cars

2013 Dodge Journey R/T: Get Ready To Fall In Like

It may not be flashy, but you'll appreciate its no-nonsense work ethic.

March 20, 2013
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Introduction

Quick question: Would you invite every one of your coworkers to your wedding? Unless your last name is Corleone, chances are that only your closest friends and relatives will be on the guest list. That's the way it is: the people who you might only see at Thanksgiving get the engraved invitation, while the folks you spend the majority of your time with have to look at photos of the cake on Facebook.

The Dodge Journey certainly wouldn't make the cut. It's a work friend, a lab partner, a neighbor who lives three houses down. It's a car that you don't notice until you've already bought it. It's immensely practical, but utility doesn't make hearts race with excitement. Even with Dodge's trademark muscular, angled design language, it's clear this is a family hauler. While owning a Journey might be a bit of forced companionship, the little crossover is pleasant enough you may start to think of it as a friend.

Tech & Entertainment

The Journey's Uconnect infotainment system is straightforward and simple, but doesn't shortchange when it comes to features.

The 2013 Dodge Journey features Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system. Though it sounds like an alumni association website for former Huskies, Uconnect is actually one of the most straightforward navigation and entertainment systems we've encountered. It won us over with its big screen and bold buttons, and its simple interface kept our blood pressure from rising.

The navigation setup is straight from Garmin, and it asks simple questions like, "Where to?" We found it required a minimum of button presses to complete tasks. It also encompasses controls for audio and climate, but on the Journey most important buttons were duplicated physically on the dashboard and steering wheel. Since temperatures were close to zero during our testing, we did wish that the heated seats and steering wheel had separate physical buttons, since they got used pretty frequently.

We found it required a minimum of button presses to complete tasks. Tweet It

When it comes to navigation, it's not the fastest system we've used — it often takes at least ten seconds to calculate a route, which is an eternity when you're waiting for a light to change — but all button presses register immediately.

Voice recognition proved supremely competent when recognizing an address. Unlike setups which require spelling out street names or selecting options from menus, Uconnect [prompts the user to speak the entire address](http://bcove.me/4slve6j5), and then tries to parse out clues from what it understands to piece together a final destination. It worked perfectly in all our tests. We did have some trouble searching for restaurants and other attractions, however, as Uconnect requires specific commands rather than natural speech. At least they're helpfully listed on the screen.
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Design

The Journey ain't fooling anyone: It's a mini-minivan. But it's darn practical.

It's not a minivan. We swear it isn't a minivan. Look at that aggressive cross-hair grill. Check out the low profile of the roof. Those side doors don't even slide! Seriously guys, it's a crossover!

Despite its muscular profile, the Dodge Journey is actually very much a mini-minivan. In fact, it's almost the exact same proportions as the original Grand Caravan from the mid-80s. That makes it a hit in Europe, where it's known as the Fiat Freemont and marketed as "all the car you want." For most buyers in the US, even those with large families, it's all the car they need: seating for seven and tons of cargo space, without the size and heft of an SUV.

The seven-passenger configuration is really more appropriate for five adults and two kids Tweet It

If the last Chrysler product you drove was a rental Sebring back in the late '90s, you'll be extremely surprised by the Journey's interior. On the R/T trim we drove, red stitching accented the black leather, buttons were large and easy to see, and the thick, heated steering wheel was quite comfortable on long drives.

The seven-passenger configuration is really more appropriate for five adults and two kids, since the rearmost seat is so cramped it actually features small cutouts where passengers' feet should go. It's possible to slide the middle row forward, but that would just make those passengers uncomfortable. It's quite easy to fold both rows of seats down for storage, though the lack of a sliding door may make it slightly more difficult to wrangle a baby seat out of the second row.

In addition to people, the Journey offers plenty of places to hide baggies of Cheerios and action figures away, in storage bins under the passenger seat and beneath the rear seat footrests. Unfortunately, the compartment under the front passenger seat made the seat cushion feel less than supportive. We also weren't thrilled to find out that the only power seat controls were on the driver's side, which still had a manual recline. That's understandable for a Journey in base trim, but on a loaded $36,000 vehicle, that's disappointing.

Options on our tester included a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with RCA inputs for, say, playing a video game. There's a standard two-prong outlet in the backseat, too.

Driving Experience

The Journey is made for road trips, but it's small enough to be maneuverable around town.

The laws of physics dictate that large, heavy vehicles don't handle as well as their smaller counterparts unless they're equipped with extremely expensive suspensions and drivetrains. The laws of economics dictate that the Dodge Journey can't have those and still start under $20k. Hence, the Journey lumbers and wallows a bit when pushed through tight curves. We also couldn't help but notice mushy brakes and slow steering. In a seven-passenger mini-minivan, though, we don't demand tight handling. In fact, we'd rather see a softer ride, lest we take a corner too fast and spill Junior's animal crackers. The Journey is, as its name may suggest, ideally tuned for road trips.

One very positive note here: Our tester was equipped with Chrysler's Pentastar V6, which has impressed us in the Chrysler 300 sedan and Jeep Wrangler, and continues to please us in this application. In the Journey, it makes 283 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and feels completely capable whether you're accelerating from a stop or passing on the highway. We also got the chance to drive the Journey in a snow storm, where all-wheel drive helped us accelerate from a stop without skidding.

Perhaps our biggest complaint was fuel economy. Around town, we barely averaged above 16 mpg, which is abysmal. On the highway, it barely broke 20 mpg. While we're firm in the belief that one doesn't need a big SUV to haul a big family, fuel economy numbers like what the Journey got don't help our argument very much. A used Land Rover LR4 would get you similar numbers, plus more space, off-road capacity and a heck of a lot more prestige. A Mazda5 has a sliding door, room for six and reliably gets mileage in the low 20s, but lacks the power and all-wheel drive of the Journey.

Conclusion

The beginning of a beautiful friendship

You'll never fall in love with the Dodge Journey. That's OK. It doesn't want love – it just wants to accompany you to soccer games and trips to Grandma's house. Despite its unconvincingly aggressive exterior, its obviously content as a mini-minivan, a seven-seater that's smaller than the Grand Caravan and more sensible than the Durango.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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