the Nitro the affordable Durango with a Dodge performance personality. What do readers like Joe think?
      • 4 Years Ago
      The dodge neon had a one piece dash too.

      We all remember that car.

      Here is my problem. We have heard all this before. How they are going to improve quality, make it easier to assemble, etc. and I guarantee in 10 years there will be no dodge, no chrysler and fiats and aflas will be all over.

      All they wanted was our plants and our sales channel.

      WAKE UP PEOPLE. This was a European takeover - one more American brand bites the dust. Go enjoy your danish budweiser too you morons.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I believe that is the nicest interior i've seen below 40,000, and this is only starting @ 23k.

      great job. I really like this vehicle now.

      *of note, is that a manual drivers seat?
      • 2 Years Ago
      Whats the weight limit to sit up front on the new 2012 dodge journey
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nice work Dodge, I love that color and the interior looks surprisingly top-notch
      • 4 Years Ago
      That's a pretty good value for what you get.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Not a great comparison. The Journey is bigger, but not as well-equipped in base trim. And that 173hp/4 speed auto has got to have some of the worst 0-60 times on the market.

        The Journey is quite attractive, though.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Especially since it's fairly close in price to a similarly equipped 2-row, 4-cylinder Hyundai Tucson.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hope Chrysler heavily advertises the new changes to the interior, chassis and engine because it is definitely a major improvement.

      I foolishly recommended a 10' model to my uncle who was looking a for a cheap 7 passenger V6 crossover for his family after seeing how heavily discounted they were at the dealerships. Then I sat in the vehicle during his test drive and heard a constant plastic on plastic creaking sound from the dash(and the speaker compartment rattled when I increased the volume above conversation levels). Suffice to say I was not impressed at all(plus those gauges where so ugly, like something from a 1995 Caravan).

      Hopefully the reliability on this updated model is decent and the dealerships keep on putting incentives on the package. I want my uncle to test drive this new one so I can redeem myself for the first time I recommended he drive it.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Man, this really shows how much (little) product development went into the first version.

      Great job Chrysler for bringing the injured back to health.

      If I were in the market, this would definitely be on the list.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You can thank Mercedes for much of that.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Quite an improvement. Now they need to refresh the caliber.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Maybe they should just restart, since they refreshed for the 2010 MY, and neither of you seemed to notice.
        • 4 Years Ago
        As Jim mentioned the Caliber got a new interior for 2010, although you had to be watching close to notice because not much was made of it. Sales have since gone up over 600%. The tooling for the replacement based on Fiat architecture has already been transferred from Italy. I'm not sure if its supposed to be a 2012 or 2013 model. Either way they are on it post haste. That model is one of the milestones Fiat had to hit to increase its stake in Chrysler.

        Looking at the upcoming models it really makes you wonder what these guys can do with an Alfa Romeo. Huba, huba!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I had the displeasure of renting a 2009 Journey a couple months ago in Florida. It was without a doubt the worst vehicle I have driven in nearly two decades. I was saved when I discovered that the driver-side door lock was broken so the rental car office had to swap it for something different. I happily swapped it while thinking "wow, maybe Chrysler did deserve to die." Fast forward to the present, and I have to say I am impressed with what they have done to it. I'll reserve final judgement if/when I rent another one but I doubt I'll be as emotionally disturbed by this model as I was by the older one. Nice work, Dodge Boys.
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