First Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2009 to 2010.
By Shaun Bailey of Road & Track
Las Vegas, Nevada — Dodge is pitching the Journey as the practical choice. Not the most sporting, not the most rugged, not...well, you get the picture. Instead, the Dodge Journey is a collection of useful features that have little to do with driving a car and more with hauling kids and their stuff. Yet unlike a minivan, the Journey sports an SUV appearance. Looking at it, I see something resembling a slightly smaller minivan that's lacking only the sliding rear doors.
Whatever class of car it falls into doesn't really matter. It's about practicality and tries to focus on function rather than aesthetics. I must admit it's a tough-looking minivan but a wimpy sport ute. We can't have it all, but Dodge seems to want us to try.
Actually, the Journey shares a platform with a sedan — the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring. In fact it's only 2.3 in. longer than an Avenger and it even shares the same powertrain choices, either a four or a V-6, complete with optional all-wheel drive. The wheelbase was extended by 4.9 in. and the ride height was raised, but, no, it's not driving over any curbs, although the bumpers will easily clear parking stops. More important, the interior space is large enough for optional third-row seating.
That interior has storage bins galore. In every version but the $19,985 base model, the front passenger seat has a hidden storage compartment large enough for a medium-size purse. Fold-flat seats, front to rear, allow a full 9-ft.-long surfboard to fit easily. There are plenty of cupholders, of course, and above the glovebox is an air-conditioned two-can drink chiller, complete with room for a Snickers or two. In the rear load floor are two cooler-size covered bins that can hold 12 soda cans each. We tested them when filled with ice water, and can report that during a full ABS stop, no water came out. ABS is standard, as are stability control, and front, side and curtain airbags. It's a family vehicle; safety was an important design goal.
The Journey was also designed to keep the family happy, offering an optional 8.0-in. rear DVD display and, of course, a 110-volt plug for connecting a video game system. They may not notice the interior execution, which, while an improvement for Dodge, is still a far cry from being superb. The gauges have a 1980s' look with square housings and glass partitions.
The driving experience is much like that of the Avenger, where there is minimal steering feel and a ride quality that spurs no enthusiasm. Although the optional sport package improves roll control, it's still not enough to make the driver of a Dodge Journey think of anything other than a minivan.
The less-than-thrilling and overly noisy 173-bhp 2.4-liter World Engine is available only on the base model and is mated with a 4-speed automatic. The volume-seller SXT at $22,985 gets the better, 235-bhp 3.5-liter V-6 with a 6-speed automatic. It's well worth the extra change for the SXT as the base car doesn't even include keyless entry. Step up to the R/T, with performance suspension and all the other interior amenities, and pay $26,545. Specify awd, and it'll cost $28,295.
Just so you know what we're missing — the European Journey gets an optional 2.0-liter diesel with a 6-speed manual, or, get this, a twin-clutch semiautomatic gearbox. The Journey will likely sell well outside the U.S., as its smaller footprint is useful, but it seems to me for nearly the same money I'd rather drive a Grand Caravan, even if it means I'm driving a full-fledged minivan.