Rendering speeds are fast, as expected from a hard drive-based system, and the package includes a year's subscription to the Sirius satellite traffic service to go with the standard year of Sirius radio service. Traffic hot spots show as color-coded stripes along the roads on the maps, and a list of local alerts can be called up quickly from the main navigation menu.
Programming routes is intuitive enough through the main knob-button control, with predictive entry narrowed by the destination city. We would prefer an OK button that isn't also a directional controller, but found ourselves happier with this example than most. The main navigation screen switches to the rear-camera view when backing up, albeit without any sort of onscreen distance or direction indicators.
UConnect hands-free Bluetooth cell phone connectivity is part of the Convenience Group II package ($695) and proved very easy to use with our phone. Callers reported no trouble hearing us and, thanks to the handy capability to crank up phone sound with the main volume controls while on a call or in the UConnect menus, we were able to hear the callers clearly. Even with the V-6's mild rumble, the cabin of the Journey is relatively quiet.
The good news continues in the second row of seats, where our test car afforded occupants a swing-down eight-inch video screen with a wireless remote and two pairs of two-channel wireless headphones. DVDs for this system play from the main in-dash six-disc changer, so a CD and a movie can't be played simultaneously; however, given the hard drive, aux-in, and various radio sources available, it seems less of an issue than in some other cars we've seen with this limitation.
The seating configuration in our test car was simple and flexible, thanks to the $1,220 option with a split-folding third row of seats, a 40/60 split second row with a special tilt-and-slide feature for third-row access, and three-zone climate controls to keep everyone comfortable. The second-row seats also offer a booster feature that raises the seat cushion a few inches for better child-seat placement. Interior storage is another strong suit, with underfloor storage bins in the second row and rear cargo area, flip-forward access to a cubby under the passenger seat cushion, a very deep armrest bin, and even an air conditioned upper glove compartment with a rubber insert to hold two 12-ounce cans.
So where do things inside the Journey turn sour? Mostly it's in the feel, some control layouts, and our concerns about the durability of the vehicle. Materials, never a Chrysler forte, are cold and hard in the Journey, even with the R/T trim level's standard two-tone leather seats. The radio and navigation buttons are not tactile feeling, seem loose, and are mounted low and away from the main screen. The removable liners of the floor storage bins feel flimsy.
Under the hood
Our Journey was fitted with the 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. Power from the engine is best described as adequate, although the transmission is adept at mining what power there is and can be manually shifted with the autostick.
We can safely say that the lesser powertrain packages would have a rough time getting the Journey under way, but as potential buyers we'd have to consider them because the V-6 proved surprisingly thirsty during our time with the car. We did the majority of our driving in San Francisco during the week that we had the Journey, with a few short highway blasts to gauge road feel at speed, so our particular real-world use was certainly not conducive to good mileage. The EPA ratings for the AWD V-6 Journey are 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. Emissions ratings for the Journey have not been published as of this review.
Overall, the driving feel of the Journey is pleasantly carlike, even if take off isn't exactly rapid. However, its all-wheel-drive system with standard stability control makes it easy to maneuver the Journey in traffic and around corners. Its suspension is independent at all four corners, and road vibrations are absorbed well, with the chassis feeling solid and quiet.
Market circumstances compelled Dodge to follow trends and offer what might be considered a neutered or compromised version of a vehicle style they pioneered and continue to innovate, refine, and succeed in selling. The result is they've produced a decent repackaging of their formula which they hope will satisfy buyers in the global market.
At $27,670 plus an additional $625 destination charge, the Journey R/T AWD is a reasonable value proposition for a seven-passenger crossover with average standard equipment. While our fully loaded test car came in at $35,375, you can get the price down by leaving off one or two options. We would keep the $2,200 Entertainment Group II, which includes MyGig and navigation, but reconsider the $825 rear seat entertainment and $1,220 split folding rear seats packages, bringing the price closer to $30,000. However, even $35,000 isn't bad when compared with three-row SUVs, such as a 2008 Toyota Highlander that, when loaded, pushes $40,000.