Launched for model-year 2009 with a focus on family-friendly utility and a strong value proposition, the Journey put Dodge on the family crossover map with a people-hauling alternative to the brand’s popular Grand Caravan. The Dodge brand’s family-oriented crossover has since become a Canadian best-seller, in no small part thanks to a combination of innovative features, flexibility, styling, and overall value. With honest pricing and an interior designed by the same company that invented the family minivan, few shoppers could argue with the Journey’s exceptional bang-for-the-buck in its marketplace.
Derived from the same global D-segment platform that housed Avenger and Sebring, Journey boasts a surprisingly car-like ride despite its ability to carry up to seven passengers. Flexible seating arrangements, hidden storage bins and the famous Chill-Zone beverage storage compartment in the dashboard were all offered up.
Used units will wear a variety of trim badges, as Dodge revamped the Journey’s nomenclature strategy over the years. Early on, SE models were the entry-level units, with a high-value SXT model grade offering numerous must-haves. Top line R/T models were available, and AWD could be specified on select models, too. A new range-topping Limited model was added later, and newer used units see R/T Rallye editions slotted in above the R/T, as well as a Crossroad model taking top place in the lineup. Notably, a Canada Value Package model bundles numerous up-level features into a compellingly-priced package.
For 2011, Journey saw the addition of the (suggested) 3.6L Pentastar V6 to the model lineup, as a replacement for the aging 3.5L V6. Power was up significantly with the new engine, which boasted 283 hp. A 2.4L four was available on more basic models.
Feature content included navigation, premium audio, automatic climate control, heated leather, Bluetooth, a built-in portable flashlight, parking assist, rear seat video provisions, a sunroof and plenty more.
What Owners Like
Owners tend to appreciate the Journey’s stand-out styling, overall flexibility, easy to drive character, comfort and versatility first and foremost. With the Pentastar V6 on board, fans of performance report satisfaction with almost excessive levels of power output. A high-lift tailgate and handy storage provisions throughout the interior are highly rated, and the infotainment system on newer models is said to be one of the best in the business.
What Owners Dislike
Common gripes centre around a slightly cramped area near the seatbelts on account of a wide centre console, limited space for grownups in the second row seats, third-row seats (if equipped) that are for children only, and very limited cargo space in the rear if the third-row seats are in use. Some owners also wish for better gas mileage from V6 models, and better performance from models with the four-cylinder, especially when the vehicle is loaded up with people and gear.
Here’s a look some owner reviews.
The Test Drive
In your writer’s research, the initial 2009 model year Journey had, by a landslide, the highest number of reported problems in checks of owner forums and other online resources. Among the most common of these stems from premature brake system wear. Though wear of braking components is largely subject to locale, maintenance frequency, and driving habits, hundreds of owners have reported dissatisfaction with the lifespan of factory pads and rotors. Have a mechanic check these components before you purchase, especially if the brake pedal in the model you’re considering feels soft, the brakes make unwelcomed squeaking or grinding noises, or if braking performance seems poor. Problems have been reported with brake calipers, too.
Here’s some more reading.
Numerous owners discuss a thump or pop sound when decelerating at a low speed and encountering a bump in the road. Some owners have been told the sound is normal, though others have had sway-bar bushings or struts replaced as a result of the sound. A service bulletin was, however, issued to Dodge dealers advising mechanics to check struts and other suspension components for signs of wear. Listen to the Journey’s suspension carefully on a test drive, having a mechanic check out any issues you note.
Here’s a handy compilation of recalls and Technical Service Bulletins relating to the Dodge Journey, dealing with items like unwelcome sounds from engine pulleys to ignition switch and keyfob communication issues, to rattles, whines and drones. Note that several software updates and upgraded components were available, depending on the year and model, to correct issues with transmission control computers, engine computers and more. Bring the VIN number of the model you’re considering to a dealer and ask if any recall work is outstanding to be safe. Notably, numerous earlier models required a reprogramming of the transmission computer to improve shift quality and performance.
Shoppers are also advised to fully check all of Journey’s electronic systems, including the UConnect radio infotainment system (if equipped), all keyfobs, lighting, the driver computer, power and heated seat controls and the back-up camera, several times, for proper operation. Though complaints are patchy and far from systematic, these systems can prove frustrating to diagnose and repair if issues are present. Have a mechanic ascertain the health of the Journey’s battery and charging system too – as low battery voltage can cause a slew of headache-causing issues with anything from random alarm system activation to flickering lights.
Be on the lookout for a burning oil smell on your test drive of an AWD equipped model, too. A leaky seal in an AWD system component can cause gear oil to leak onto the exhaust system, where it will burn. Be on the lookout for this smell, or oily drips underneath the vehicle, and have the seller repair the system ahead of your purchase, or call the repair cost into pricing negotiations.
Some owners say that a poorly-designed vent tube connected to the AWD system, can suck up water in heavy rain, or allow fluid to be forced out and leak when the system gets hot. Somewhere in 2010, a revised vent tube solved the problem. Translation? If you’re looking at a 2008 or 2009 model, be sure to change the system’s fluid frequently, keep an eye out for leaks, and even ask a mechanic to use some tubing to extend the vent somewhere higher in the Journey’s body, and secure it.
A healthy Journey with a mechanical thumbs-up should prove a handy and flexible family hauler that’s big on value and feature content. Shop carefully, seek assistance from a mechanic to confirm the model you’re considering is in sound shape, and be on the lookout for fluid leaks and worn brake system parts. For performance and reliability, a 2011 or newer model is likely your safest bet.
A lengthy list of recalls.
Crash Test Ratings
NHTSA: 4/5 Stars (2014)
IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2013)