2009: Journey Introduction
Trying to fill the need for a car-like, compact-to-midsize SUV, the Dodge Journey first appeared at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show; it was launched as a 2009. Using a platform and some styling shared with the Dodger Avenger, the Journey was obviously taller, with a longer wheelbase—shorter than its cross-brand predecessor, the original Chrysler Pacifica, but identical to the short-wheelbase 2007 minivans.
The Journey was built on the JC platform which, like the JS (Sebring and Avenger) platform, was based on the Mitsubishi GS platform. The MK (Compass and Patriot) and PM (Caliber) platforms were also born from the Mitsubishi GS platform, known for the Galant among other cars.
The Journey was designed to replace the short-wheelbase minivans with a more enticing package: minivans had a stigma that kept them from being fully mainstream in recent years, so Dodge wanted to remedy this by releasing a crossover replacement with an available third row. At the time, the Journey was regarded as a good-looking vehicle, if not groundbreaking.
The Journey was available with a 2.4L four-cylinder engine paired to a four-speed automatic or a 3.5L V6 paired to a six-speed automatic. Unlike the Dodge Nitro, buyers could not get a manual transmission. Because of the Journey’s weight, the four-cylinder was quite underpowered. The driving dynamics were also not very impressive, with prominent body roll, though this was not unheard of in this segment.
Three primary trim levels were available: SE, SXT, and R/T. All trim levels came standard with two rows, though a third row was optional on the SXT and R/T.
The SE came with steel wheel (16”), air conditioning, and a six-speaker sound system, and was powered by the 2.4L 4-cylinder that produced 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft. Unlike the SXT and R/T, it was only available with front wheel drive (FWD), not all wheel drive (AWD).
The SXT included alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, more interior storage compartments, satellite radio, a power seat, the “stain resistant” cloth seat material from the Nitro, and heated side mirrors. The SXT came standard with the more powerful 3.5L V6 producing 235 horsepower and 232 lb-ft, as well as the 6-speed automatic transmission. Though standard with FWD, an AWD system was optional on the SXT.
The Journey R/T featured larger allow wheels, roof rails, two-zone climate control, heated leather seats, remote start, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Like the SXT, it was exclusively powered by the V6 and came standard with FWD with AWD optional.
Driving the 2009 Journey
David Zatz drove the 2009 Dodge Journey R/T for Allpar.com, concluding that the interior did not look quite as bad as critics made it out to be, though the gauges were quite small. The center stack in the test car, admittedly, was well equipped with features such as the hard-drive-carrying MyGiG stereo/DVD player. He did criticize the system for requiring too much attention while driving, though he found the backup camera helpful. The MyGIG setup had a single tiny knob and was set very low in the dash, so that attention paid to the stereo meant more distraction from the road. The ceiling mounted rear seat video came in for some praise, as did both front and rear climate control and a child-monitor mirror. The ChillZone air-conditioned glove compartment was seen as a gimmick.
Some criticized the interior styling, the “chunky look,” designed to emphasize the SUV aspect of the vehicle—which was, under the skin, a standard car-based crossover. This styling theme was used on several Chrysler vehicles (starting with the Dodge Caliber), and the Journey was the last to have it.
The rear underseat storage was one of the Journey’s better features, using a watertight liner which could be purchased at any dealer. In theory, one could have five or six, loaded with toys, fishing gear, etc., and drag the appropriate one into the car. The interior as a whole had less space than expected, but at least it was relatively easy to get into the third row seats; it helped that there were foot spaces underneath the front and middle row seats. Rear doors opened by 90° to help access.
Dr. Zatz found the gas mileage to be an issue, with EPA ratings of just 15 city, 22 highway with the 3.5 liter V6, all wheel drive, and automatic; the four-cylinder with front wheel drive was rated 19/25, which was better. 0-60 time was 9.6 seconds with the four-cylinder but it did not react well to added weight. V6 acceleration was better, running to 60 in 8 seconds flat; it seemed smooth and well-programmed. The base price of the SXT V6 was $23,300, while the R/T AWD was $28,295; the test car was a high $34,240, with rear seat video, sunroof, and rear seat climate control all being big-ticket items.
For 2010, the Journey included active front head restraints, an upgraded entertainment system, and standard keyless entry.
The 2011 Journey was refreshed with styling tweaks to the front fascia and grille, LED tail lamps, new wheels, and a redesigned interior. The new interior used better materials than the hard, brittle plastics in the outgoing model. The suspension, powertrain, and steering were also retuned for a more responsive feel. Third-generation Uconnect systems were added with an available 8.4” system that was also found in the redesigned 2011 Charger. The instrument cluster screen was new and there were a few more standard features, including push-button start and Keyless Enter ’n’ Go.
The 250-hp 3.5L V6 engine was replaced with a 283-horsepower 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine that would soon be Chrysler’s sole V6 (if one included the Cherokee’s 3.2 Pentastar), paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission; the four-speed was still used with the old four-cylinder. Sound deadening material was added to make the cabin a quieter place to spend time.
The trim level structure was changed for 2011 and expanded to five models: Express, Mainstreet, Crew, R/T, and Lux. The new trims were launched with great fanfare, as they were said to be tailored to specific buyer profiles, but most died with a whisper over time.
The Express included the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, steel wheels, heated mirrors, roof rails, dual zone air conditioning, and the base 4.3 inch Uconnect system with a USB and iPod interface.
The Mainstreet trim level added firmer suspension tuning, satellite radio, body-colored exterior mirrors, and 17” alloy wheels. Significantly, the Mainstreet also came standard with the new 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine and offered optional AWD.
The 2011 Journey Crew built on the features of the Mainstreet, adding 19” wheels, a front passenger seat that could fold flat with a storage compartment underneath the bottom cushion, a leather wrapped steering wheel, three-zone climate control (two up front, one in the rear), fog lamps, remote start, and the 8.4” Uconnect system with an Infinity sound system.
The performance-oriented trim level, the R/T, included unique exterior treatments that were designed to look more aggressive. Like the other trim levels, aside from the base Express, it was powered by the V6 engine and FWD came standard, with AWD optional.
The Lux trim level sat at the top of the trim ladder and included 19” wheels, heated leather seats, a back-up camera, ultrasonic parking sensors in the rear, and a navigation system.
The 2011 model’s driving dynamics improved significantly, thanks to the retuned suspension and steering. Handling was improved without sacrificing ride quality, and the steering was noted to be much more direct than the previous model.
Once again, the trim lineup was changed; for 2012, the Journey’s trim lineup consisted of American Value Package, SE, SXT, R/T, and Crew.
The American Value Package (AVP) came with steel wheels, dual zone climate control, cruise control, heated exterior mirrors, and a manual driver seat.
The SE included additional features such as tinted glass, roof rails, and the “ring of fire” LED tail lamps. Both the AVP and SE trims were powered by the 4-cylinder. The SE had an optional package called the Comfort/Convenience Group that added a power driver’s seat and a folding front passenger seat with a storage compartment under the bottom cushion.
The SXT, which was also available with the Comfort/Convenience Group, was powered by the four-cylinder engine with an optional V6 engine. Although the four-cylinder exclusively FWD and the V6 came standard with FWD, upgrading to the V6 unlocked an optional AWD system. Also included were 17” allow wheels, fog lamps, a cargo cover, and satellite radio.
The Crew added automatic headlights, 19” wheels, chrome trim, multi-zone climate control, and a premium sound system. A sunroof, entertainment system, and heated leather seats were optional equipment for this trim level.
The 2012 Journey R/T had similar equipment to the Crew, but added black leather seats with red accents, dark exterior trim, and unique 19” wheels.
For 2013, the same trim levels were available, with new content including new 17” wheels standard on AVP, SE, and SXT wheels. SXT was now available with the 8.4” Uconnect system and a sunroof.
The price of the Crew was lowered by $200; the deal was made more attractive by standard leather seats, heated steering wheel, and heated front seats.
The Journey R/T saw a price reduction of $1,000 and got new perforated-leather seats (for comfort on hot days), a dimpled, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel with red stitching, and an updated performance suspension.
A “Max” air conditioning setting was added for 2013 and an instant fuel economy readout was available on the EVIC screen.
The 2013 Journey was also available with a new a new Blacktop package, optional on the SXT. It could be paired with either the 4-cylinder or V6 and added 19” black wheels, a black grille, black headlamp bezels, black mirrors, and black trim on the front fascia. It was available with either black cloth seats or heated black leather seats.
For 2014, the Crew trim level was replaced with the Limited and additional equipment was optional on the SXT, including navigation, an entertainment system, and heated leather seats. All 2014 models were available with SiriusXM capability.
A Journey Crossroad model was added to the lineup, powered by the 2.4L engine with the V6 optional. It added unique exterior accents, including a new front fascia with a more rugged design and a “Platinum Chrome” accent piece, black grille and fog light bezels, platinum chrome roof rails, and black headlamp and tai lamp bezels. The lower fascia was also redesigned to be more rugged and featured a Platinum Chrome accent piece designed to look like a skid plate. Larger, 19” “Hyper Black” wheels were part of the Crossroad package.
On the inside, the Crossroad came standard with black leather seats that included mesh inserts, light gray stitching on the seats, door panels, and center armrest, and a new “Liquid Graphite” finish on the instrument panel, gauge cluster, center console, door handles, and steering wheel. The 8.4” Uconnect system was included with the Crossroad, as was a power driver seat and a flat-folding front passenger seat.
For 2014, a SE V6 AWD model became available, adding the more powerful engine and AWD system to a cheaper trim level.
For 2015, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link was available on Journey models equipped with the 8.4” Uconnect system.
For 2016, the Journey’s lineup was streamlined. The AVP trim level was discontinued, replaced with the SE which got a price reduction of $2,600. The Limited was also discontinued, and a Crossroad Plus trim level was added. The trim level, in order of price, was SE, SXT, Crossroad, Crossroad Plus, and R/T.
The Crossroad trim level now came with the smaller Uconnect system and cloth seats, while the Crossroad Plus came standard with the leather and mesh seats and larger infotainment system.
The SE, SXT, Crossroad, and Crossroad Plus came standard with the 4-cylinder engine and a FWD drivetrain, but the V6 was available on all of these, with AWD optional on V6 models. The R/T still came standard with the V6.
2017 and Later Updates
David Zatz also reviewed the upgraded 2017 Dodge Journey for Allpar; he was satisfied with the many changes, including a much more refined appearance on the Crossroad Plus. It started with the ancient four-inch screen, but the test car had Chrysler’s big 8.4 inch system, now raised well above the climate control and sharing two of the climate system’s big knobs. The gauge cluster was still small but now had a graphical trip computer/turn-by-turn navigator. A USB port provided better iPod/iPhone access than the original aux input had, and the car also came with SD input; either USB or SD card could provide music.
Between all wheel drive and the 283-hp V6, again, Dr. Zatz found the engine to be predictable and calm, with good launches every time and smooth shifting afterwards. The ride and handling were both good even on broken or wet concrete. Seats were more comfortable and far better looking; and the interior had numerous “surprise and delight” features. Gas mileage had gone up to 16 city, 24 highway with the new engine. The old four-cylinder provided the same mileage it had before.
The Journey R/T was replaced with the GT trim level, though standard content did not change—only the name was changed. The Journey Crossroad received a new Satin Carbon wheel finish.
The Journey lineup was simplified again for 2018, with trim of SE, SXT, Crossroad, and GT. Third row seats were standard even on SE; Crossroad models got updated “Black Noise” 19” wheels. The Blacktop package was available on SE, SXT, and GT, and added black exterior accents.
Continuing the pattern of cutting Journey trim levels, the 2019 Journey lineup was reduced to three models: SE, Crossroad, and GT. The SE received new content as standard including performance fascias, fog lamps, three-zone climate control, and LED tail lights. The V6 was still available on the SE.
For 2020, yet another trim level was cut out of the Journey lineup; this time, the GT was on the chopping block. For 2020, the Journey was only available in SE Value and Crossroad trim levels. The V6 and AWD setup were dropped, leaving front drive and the ancient 4-cylinder. A sunroof was made standard on the Crossroad.
The Journey left production in 2020 after being reduced to a sparse lineup in the name of cost-savings and nearly a decade of only minor updates. No longer competitive, the Journey would be unable to meet future safety regulations if left in production. In addition, its factory space in Toluca, Mexico was needed for the Jeep Compass.
While the Journey was largely unsuccessful in the United States, it did find many happy buyers; bargain pricing helped with sales, and it was a reasonably well-made, comfortable car. The Fiat Freemont version did fairly well on foreign shores; in some countries it was sold alongside the Dodge Journey, differentiated by trim and appearance.