2016 Dodge Journey Review: Finding the Nexus of SUV and Minivan

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Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

There’s this grey area somewhere between the SUV and the minivan that automakers sometimes cross over into. For Dodge, it’s the Journey that takes on the task of serving as the manufacturer’s most recognizable muddled mixed-breed. It’s a strange machine for sure, because from one angle it appears all minivan, but from another screams SUV, even though it is technically categorized as a compact sport utility vehicle.

What we have here is the 2016 version of the Journey Crossroad Plus, complete with all-wheel drive, a 283 horsepower V6, 19-inch alloy wheels, a towering amount of tech, leather-clad everything, and quite a few handy “mommy add-ons” to boot.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

What I found after tooling around town, mashing the gas on the interstate, and burying the brakes to feel for any fade was that while this is indeed a vehicle that has been bred for shopping malls and soccer matches, it has that hearty Dodge/Jeep thing going for it as well. The Journey is not some super soft, uninspired attempt at cornering an already oversaturated SUV segment. It has its own hard lines, masculine motives, and ingenious implementations in various areas, all without being overly complicated or expensive.

Nevertheless, if one were to get in the driver’s seat they would likely note that there are some pretty sizable flaws with this vehicle. Even though this car came absolutely loaded with options for a reasonable $34,360, there remains a nagging doubt regarding reliability and long term ownership that throws a wet blanket on the whole idea of owning a Journey. Here is why we think you might want to wait for the next generation, even though this one is already a pretty solid offering.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Exterior

Aesthetically, the Crossroads version of the Journey is not that hard on the eyes. While it may not be winning any awards for sex appeal, it’s not causing us to gouge our eyes out either. It’s undeniably Dodge front end gets gloss black grilles and platinum chrome trim pieces, its integrated roof rack is unobtrusive and paint-matched to complement the car, those glowing LED orb taillights are sharp and simple, and with its 19-inch alloy wheels and integrated dual port exhaust, there is a certain amount of performance styling here as well. A Crossroad edition Dodge Journey is a car for people who don’t want a SUV that is too large and inconvenient or a minivan that is too feminine looking and low-slung. This is the car that neither parental unit minds being seen in, and for that we must commend Dodge’s design department.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Exterior pros and cons

+ Black tail lamp and head lamp bezels, platinum chrome accents, and gloss black grilles all add a little bit of evil.

+ 19-inch alloy wheels, a low-profile roof rock to match the side skirts and rear diffuser, and a polished dual port exhaust all complement one another effortlessly.

+ The size, proportioning, and presence of the Journey is pretty well-matched to what one might expect, and it is nice to see a car not trying to be something it is not.

– Swirled, rubber antennas that are extra long should have been banned internationally back in 2007. That and rear wiper blades that sit cockeyed.

– There’s no external door or downward facing puddle lights for nocturnal excursions. Forgivable on the lesser trims, but should be there on the loaded model.

– The 19-inch rims somehow still seem undersized when you step back and look at its profile.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Powertrain

The available 283 horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine is an upgrade that you will undoubtedly want if you plan on moving this much metal up any sort of incline. The six-speed automatic transmission it comes mated to makes the all-wheel drive system work that much more effortlessly at virtually any speed. It’s a setup that is ample, but not amazing; this middle of the road option from Dodge may be a little light in the power department considering its displacement numbers, but since I felt nothing but smooth sailing while behind the wheel, it was kind of hard to argue against it just as long as you remember that this not a tow truck or a HEMI-equipped Durango.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Powertrain pros and cons

+ Smooth shifts and acceptable acceleration offer just enough V6 grunt to make you know that anything less would be too little.

+ Having all-wheel drive and multiple driving modes is nice, even when you don’t always need them.

+ You can tow up to 2,500 pounds with the V6 version of the Journey, and with instantaneous traction control, peace of mind is always present.

– For having such a large, 3.6-liter V6, 283 horsepower doesn’t seem like very much when compared to other engines out there, and a 19 mile per gallon average isn’t all that hot either.

– While having 2,500 pounds of towing capacity is nice, it pales in comparison to cars like the Lexus RX 350, which can tow over 1,000 more pounds on the back of a smaller, more fuel efficient engine.

– There is something disheartening about putting a car into “Sport mode” for manual shifting purposes, and then realizing that it is so counter-intuitive that you put it back into automatic mode almost instantly.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Interior

The cabin of the Crossroad Journey seen here really was the stand-out winner after some careful consideration. With the $1,100 customer preferred package, a $1,250 equipment upgrade, and a navi/back-up camera option in place, you’re going to be blown away by how much you will get in this SUV for so little. From the heated steering wheel and stitched leather seats to the multi-zone climate control and overall spaciousness, taking a road trip or a quick jaunt down to the market is enjoyable in the Journey if you happen to be along for the ride.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Interior pros and cons

+ Sizable stow spaces beneath seat cushions, hidden cubbies throughout, integrated child booster seats, and easily movable/folding seats are all family friendly and well thought out.

+ Adjustable LED lights in all three rows, fun interior mood lighting, signature “Dodge red” controls and clusters, and a fully functional, infotainment-laden center stack all make the ambiance that much more unique when driving at night.

+ The heated, telescoping steering wheel is a nice touch, and with power adjusting heated seats complementing the front ones, winter doesn’t seem that bad after all.

– At over $34,000, there should really be a sunroof option.

– While the front seats are power-adjusting, certain settings require manually pulling levers, so technically they are only partial-power seats. Not a deal-breaker.

– While many of the soft touch materials felt pretty fantastic, there were quite a few flimsy pieces that could be found throughout the cabin, and coupled with some sub-par fit and finish issues along the headliner you get the feeling that Dodge was right on the money one second and off the next with this car’s interior.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Tech and safety

One of the nice things about being an automotive journalist is getting to experience firsthand the kind of tech that is changing the way cars perform, and the way in which drivers control them. Once outfitted with a few optional packages, the Journey morphs into a pretty good example of where American automotive manufacturers are heading, and much like its interior, I found its tech and safety systems to have more strengths than weaknesses. Cross traffic warnings, SiriusXM real time traffic updates, every imaginable kind of infotainment to keep the little ones preoccupied, and a slew of hands free settings all make the morning commute more manageable.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Tech pros and cons

+ Dodge’s center stack staple, with its 8.4-inch navigation display, digital climate adjustability, and seamless operating speeds is a flawless, and somewhat cartoonish take on all things touchscreen.

+ The available “ParkSense Rear Park Assist System+” detected objects behind me without issue, and when coupled with that back-up camera, going in reverse was no longer a dirty word in the Journey.

+ Knee-blocking airbags for drivers, seven advanced multistage airbags throughout, and active head restraints prove that the Journey is not just smart, but safe, too.

–  For as fun as the touchscreen is, Dodge still trails its competitors both graphically and mechanically.

– While the Journey does come with six well-placed speakers, without the Infinity audio upgrade you will likely find yourself unimpressed with the way music sounds in this car — particularly in the bass department.

– Things like blind spot monitoring and accident avoidance warnings are not available on the Journey.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

The drive

Hitting the open highway, slinking around strip malls, and parallel parking in urban areas are all daily occurrences that Dodge Journey owners will likely encounter, all of which are handled in an acceptable, yet somewhat disjointed fashion. On the downside, the Journey’s “performance suspension” is about as disconnected, sway-happy, and spongy as it gets, and after driving it in manual mode I gave up on trying to discern any performance gains. But what really got me was the Journey’s steering feel, which is about as out of touch as it gets; strange, considering it has a traditional rack and pinion and power steering pump. You get all of the service headaches, added pump whine, yet none of the connectivity to the road.

But there is a lot to appreciate in the Journey as well, with its spacious LED-lit cabin, all around excellent visibility, notable driver comfort, well-placed control layouts, and parallel parking ease earning it some strong selling points. Its doors also open up quite wide, so entering and exiting the vehicle is a breeze, and once you are on the road it becomes obvious that the spongy suspension makes for quite a smooth ride down the interstate.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Wrap up and review

For $34,360 the all-wheel drive, Crossroad version of the Dodge Journey is a lot of car for the money, even if it’s short-changed in a few areas. It has a lot of amazing options and amenities, and while I can’t say it’s a car that I would recommend above all others, it certainly warrants a look from anyone not wanting to fit neatly into the SUV or minivan market.

What Dodge should do is keep almost all of the Journey’s interior intact, lightly touch up the navi, rework the suspension and power steering, and fix a few external cosmetic flaws. It also could stand to have a more lively motor in it that gets better mileage. What Dodge should do is retire the tired Pentastar V6 and put in a far more modern sixer. It’s bound to happen eventually, so why not make the Journey the guinea pig since it is already the recipient of all kinds of genetic gene splicing? Don’t give up on what you’ve got going here, Dodge. Special versions like this are what Americans want, and by tweaking it a bit more consumers will realize that they can have the best of both worlds in a market divided between massive SUVs and minivans.

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