First Drive Review: 2009 Dodge Journey
By Tony Swan of Car and Driver
Dodge was first with the minivan but a little late to the crossover-SUV game. A vehicle such as the Journey is designed to deliver the same family values—lots of passive safety features, lots of storage bins (five open, 10 covered), seats for up to seven, lots of infotainment options, and, of course, sedan drivability—that make the Dodge Grand Caravan a bestseller. And of course it delivers those attributes in an SUV-style package that’s not quite as space efficient as a minivan, which might make a rational person wonder why it makes sense.
But who says styling is rational? The Journey avoids the uncool sliding-door minivan stigma. And the rear doors open 90 degrees for rear-seat access that’s almost as good.
The Dodge Avenger/Chrysler Sebring front-wheel-drive sedan platform was the starting point for the Journey’s journey to production on the same line in Toluca, Mexico, as the PT Cruiser. But the Avenger parentage is hard to see in the basic specs. The wheelbase has stretched 4.9 inches to 113.8. At 192.4 inches, the Journey is just 1.5 inches longer than the sedan, and width—72.2 inches—is within a half-inch of the Avenger’s. But the 66.6-inch roofline is 7.7 inches higher.
Still, there are Avenger hardware elements that carry through unaltered. The base engine is Chrysler’s 2.4-liter four—173 horsepower, 166 pound-feet of torque—paired with a four-speed automatic (19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway). The upgrade is a 3.5-liter SOHC 24-valve V-6, with 235 horses and 232 pound-feet, mated to a six-speed automatic and rated at 16/23 mpg. All-wheel drive is an option, but only with the V-6. There will be an optional diesel, but only in Europe, which accounts for the Journey’s debut at the 2007 Frankfurt show. A hybrid version isn’t on the table.
As noted, the Journey offers a broad range of features, some you’d expect, many you might not: for example, a yaw-control function baked into the stability system when you order the Towing package; stacked glove boxes—the upper refrigerated, the lower with an iPod adapter for the stereo—and a secret storage bin beneath the front-passenger seat.
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.
The driving experience itself was unremarkable, but for one trait: The Journey may be one of the quietest rides in its class. Performance is acceptable in V-6 models, tepid in the basic four-cylinder version—tepidity that’s aggravated by the hunting of the four-speed automatic.
Dodge sees the Journey’s target competition as the Chevy Equinox, Ford Edge, Saturn Vue, and Toyota RAV4. All are a bit smaller than the Journey, and only the RAV4 offers a third-row seat.
The Journey’s pricing—$19,985 base, $22,985 SXT, $26,545 R/T (AWD adds $2545 to the SXT and $1750 to the R/T)—is pegged to undercut the competition’s. That formula, plus general competence and plenty of features, works just about every time.
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 8.0–9.6 sec
PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY (MFR’S EST):
EPA city driving: 15–19 mpg