After days of repeatedly shoveling the snow out of my drive-way, just to repeat the task again the next day, I finally caught a break from Mother Nature and was able to make it over to the local Dodge dealer to test drive the new 2009 Journey.
Upon first glance of the Journey, images of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Acura RDX ran through my head. The smoothness of the sheet-metal begets a subtle “one-piece” view, along the side, and the black moldings used on the B and C-pillars to create a snaky singular window outline bring the Santa Fe to mind; while the sharp angular curves and declining roof line with the “sporty” rear spoiler mimic that of the RDX. The front fascia however, is all Dodge! Stemming from the Dodge Caliber, the Journey’s fascia slopes as it declines to compliment the height of the vehicle in a statuesque sort of way, whereas the Caliber’s front is in a more stern upright position which produces an aggressive stance for the Dodge crosshair, which is of course trademarked on the Journey as well.
The Journey currently has three trim levels available; SE, SXT, and R/T. My test vehicle was an SXT equipped with the heavily shared Chrysler 3.5L V6 High Output 24V MPI engine which has an output of 235 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque. The only other engine option, as of now, is a 2.4L 4-cylinder DOHC 16V Dual VVT engine which can produce 173-hp and 166 lb-ft of torque. The 4-cylinder is standard only on the SE; believe it or not, I initially had my eyes set to drive a 4-cylinder being that manufacturers today are now shifting their focus towards smaller engines with greater distribution; unfortunately the dealer was yet to receive one. So I was stuck with the BEEF, or so I thought!
Crossover vehicles are the wave of the future, no doubt, but when basing a supposedly LARGER vehicle on a car platform, in this case the Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Avenger “D” platform, it might be helpful if the power distribution were increased accordingly. Though the 3.5L wasn’t too exciting, in terms of its acceleration, the overall ride and handling was very impressive. This alone should convince the average consumer to consider a Journey, no pun intended. When I wasn’t praying that I could switch lanes quickly enough so that a massive pile-up on my behalf would occur, I was able to take in the smoothness of the ride, which in part can be contributed to the Journey’s 6-speed automatic transmission, as well as the performance suspension, which comes standard on the SXT and R/T models. The Journey was also equipped with an AutoStick feature which I neglected to use due to a personal bias (they’re just not fun!). I was, however, able to get somewhat of a feel of the AWD system when I came across a patch of snow while cruising down a residential street, and though there was minimal output, the system kicked in as needed.
From my P.O.V. behind the wheel, I was able to get a feel of that “commanding view” that CUVs are gunning for, while at the same time my visibility wasn’t compromised by the center console, which, in some CUVs, can cast a reflection off of the windshield due to its design/positioning. The A-pillar, which can also be a visible nuisance (think Toyota FJ Cruiser), was well sculpted and placed and posed no obstruction.
From the inside, it’s pretty Plain-Jane as far as Chrysler standards go. The amenities aren’t too spectacular, in other words you won’t find anything tailor-made for the Journey aside from the “Flip n’ Stow” front passenger seat, which allows for the front passenger seat to be utilized as an extra storage compartment by pulling on an attachment through the rear crevice of the seat. Boring, yet innovative. The instrument cluster is plain and well configured, as is also the center console, with its brushed aluminum-trim. A telescopic steering wheel is also standard on the Journey. The interior space is decent. The slightly stretched wheel-base allows adults to have ample room in both the first two rows, and the third row, if optioned, is spacious enough only for a small child. The rear cargo area, with the third row flat, has 37 cubic feet of space, and with the second row flat you get 67 cubic feet of room. Another neat feature is the Chill Zone beverage cooler, which was introduced in the Dodge Caliber. The Chill Zone is positioned just over the glove-box and can store two small beverage bottles.
My experience with the Journey was quite pleasant (I survived for one), yet at the same time I wasn’t too impressed. The beauty of the Journey is … well … in its beauty! While the interior design may not stand out in terms of lavishness or visual appeal, the exterior design is quite chic and gets the job done as far as intriguing you to actually want to take a look at the mediocre interior. Once inside the roominess of the vehicle is a plus, just don’t look for anything to speak to your personality, not even the radio; unless of course you opt for the ever-so-popular MyGig Infotainment System for a mere TWO GRAND! The comfort of the ride is about as smooth as hot butter, even though the power distribution was neglected to emulate the same. You get three rows of seating for you and the family, just don’t plan on taking a vacation with that third row occupied unless you have a roof rack ready to roll, because your cargo space will be sacrificed.
As with most vehicles, you have to take the good with the bad and try to balance it out with your lifestyle. While a journey might, or might not, be a good fit for you, its practicality, styling, spacious interior, and ride comfort are all worth noting in any worse case scenario. Not to mention, with a base price just under $20k, the Dodge Journey is a bargain and is by far capable of tackling the day-to-day life of the average suburbanite. Though the V6 might not have the punch that some might prefer, with oil prices hitting record highs every other day, it should help in relieving some of the pain felt at the pump; well, just a little bit anyway. The EPA estimated gas rating is said to be 19/23mpg. I guess that V6 is good for something after all.
Note: Exceeding 70mph on the expressway might cause the dealer plate to fly off.