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2009 Dodge Journey Road Test
First impressions of 'the perfect family transporter'
By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan
Las Vegas, NV -- When considering a road trip, several things come to mind. Comfortable transportation is obviously a must, as is luggage space. Then of course, if you're taking along the family, you need to make sure that you have plenty of room for everyone. After all, sitting on Aunt Bertha's lap might have been fine when you were a kid on a short trip to the family cottage, but now that you've grown up and she's undergone that hip replacement, it might not be such a smart idea.
When you truly think about it, if you have a family and you're heading off on a motoring holiday, what you really need is a minivan.
Of course, that word is about as fashionable today as my wardrobe, so as fast as they can, the manufacturers are ousting their minivan lineups and replacing them with crossover vehicles.
Never mind the fact that Dodge is still producing its faithful minivans and selling them like crazy, most manufacturers term them 'old school' and are out there struggling to basically come up with a minivan that isn't a 'minivan'!
Obviously, each manufacturer has its own idea of what makes the perfect family vehicle. Some see it as a mixture of part minivan, part SUV. That sounds great until you realize that SUVs are now looked upon as gas-guzzlers, and that many tree-huggers want to throw rotten eggs at you if you drive one.
Others seek to build what resembles a super-sized station wagon -- but come on now, wagons aren't exactly flavour of the month in Canada anymore, are they?
So what do you do? Who do you listen to? Well, if you want my advice, you can't go too far wrong in taking a look at what the Dodge brand is up to now. After all, it basically invented the minivan, at least in North America. It's designers understand what a family requires from a vehicle, and it has just brought out what I think is the perfect family transporter.
The new 2009 Dodge Journey certainly has a lot going for it. It appears to blend minivan and SUV, together with a big helping of 'car'. The vehicle is stylish, it can carry up to seven passengers, it drives like a car, and best of all, the Journey comes at a price that families can actually afford without robbing your kids of their education fund.
The lineup starts with the SE model at just $19,985. For that, you get a nicely equipped five-passenger vehicle. This model features the company's famous 2.4-litre, four-cylinder world engine. When coupled to a four-speed overdrive automatic transaxle, this configuration provides more than adequate performance, together with decent fuel economy (19/25 mpg city/highway on our U.S. tester).
If required, and for approximately $3,000 more, you can move up to the SXT model, which along with many added standard features, boosts performance utilizing a 3.5-litre V6 and a six-speed transaxle as standard fitment. (This configuration returns fuel economy ratings of 16/23 mpg city/highway for the FWD, and 15/22 mpg city/highway for the AWD version)
Of course, this being a Dodge product, for a further modest outlay, there is also a sporty RT model available.
Speaking of which, all models are available with seven-passenger seating, and the best thing is, you won't have to sell the kids to provide it.
An AWD system is also available on the SXT and RT models. In fact, if you go completely wild and spec the Journey out with Sat-Nav, leather, and all the bells and whistles available, you'll still be barely over $30,000.
I'd say that Dodge has seriously got its pricing right on this one, and yet, in my mind, that's actually not the best part of the deal. What I liked most about the Dodge Journey is how the designers have really thought the vehicle through.
The design, particularly that of the interior, shows that they posses a real insight into what people truly need from a family vehicle. I guess that's not that surprising considering that the Journey comes from the daddy of all minivans.
The vehicle is absolutely loaded with storage compartments, and when I say loaded, I truly mean 'loaded'!
There are two bins located under the rear passenger compartment floor, both capable of holding several cans of pop, or sandwiches and potato chips, or anything else for that matter. In fact, as they both have pull out liners for ease of cleaning, if I were a fisherman (which I'm not), I could see them being used for carrying home the day's catch.
There is also a useful storage area positioned under the rear cargo floor.
Then we come to a storage compartment that I think is very clever. In fact, I'd file it under my “Duh, why didn't I think of that?” heading. That is the one that is situated under the front passenger seat. One simple pull of the seat cushion reveals a hidden compartment that is almost perfect for hiding away your valuables. On a family trip to the beach, it would be a great place to store your purse, camera, etc. After all, who would think of lifting up the seat to find your belongings?
Speaking of trips to the beach, have any of you fumed whilst trying to get sand out of the carpet in the rear section of your vehicle? Or how about those of you with dogs? Isn't it great fun trying to vacuum up all those dog hairs that friendly Fido dropped on the carpet in the back of your car? That's no longer a problem because the designers have devised a clever flip floor in the rear of the Journey which consists of a carpeted covering on one side, and a vinyl one on the other. Now be fair, is that intelligent thinking or what?
The Dodge Journey is full of wonderful ideas like those. It even has cushions on the rear seats which pull up to provide bolster seating for young children. Perhaps you can now see why I view it as a perfect family vehicle. But there's more to a family transportation than that, so I guess I should really relay to you what it's like to drive.
Well, this is where the car-like part really comes into play, because it really does drive and handle quite well for the size of the vehicle.
The suspension seems to soak up the lumps and bumps of the road with ease, and during my drive of several hours, I ventured on to a sandy/stony beach, and also on to an unmade road in the desert that recommended the use of four wheel drive.
Now obviously I'm not going to tell you that the Journey handles like a sports car, as it not really designed to be one, but I think for a family vehicle, it fares pretty well with its competition.
The only thing that I did discover is that under hard acceleration, the 3.5-litre V6 didn't exactly have the sweetest sound to it, and with an RT badge on the back, I would have expected a slightly more throaty note to the exhaust.
I should also mention that the interior of the Journey, although very well-designed and perhaps better quality than I have seen on many Chrysler/Dodge products in the past, still showed itself lacking in certain areas. However, that being said, I have to hastily add that the vehicles I drove were pre-production models, so to be fair, I'm should hold back on my interior quality decision until I see a showroom-ready model.
All in all, I think that Dodge has hit the nail directly on the head with this vehicle. It is priced right, it has pretty much everything a family could want or need from a vehicle, it's not a minivan ... but perhaps it's the true evolution of the minivan!
Posted April 12, 2009. Crash Corrigan is a regular contributor to CarTest! More of his reviews can be found at www.carkeys.ca.
Manufacturer's website: www.dodge.ca