2009 Dodge Journey R/T FWDPosted on February 3rd, 2008
Dodge’s first crossover is a toolbox on wheels.
By Nina Russin
Dodge, a brand best known for high-performance cars and trucks, enters the crossover segment with the mid-sized Journey. Based on the Avenger
platform, it combines minivan versatility with sport-utility styling: i.e. a fuel efficient, seven-passenger car that doesn’t scream “soccer mom.”
Two rows of seating come standard on all three trim levels. The upscale SXT and R/T models have optional third-row seats. A variety of cleverly concealed bins and cubbies stowe everything from soup to nuts. For example, the front passenger seat has a storage bin under the seat cushion with enough room for a small pack or purse. A chill zone on one side of the glovebox keeps drinks cold. An optional iPod port on the other side interfaces with the center stack screen: the screen displays the iPod menu.
Two storage bins under the floor are big enough to hold drink chests: removable liners make them easy to clean. Both two and three-row models have storage areas under the cargo floor. The spare tire and jack are underneath the car. A trap door at the bottom of the under-floor compartment makes them easier to reach.
Car-like ride and handling
Engineers modified the Avenger chassis to make room for three rows of seating. The wheelbase is almost five inches longer, although the difference in overall length is only 1.7-inches. Engineers moved the front wheels forward two inches, and raised the vehicle just over two inches so that it has more ground clearance for traveling through snow.
There are two available engines: a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine on the base SE model that comes with a four-speed automatic transmission, and a 3.5-liter V6 with a six-speed automatic on the SXT and R/T. While the four-cylinder engine averages about 22 miles-per-gallon as opposed to 19 for the V-6, it’s pretty anemic. Anybody planning to haul loads or drive in mountainous areas would be better served by choosing the larger engine.
Those who want to venture off road or travel in inclement weather can add all-wheel drive: a $1750 stand-alone option. It requires upgrading all but the R/T model to nineteen-inch wheels. The wheels come as part of two option packages that also add touring tires, performance steeering and suspension.
Test drive across southern Nevada
Chrysler invited a group of journalists to test drive the new Journey on a route beginning in Las Vegas, that included some two-lane roads around Lake Mead. My partner and I had the front-wheel drive R/T that comes standard with the nineteen-inch rims and V6 engine.
Leather trim is also standard on the upscale model, though I’d prefer the Yes essentials fabric on the mid-grade SXT. The fabric is stain and odor resistant. Not only does it stay cooler in the summer, but it eliminates the need for people like myself to use seat covers, in order to avoid staining the seats after tough workouts.
The seats are pretty comfortable, though lumbar support isn’t exceptional. The power six-way driver’s seat is easy to adjust, and a standard tilt and telescoping steering wheel makes it easier for smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.
The test car has available Bluetooth connectivity and a rear back-up camera. Visibility around the car is good enough to park without the backup camera, but it’s a useful safety feature for parents with small kids who might run behind the car below the driver’s sight-line.
Quiet, smooth ride
Engineers spent a lot of time reducing noise intrusion into the passenger cabin by moving the engine forward and using a new mounting system, injecting polyurethane into cavities to deaden sound, and improving door seals. As a result, the interior of the car is extremely quiet. My partner and I had no problem communicating with a Dodge exec riding in the second-row seats.
The fully independent suspension yields a buttery smooth ride on a variety of surfaces. Some of the roads around Lake Mead have rough patches that come close to older concrete roads in the Midwest. The car was able to travel over those surfaces at speed without beating up the passengers.
The nineteen-inch wheels improve the car’s cornering capabilities. They are a worthwhile upgrade on the SXT model that comes with seventeen-inch rims. Steering is responsive at all speeds, and the four-wheel discs with standard ABS do a good job of stopping the car without being grabby. The six-speed automatic transmission comes with autostick, that allows the driver to manually select gears.
Everything within reach.
The Journey’s instrument panel controls are easy to find and reach from both front seating positions. The R/T grade comes with standard automatic climate control, that includes separate settings for the driver, front and rear passengers. The driver gets redundant steering wheel mounted audio controls.
The center console is adjustable to move fore or aft so that the armrest is in the right place for the driver. There is a large bin under the armrest for storage, and two large cupholders forward of that. An open storage area between the console and center stack holds cell phones, PDAs and other small electronic devices.
All three rows of passengers get their own twelve-volt power points, and there’s a 115-volt inverter for plugging in computers.
Legroom in the second row is limited unless front-row passengers keep their seats forward, but head and shoulder room are not a problem. The Journey has theater-style seating, elevating second and third-row passengers for a better forward view. Second-row doors open up to ninety degrees, easing access and egress, especially for parents installing child seats.
The sixty-percent second-row seat slides further forward than the other half: it allows parents to move a child in the center position closer to the front row. An optional tilt and slide feature makes it easier to access the third row by using a single lever to tilt the seatback and slide the seat bottom forward.
Both second and third-row seats fold completely flat. The front passenger seat also folds flat, creating a nine foot-long load floor. Not only can the Journey hold bicycles inside, it can also hold surfboards.
The rear cargo floor is reversible: carpeting on one side looks stylish, while vinyl on the flip side is stain and scratch resistant. Slots to the sides of the cargo floor keep it partially folded: it can hold grocery bags in place without additional hooks or nets. An optional LED flashlight in back makes it easier to load up after dark, or light the side of the road in case of an emergency.
Audio upgrades allow buyers to add MyGIG multimedia entertainment systems to the standard audio, and upgrade the standard speakers to Infiniti, with a 368-watt amplifier. A rear seat DVD system, available on all models, upgrades the standard audio system, and adds an eight inch screen visible from the second and third rows, with wireless headphones. Sirius satellite television, currently available on Chrysler minivans, comes on board this fall.
All models come with standard antilock brakes, side curtain airbags that protect all three rows of seating, electronic stability program and electronic roll mitigation. The roll mitigation also limits trailer sway on uneven roads. The Journey can tow up to 3500 pounds with the optional towing prep package.
Pricing begins at $19,985 for the SE, $22,985 for the volume-leading SXT, and $26,545 for the upscale R/T. All prices include a $625 destination charge.
North American models roll out in April. European models include right-hand drive and diesel models, arrive mid-year.
Likes: An extremely versatile crossover vehicle with available all-wheel drive. The Journey incorporates a lot of interior features currently found on Dodge minivans and trucks. All three rows of seats on the passenger side fold flat, creating an extremely long load floor.
Dislikes: Uninteresting exterior styling. The Journey doesn’t look like a minivan, but it won’t exactly turn heads either.
Model: Journey R/T FWD
Base Price: $26,545
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 235 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 232 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 16/23 mpg city/highway
Comments: 3500 pound towing capacity requires optional towing prep package.
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