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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review: Introduction
A relic of a DaimlerChrysler marriage that no longer exists, the Dodge Journey is a 7-passenger, mid-size crossover suv that is sold in the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Dodge boldly introduced the Journey on the international stage in Frankfurt, Germany, and the SUV arrived in U.S. showrooms for the 2009 model year. The Journey was a tough sell back then, mainly because it looked like a 1980s minivan on the outside, and like a Tupperware party on the inside. But shortly after it went on sale, FIAT rescued Chrysler and set about turning the Journey, and other models developed under severely restricted budgets, into something people actually wanted to buy.
Fast-forward half a decade, and the 2013 Dodge Journey is a much better and more compelling vehicle than it was when it first went on sale. That’s important, because the Journey is pitted against the bigger models from the compact crossover SUV class, such as the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4, as well as against the smaller models from the midsize crossover SUV class, like the Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, and Nissan Murano.
Because it straddles two classes in terms of size and price, you could call the Journey a “tweener.” Does this positioning make the Journey a smart choice, or is this SUV an amalgamation of compromises? To find out, I borrowed a 2013 Dodge Journey Crew to use for a week of suburban family duty.
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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
Dodge sells multiple versions of the 2013 Journey, and prices start at $19,990 (including a destination charge of $995) for the American Value Package model. This is a basic vehicle, equipped with 5-passenger seating, but it includes everything you need except for Uconnect Bluetooth technology, which is one of this model’s few options. Journey buyers on a budget who seek a wider variety of extras from which to choose must upgrade, at a minimum, to the SE trim level ($21,990). For an extra two grand, this model offers nothing more than LED taillights, a roof rack, and dark tinted rear privacy glass, but choosing the Journey SE is the path to a longer menu of options.
The Journey SXT ($23,990) is equipped with aluminum wheels, upgraded interior and exterior design details, and more. This model can also be optioned up with features like an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a navigation system, a rear-seat entertainment system, a power sunroof, a premium sound system, and a V-6 engine. All-wheel-drive system is also optional for this model, but only with the V-6 engine.
Next up is the Journey Crew ($28,990), which is equipped with a standard V-6 engine. The most obvious difference on the outside is a set of attractive 19-inch aluminum wheels, while inside the Crew trim level includes leather seats, heated front seats, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a dual-zone automatic climate control system, and a Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system with an 8.4-inch color touchscreen display.
The top Journey model is the R/T ($29,990), which has a sportier look thanks to a premium wheel finish and body-color exterior trim, plus perforated leather seats and dimpled leather for the steering wheel and shift knob. The Journey R/T is also equipped with a sport-tuned suspension to give it a little bit of extra composure.
I tested the Journey Crew with front-wheel drive, painted Bright Silver Metallic and equipped with a black interior. Options included integrated child booster seats for the second-row bench ($225), a premium speaker system ($395), the Navigation and Sound Package ($995 – navigation system, satellite radio, traffic and travel services, a universal garage door opener, rear parking assist sensors, reversing camera), and the Flexible Seating Group ($1,150 – triple-zone automatic climate control, tilt-and-slide second-row seat, folding third-row seat). The sticker price came to $31,755, but as this review is written, Dodge is offering $3,000 in rebates for this model. Negotiate that from invoice, and this well-equipped family-size crossover rolls out the door for a little more than $27,000.
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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review
- Standard 17-inch wheels
- New aluminum wheel design for SXT
- Optional Blacktop Package
- Two new exterior colors
The 2013 Dodge Journey is attractive in a restrained, slightly androgynous way. It does look a minivan, mainly because Dodge elects not to slap gray plastic cladding around the wheel arches and avoids obvious rugged-truck styling cues aside from a fake front skid plate. That said, the Crew trim level’s big multi-spoke aluminum wheels, mesh grille inserts, and dual exhaust outlets help give the Journey some style.
Inside, the Journey exhibits a modern appearance and decent materials combined with useful conveniences. The soft-touch dashboard and door panels, the cloth headliner with matching pattern pillar covers, the uniformity of colors and textures, the LED nighttime spotlights, and the gauges, graphics and displays all make the Journey a pleasant place to spend time. My Journey Crew test vehicle’s cabin was black; I recommend choosing the Pearl or Tan leather for a more upscale and luxurious look.
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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- Air conditioning gains new “Max” setting
- Crew model gains standard leather, heated front seats, heated steering wheel
- R/T model adds standard perforated leather, dimpled leather steering wheel and shift knob trim, red accent stitching on the steering wheel
If the Journey’s interior ambiance is impressive at this price point, comfort and quality are merely acceptable. You don’t get into a Journey and sink into soothing, supportive seats, but the firm front chairs are comfortable enough for multi-hour journeys, the steering wheel is thick-rimmed and good to grip, and the places where you rest your elbows are softly padded. Unfortunately, all to often those places creak under pressure, giving the SUV more than just a whiff of cheapness.
Rear seat passengers sit high on a flat, firm bench seat. The Journey’s rear quarters are a little short on legroom, even with the seat moved all the way back in its track, and the hard plastic front seatbacks with their grocery bag hooks can be unkind to taller people’s knees and shins. My test car had the Journey’s integrated child booster seats, a thoughtful option good for families with young children. Another kid-friendly detail is a parabolic mirror that lets parents keep a close eye on children in the back seat.
My Journey also had the optional third-row seat. Theoretically, a Journey could carry six people of my size (6’0” and 250 lbs.) for a short jaunt. Better to plan on four adults and a maximum of three kids. Kids, however, will feel like they’re sitting in a cave if you plant them in the third-row seat. Also, keep in mind that with this seat in use, cargo volume drops from 37 cu.-ft. to 10.7 cu.-ft. Maximum cargo space with the second-row seat folded measures 67.6 cu.-ft.
While that maximum cargo volume measurement is on the small side for a 3-row, midsize SUV, the Journey is also equipped with innovative storage solutions and numerous storage compartments. The center console features a large bin under the padded armrest and a deep tray forward of the gear shifter. Pull the tab on the front passenger’s seat cushion to tilt the cushion forward and reveal a sizable area easily accessible to the driver as long as nobody is riding shotgun. The front seatback also folds in half, allowing the Journey to carry long items with the liftgate closed. Under-floor compartments are located in the second-row footwells and behind the third-row seat, and 5-passenger models feature an enormous covered space under the cargo compartment floor where the optional third-row seat gets stored. Dodge even provides handy plastic grocery bag hooks on the front seatbacks.
Outward visibility, especially to the rear, is not a Journey strong point, making the optional reversing camera system and rear parking assist sensors that much more important.
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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- Power sunroof optional for SXT model
- Uconnect 8.4 optional for SXT model
- Trip computer adds instant fuel economy display
The 2013 Dodge Journey is not a complicated vehicle, even when equipped with the available Uconnect 8.4 color touchscreen infotainment system, like my test vehicle. The Bluetooth smartphone integration procedure is so simple that there’s no need to reference the owner’s manual, and the Uconnect system’s graphics, touch-sensitive buttons, and features serve as a model to the industry showing how best to approach this type of technology.
Remaining controls are placed in logical locations, employ clearly marked buttons or knobs with rubber grips, and work exactly as advertised. My only real complaint, aside from how cheap much of the switchgear feels when used, is that the wiper functions are combined with the turn signal stalk functions.
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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- No changes for 2013
Just as the 2013 Journey is not a complicated vehicle in terms of creature comforts, neither is it cutting edge in terms of safety technology. My Journey Crew test vehicle had an optional reversing camera and optional rear parking assist sensors, but otherwise, lacked the latest safety features aside from its driver’s knee airbag.
2013 Dodge Journey Crash-Test Ratings:
In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2013 Journey receives an overall rating of 4 stars. A 5-star rating is the highest one possible. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says the Journey is a “Top Safety Pick” for 2013.
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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- R/T model now equipped with sport suspension tuning
Journey buyers have a choice between two engines, and they’re paired with specific levels of trim. The American Value Package, SE, and SXT models have a standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 173 horsepower and 166 lb.-ft. of torque. The 4-cylinder powerplant is paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, and is expected to return 21 mpg in combined driving.
Optional for the Journey SXT and standard with Crew and R/T trim levels, the 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V-6 engine generates a healthy 283 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode is standard with the V-6, and this larger engine can be mated to the Journey’s optional all-wheel-drive system. With AWD, the V-6 is expected to average 19 mpg in combined driving. The front-wheel-drive version is EPA rated to return 20 mpg in combined driving. My front-drive Journey Crew test vehicle averaged 19.4 mpg during a week of driving.
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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
Despite its powerful V-6 engine and big 19-inch wheels and tires, the Dodge Journey Crew is a vehicle designed to serve people for whom driving is a means to an end rather than a joyful endeavor – most people, in other words.
Step too hard on the Journey V-6’s accelerator, and the front wheels struggle for grip while attempting to wrangle all 283 horses, placing the driver in a wrestling match with the steering wheel. Go easy on the gas, and you’ll discover that the 6-speed automatic transmission is calibrated to upshift ASAP to help conserve fuel.
Even people who don’t care all that much about cars and driving can feel what seems to them like a power slump when the transmission upshifts. To compensate, they’ll apply a heavier foot to the accelerator, causing a downshift. This, in turn, leaves an impression that the transmission often hunts between gears, or is indecisive. I get that it’s important to put the highest numbers possible on the EPA scoreboard, but there’s gotta be a better way.
Otherwise, under normal conditions, the Journey is exceptionally easy to drive, almost forgettable in that it behaves exactly as you expect it to almost all of the time, serving as a competent and capable companion for the drudgery of daily commuting and errand running. If that smacks of damnation through faint praise, it most certainly is not.
Steering is light at low driving speeds, firming up nicely on the highway. The brake pedal is easy to modulate and predictable in terms of response, and the suspension soaks up road anomalies while controlling body motions and giving the driver a good sense of the road surface. It is easy to get into and out of this vehicle, and all the spots where the driver contacts the cabin are soft and padded, even the edge of the power window control module on the door.
Handling, however, is not the Journey’s forte. The tires lose grip early, the suspension has trouble managing rapid weight transitions, there’s a significant amount of weight over the front wheels, and the seats do absolutely nothing about holding the driver in place. Add the SUV’s aggravating torque steer when powering out of a corner, and it’s best not to journey down many twisty two-lane roads with the Journey.
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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
Dodge sold nearly 80,000 of these SUVs last year, and with good reason. The Journey’s price is right, it’s got a flexible and appealing interior, and it’s a “Top Safety Pick.” In terms of the trim level lineup and available features, Dodge takes an everything you need, and nothing you don’t kind of approach. A Dodge Journey is not sexy, or exciting, or fun, but it sure is functional and affordable. Sometimes, that’s all that matters.
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2013 Dodge Journey Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Affordable price
- Extremely functional interior
- Impressive Uconnect technology
- Softly padded interior surfaces
- “Top Safety Pick” crash-test rating
- Minivan-esque styling
- Cheap construction
- Torque steer
- Sloppy handling
- Mediocre gas mileage
Dodge supplied the vehicle for this review
2013 Dodge Journey Crew photos by Christian Wardlaw
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