One Of Chrysler's Worst-Ever Car Platforms Dies With The Dodge Journey

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Photo: Dodge

The Dodge Journey is finally dead after the 2020 model year, a Fiat Chrysler spokesperson has confirmed. When production ends in the fourth quarter of 2020, the crossover SUV—which by then will have been around for a dozen years—will ride off into the sunset of mediocrity, taking with it one of the most maligned car platforms of the modern era: The Chrysler-Mitsubishi codeveloped “GS” platform.

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Jeep Compass. Jeep Patriot. Dodge Caliber. Chrysler Sebring. Dodge Avenger. If you just winced a little in pain, it’s because you’re human. These cars were not great when they arrived on the automotive scene during Chrysler’s late DaimlerChrysler/early Cerberus dark era. And over time, despite updates to fascias, powertrains, and interiors, the vehicles fell farther and farther behind the competition, with some of them becoming true laughing-stocks of the industry.

The Journey—technically sitting on the “JC” platform, a stretched version of the “JS” that made up the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger sedans, which themselves shared some in common with the “PM/MK” platform underpinning the Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass, and Jeep Patriot, which had quite a bit in common with the “GS”-platform Mitsubishi Lancer—was the least crappy of the “GS” Chryslers, one could argue. And by “one,” I mean Motor Trend, which wrote in a February 2008 review:

For now, the V-6 Journey stands as Chrysler’s best product on the flexible Mitsubishi Lancer-derived GS platform, which includes the Dodge Caliber and Avenger (the Journey’s wheelbase is 4.9 inches longer than Avenger’s) and Chrysler Sebring

Honestly, early reviews for the Journey weren’t bad. Car and Driver in 2008 said the car offered “general competence and plenty of features,” all at a lower price than the competition.

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Motor Trend also complimented the vehicle, saying:

Like Dodge’s minivan, it jumps toward the top of the segment for now, thanks to a plethora of (mostly interior) features. It manages to be most things to most people-a “crossover” vehicle in modern terms

Both publications mentioned the vehicle’s features, and that’s really where the Journey shined. In fact, the Journey won an award for its feature-rich cabin, as Chrysler highlighted in a 2008 press release in which the WardsAuto.com Editorial Director compares the Journey to a “Nancy Drew mansion”:

Ward’s judges presented the all-new 2009 Dodge Journey crossover a special achievement award, “Clever Utility,” for its well-thought-out and smartly integrated interior features at the 2008 Ward’s Auto Interiors Show — the publication’s annual auto interior event.

“‘Extreme functionality’ sums up one Ward’s judge of the Dodge’s flexible interior,” said David E. Zoia, Editorial Director - WardsAuto.com. “To start, the Journey has more hiding places than a Nancy Drew mansion. Flip forward the front passenger-seat cushion to reveal a nicely sized compartment for keeping valuables out of sight. There are also concealed compartments under the floor in the rear cargo bay and ahead of the second-row seats — the latter specially lined for potential use as an ice chest.”

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Check out the Journey’s in-floor storage in the second row, as well as its integrated child booster seats:

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That second row cleverly slides out of the way to allow access to the third row. The fact that the side doors open 90 degrees also helps with ingress.

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The 2008 Journey also features a hidden storage bin under the front passenger’s seat:

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And there is a deep cargo bin below the “false floor” in the cargo area.

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Plus, there is a “Flip ’n Stow” flat-folding passenger’s seat, which—along with the flat-folding center and rear seats—makes for an enormous cargo area:

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You’ll notice the cigarette lighter on the driver’s side of the rear cargo area side trim. It is one of four “12-volt Power Points” in the vehicle, with two of the remaining three up front and one in the second row.

Also, see that little white shape on the driver’s side of the rear cargo area side trim? That’s a removable and rechargeable flashlight:

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Illustration for article titled One Of Chryslers Worst-Ever Car Platforms Dies With The Dodge Journey
Photo: Dodge

This feature could also be found in other GS-based cars, like the smaller Dodge Caliber hatchback, though it was stored overhead in that application. The Journey also shared the Compass’s Chill-Zone in-glovebox drink cooler:

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Image: Dodge
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Other interior features include a seven-inch navigation screen:

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Plus, the ’08 Journey could be had with a “Child Observation Mirror,” which is a term that, without context, does sound pretty weird. In this case, it’s just a way for the driver to see what’s going on in the back seats.

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And there was an available in-car entertainment:

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Engine options for the then-new Journey included a 235 horsepower, 232 lb-ft 3.5-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic:

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The base motor was—and still is to this day—a 173 horsepower, 166 lb-ft 2.4-liter inline-four “World Engine.” (There were other engines available in other markets, including diesels).

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Generally, reviewers of the early Journey thought ride quality was fine, but handling was unimpressive, and—especially when equipped with the four-cylinder—engine noise was prominent.

The interior quality—a huge issue on Chrysler products during that era—was apparently not horrible, with Car and Driver writing:

Speaking of interiors, the inner surfaces of the Journeys seen at auto shows were underwhelming, but the pilot vehicles we drove recently were a pleasant surprise, with their soft-touch paint and attractive textures.

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And Motor Trend saying:

The Journey’s overall design and interior have been improved over those siblings from substandard to standard, maybe even to “kind of nice.” The hard plastic that forms the top of the dashboard isn’t overly shiny. And there’s some soft padding on the center of the dash and above the door panel armrests.

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Still, others, like Kelly Blue Book in the video embedded above, weren’t impressed, mentioning “poor fitting panels” and “cheap-feeling plastics.” Plus, Edmunds didn’t like the interior either, writing:

Its interior is less refined than those found in competitors like the Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota RAV4, for instance.

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Edmunds’ other qualms included boring handling, and of course, that woefully underpowered four-cylinder engine mated to a transmission with far too few gears. From Edmunds:

Unfortunately, however, the standard four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission aren’t quite up to the task of motivating the hefty SE’s 3,800 pounds with anything close to authority. The uplevel SXT and R/T models fare a bit better, thanks to a more capable V6 engine and six-speed automatic, but there’s little doubt that athletic prowess isn’t the Journey’s strong suit. Even the sport-styled R/T comes off less planted and certainly less fun to drive than some of its rivals.

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In 2011, the Journey “glowed up” (or whatever the kids are saying these days to suggest improvement with age). It received a 283 horsepower, 260 lb-ft Pentastar V6 mated to the same six-speed auto as the outgoing V6, a new interior, and a revised suspension. The base engine remained unchanged—the 173 horsepower “World” engine mated to a four-speed auto.

Consumer Reports reviewed the 2011 Journey shortly after it came out. Though it found the V6 model to be quiet and the car’s ride to be smooth, interior fit and finish weren’t good enough, handling and steering were vague, fuel economy was mediocre, and the six-speed apparently didn’t shift when it should. “The Journey remains just a mediocre vehicle,” the host says in the review above.

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I don’t hate the Dodge Journey in its current form. It’s a dirt-cheap, seven-passenger SUV that comes with a steering wheel, brakes, an engine, and a transmission (one that will shift all on its own!). You can read my review of a 2018 four-cylinder model here, but the short of it is that, if you consider that value is performance divided by cost, the Journey offers decent value. No, performance wasn’t great when you consider dynamics, interior quality, or even fuel economy, but the cost is so low, I actually think the Journey offered decent value for someone looking for a three-row SUV.

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That couldn’t necessarily be said about the other vehicles riding on the Mitsubishi-Chrysler-shared family of platforms, and that’s not because of an outlandish denominator. These cars were cheap, but their performance was so lacking, it’d be hard to say they offered good value. The Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass, and Jeep Patriot had horrendously hard and hideous interiors, very unimpressive handling and acceleration, and continuously variable transmissions that were unacceptably unrefined. The Chrysler Sebring and Avenger sedans were also known for poor handling, interior quality, and weak four-cylinder powertrains.

The whole line of cars has been panned by the automotive media for over a decade, and now, finally—after roughly 15 years—the “GS”-based Chrysler vehicles are gone (possibly for reasons having to do with the Journey’s motors allegedly struggling to meet new emissions rules). The GS platform—which was soured in large part by the way Chrysler outfitted it, and not necessarily by the inherent qualities of the platform itself—continues in some Mitsubishi applications

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The Journey was the lesser of all the GS-platform evils, and I still think it offered a decent deal for families by the time it reached its final form. But the Journey was built on cursed bones that wreaked havoc on Chrysler’s reputation, so it’s about time the world said goodbye once and for all to that dark chapter in Chrysler history.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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