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Friday, June 17, 2011

2011 Dodge Journey Lux, an AW Drivers Log Car Review:

the Dodge Journey.
The 3.6-liter V6 in the Dodge Journey is rated at 283 hp.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR--AUTOWEEK.COM BOB GRITZINGER: I was thinking this 2011 Dodge Journey Lux was too pricey for the market, but a comparable three-row, AWD, V6-powered Chevrolet Traverse prices out at about $6,000 more. Right away that starts to reframe my opinion from thinking the Journey isn't quite up to the competition, even in this high-level trim, when in fact it's a clear winner on the value equation. Then it comes down to what you give up to pay less.

To the naked eye, you're not giving away any features or capability by going with the Dodge--and in some areas you might even find the Journey more practical in terms of special storage built-in all over the vehicle. All the electronics are there, and in this trim, the interior looks 100 percent better than the first Journeys on the market. The third row isn't up to Traverse standards, but it does exist for those limited times when you need somewhere to belt in two more riders.

The engine is up to snuff, as is the transmission, but I found an odd continuation of power even though I was off the gas pedal, at least when running in manual mode in first gear. Overall, the vehicle drives a lot like a minivan or like the underlying Avenger with which it shares a chassis.

What you give up is class-leading ride, handling, performance and styling--General Motors is holding all those cards for now with its excellent three-row crossovers. The Journey might get Dodge by for now, but 2014, when the Fiat-based crossovers arrive, can't come soon enough.

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Wow, this Journey is a heck of an improvement inside. I remember this having a weird angular dash made of inexpensive materials. This is much better with good materials, much better fits and a third row for emergencies.

It doesn't drive badly, either, thanks to the chassis fixes such as a revised rear suspension, shocks and spring rates. It's a much more refined driver now and feels better planted. Power is also decent from the Pentastar V6.

Overall, I liked this Journey way better than I thought I would. This is definitely in the running for my most-improved award. I don't know whether it would pry me out of a Mazda CX-7, though.

AUTOWEEK.COM EDITOR DALE JEWETT: I have to admit to being surprised by the level of comfort in this SUV. Every penny spent on upgrading the interior trim was worth it.

On surface streets and freeways the ride of this Journey strikes a nice balance between comfort and control.

One area I needed to focus on was the braking feel. There's some heft to this SUV. It's not all that apparent in normal driving but if traffic is coming to a rapid stop, you need to really get into the brake pedal to haul this thing down.

The new generation of navigation/audio/HVAC controls on the center console is user-friendly. It's nice to see all the song info on the large, two-din display screen. There are a number of redundant buttons for the climate controls, which is good.

With the third-row seats up, there's not much storage room in back. Drop those seats and you can swallow the standard basket-load from Costco. In my case, I used the Journey to claim a 60-inch flat-screen television. This required dropping the second-row seat backs to create the flat load flow. All the levers on the passenger side of the second-row seats can be confusing--I spent minutes trying to get the seatback to fold flat, not tilt and slide forward.

Oh, and the second row is pretty comfortable for passengers. The third row looks to be strictly for kids.

Finally, there's a storage bin hidden under the front passenger seat. It looks like the perfect hiding spot for a purse. Pretty neat.

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: I did a commuter lap in the 2011 Dodge Journey and I liked it, for the most part. The refresh is most evident inside and underhood, I would say.

The cabin has nicer plastics and a better feel all-around. It's comfortable, well-laid out and displays color, easy-to-read gauges. Seems like a great environment for families. The power is also a nice leap, with this Pentastar V6 shining in this and every other Chrysler product I've sampled. It's not spectacular, but it's an engine consumers will like in everyday use.

The looks are almost wagonlike, and it's a reasonable well-sorted crossover. The looks are decent, too, nonoffensive but a bit different from others.

Still, given the option, I'd take the long-gone Magnum wagon with rear-wheel and V8 power.

2011 Dodge Journey Lux

Base Price: $35,190

As-Tested Price: $36,060

Drivetrain: 3.6-liter V6; AWD, six-speed automatic

Output: 283 hp @ 6,350 rpm, 260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Curb Weight: 4,195 lb

Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 19/19.1 mpg

Options: Navigation convenience group including universal garage-door opener, Garmin navigation system and Uconnect touch-screen CD/DVD/MP3/NAV ($500); second-row seat with two child booster seats ($225); trailer tow prep group including four-pin connector wiring, engine oil cooler ($145)

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