2018 Dodge Journey Buying Advice
This is best midsize crossover for you if you have an immediate need for a seven-seat utility vehicle, don’t want to spend a fortune to get it, and are OK with its relative lack of refinement and up-to-date safety features. This formula sounds unappealing on its face, but the 2018 Dodge Journey is a likeable crossover that delivers good value for the money.
Slotting into Dodge’s crossover lineup below the larger, more expensive Durango, Journey is available with seating for seven and even offers a surprisingly fun-to-drive GT trim level. Indeed, Journey’s overall package is the answer for a fair number of crossover shoppers. Admittedly helped by sales to rental fleets, it found more buyers through the first half of 2017 than the Durango, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, and Nissan Pathfinder. That’s not bad for a vehicle whose design hasn’t fundamentally changed since its model-year 2009 introduction.
Should you buy a 2018 or wait for the ’19?
Purchase a 2018 if you’re transportation needs fit our Buying Advice profile. Not only will you benefit from bargain-tailored pricing, you’ll probably be able to exploit further discounts as the 2018 model year winds down. That’s because, after stagnating for the better part of a decade, Dodge-parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is on track to introduce an all-new Journey for the 2019 model year. Likely to adopt a variant of the outstanding rear-wheel drive “Giorgio” platform that underpins Fiat Chrysler’s sporty Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan and upscale Alfa Stelvio crossover, the next-generation Journey is well worth waiting for.
As for the 2018 Journey, Dodge pares the lineup to four trim levels from five, and makes three-row, seven-passenger seating standard across the board; it was previously optional on the entry-level SE model. Returning trim levels are that base SE, the volume-selling SXT, the off-road-themed Crossroad, and the sporty GT. The Crossroad Plus model is discontinued. All ’18 Journeys have standard front-wheel drive and offer optional all-wheel drive (AWD).
Styling: For a vehicle that maintains the overall appearance it’s had since a model-year 2011 facelift, the 2018 Journey’s styling isn’t as dated as it might be. The proportions are pleasing, the grille is Dodge’s signature crosshair design, and beefy wheel arches impart a sporty look. The Crossroad model looks the part of an off-road-ready SUV, but it doesn’t have the hardware chops or ground clearance to do much beyond traversing gravel paths.
Inside, Journey’s relatively low roofline and comparatively short overall length compromise packaging. Passenger room and comfort is OK in the first row, middling in the second, and best left to children in the third. Cargo volume is more akin to compact-crossover class, at 10.7 cubic feet behind the third row, 37 cubic feet behind the second row, and 67.6 with both rear rows folded.
That said, this Dodge has a few unique features to help it maximize the space it has. Standard on every model is a pair of covered in-floor storage bins behind the front seats. Some models have additional hidden cubbies under the second-row seat bottoms. And Journey is the only vehicle in its competitive set to offer built-in child booster seats that fold out from the second-row seatbacks.
Mechanical: No changes to the choice of four- and six-cylinder engines. Standard on the front-wheel-drive SE, SXT, and Crossroad models is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. The transmission used with this engine is an anachronism. It’s one of the last four-speed automatics in a modern production vehicle. Comparatively low power output, the “yester-tech” transmission, and a curb weight exceeding 3,800 pounds means acceleration is sluggish at best. Even if you’re on a very tight budget, we would not recommend the four-cylinder.
Fortunately, Journey is available with a much better drivetrain. Standard on the GT and with AWD, and optional on the front-drive SXT and Crossroad, is a 3.6-liter V-6 with 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It pairs with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This engine/transmission combo is dramatically more responsive than the four-cylinder, with a minimal hit to fuel-economy ratings.
Front-drive models with the V-6 can suffer torque steer — the tendency to pull to one side during full-throttle acceleration. AWD tames this by sending power to the rear wheels when sensors detect front-tire slip. The AWD system is basic but does enhance dry- and wet-road handling, so it’s an option we recommend even if you don’t live in a snowy climate.
Journey absorbs bumps quite well, even on the 19-inch tires and with the GT’s slightly stiffer suspension. The GT is really the only model that can count handling among its selling points, and even then, overall composure isn’t up to that of most newer rivals. Still, any Journey has serviceable road manners around town and cruises with little fuss on the Interstate.
Features: The most significant change is addition of three-row seating as standard on all trim levels. Also, the optional Blacktop Package, which includes piano-black exterior mirrors, fascia trim, grille, and wheels is newly available on the SE; it was previously offered only on the SXT and GT.
All other standard equipment otherwise carries over. SE versions include dual-zone manual climate control and keyless entry with pushbutton engine start. SXT models add upgraded interior trim and access to more optional convenience features than the SE. Crossroad models get leather/cloth blend upholstery, automatic climate control, power driver’s seat, and 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The GT has full leather upholstery, heated front seats, and remote engine start.
Unfortunately, no Journey model is available with advanced driver-assistance technologies, such as forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic detection, radar cruise control, or autonomous emergency braking. Those items will have to wait until the next-generation model arrives.
Journey’s 2018 base prices increase $200-$1,300, depending on trim level. Nonetheless, this is one of the most affordable midsize-class crossovers, especially among crossovers offering three rows of seats. Base prices in this review include Dodge’s $1,095 destination fee, which is unchanged from 2017.
With front-wheel drive and the four-cylinder engine, the SE starts at $23,590, the SXT at $26,790, and the Crossroad at $28,990. The V-6 engine is a $1,700 option on the front-drive SXT and Crossroad. It’s standard on the GT, which starts at $33,590 with front-wheel drive.
Adding all-wheel drive to the SE, SXT, and Crossroad includes the V-6 engine, increasing base prices to $27,990, $30,290, and $32,490, respectively. The AWD GT starts at $35,490.
SE models are available with the Popular Equipment Group ($995) that includes three-zone climate control, overhead storage console, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Mopar Chrome Accent Package ($685) adds various chrome pieces to the exterior trim. The aforementioned Blacktop Package is $395, while the Connectivity Group, which includes Bluetooth with voice control, is $795.
Available on the SXT is the Premium Group ($1,095) that includes satellite radio, power driver’s seat, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The Uconnect 8.4 Touch Screen Radio Group ($895) adds overhead console storage, 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system, satellite radio, rear-obstacle detection, and rearview camera. This model’s Blacktop Package is $1,095 on account of the fact that the wheels are 19 inches in diameter as opposed to 17 inches on the SE.
The Crossroad’s Popular Equipment Group ($1,350) includes heated front seats, remote engine start, heated steering wheel, and a built-in garage door transmitter. The Premium Sound Group upgrades the audio system for $395.
Crossroad and GT models offer the Family Entertainment Group ($1,345) includes the higher-power audio system, rear entertainment system, wireless headphones, and built-in booster seats. The Navigation and Backup Camera Group ($1,295) adds imbedded GPS mapping, rearview camera, rear-obstacle detection, and five years of SiriusXM satellite radio’s Travel Link service. You can add a power sunroof to the Navigation and Backup Camera Group, which brings the total package price to $1,845.
The second-row booster seats can be purchased by themselves for $265 on any Journey.
We don’t usually consider the flagship model the best value in a vehicle lineup, but we make an exception for the Journey GT. With the Family Entertainment and Navigation and Backup Camera groups, it carries a sticker price of $38,130. That seems like a lot, but expect generous dealer discounts and factory incentive. Indeed, it may be possible to get essentially a fully loaded, seven-seat, midsize crossover for similar or less money than a five-passenger compact-class model with fewer amenities. Whether that’s worth trading safety features and taking a chance on reliability — Dodge does not typically score well in dependability studies — is up to you.
The 2018 Journey’s EPA fuel-economy ratings rank near the bottom of the competitive set, regardless of drivetrain. Four-cylinder/front-drive/4-speed-automatic models rate 19/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined. With the V-6, front-drive models rate 17/25/19 mpg, AWD versions just 16/24/19. All Journeys use regular-octane gasoline, and certain V-6 models can be equipped to run on E85 ethanol-blended fuel.
The next-generation Journey should make its appearance some time during calendar 2018 as a 2019 model. Adopting the exceptionally capable rear-wheel Alfa platform will be a radical departure from the outgoing Journey, which uses front-wheel-drive-based engineering. AWD will be available on the new model — it may even be the only option on offer, at least for the redesigned Journey’s launch. Drivetrains will likely include a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Expect the next-gen Journey to also be fully up to date with all the driver-assistance technologies the outgoing model lacks.
The 2018 Journey is better than the…
Nissan Pathfinder, which has more passenger and cargo room, but feels a bit rougher around the edges, despite being a newer design than the Journey; Toyota 4Runner: Journey’s car-like ride and handling and value pricing beat Toyota’s rough-and-tumble SUV.
The 2018 Journey is not as good as the…
GMC Acadia, which offers four- and six-cylinder power in a more refined and maneuverable package; Honda Pilot, the top pick for road manners in this competitive set; Mazda CX-9: Efficient, fun-to-drive, and upscale, Mazda’s seven-seat SUV is a great, if somewhat pricey, alternative to the established players in the class.