The American automaker Chrylser is accredited with the invention of the minivan back in the 1980s, however in an ever changing world of economy conscious consumers they are blazing a new trail with the more compact crossover utility vehicle offering the practicality of a wagon with the looks of an SUV and the ride of a car thanks to the crossover’s unibody underpinnings. The Dodge Journey is Chrysler’s latest addition to the CUV segment and our Deep Water Blue Pearl people mover came with all of the familiar features that define the crossover as well as a few unique touches that we think no soccer mom should go without.
After all that is what the Journey is all about, to provide consumers with practical transportation that can carry an entire extended family and all their stuff with a smaller footprint than the now frowned upon sport utility vehicle. For most CUV shoppers, third row seating is a must, and the Journey certainly delivers. Offering room for up to seven our bright blue crossover came complete with a host of high tech creature comforts like an infotainment system that brings everything from a large LCD navigation display to an in dash DVD player with SIRIUS Backseat TV, flip down 8 inch monitor and wireless headphones to ensure that mommy and daddy can enjoy the drive undisturbed as well as quite a few clever chilled storage compartments including a pair of in floor coolers.
The Dodge Journey clearly shares a resemblance to its minivan predecessors continuing the classic two box shape and crossbar grill but adds a bit of flair with a pair of headlamps that sweep back into the front fenders and a set of bulging arches at all four corners. Our Journey’s chrome clad wheels, measuring a rather large 19 inches in diameter, made the blue pear paint pop while the roof line tapered back creating a sort of tear drop effect making it look like a much more dynamic vehicle. Our car came with the optional 3.5 Liter V6 that pumps out 235 HP and gets and estimated 16 MPG around town and as much as 23 MPG on the highway. Starting off at $23,925 and our extremely well equipped Journey SXT is optioned all the way up to $33,375 and the fact that it has been awarded consecutive Top Safety Pick honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety makes the Journey an excellent choice for the family on the go.
Continued after the jump.
At first glance our Dodge Journey looks like a scaled down Caravan, the body follows the familiar two box shape with a bit more of a raked windshield for aerodynamic reasons and is unmistakably a Chrysler with the classic cross bar grill up front. The exterior of the Journey follows the familiar lines that we saw not so long ago on the Avenger; starting off with the flat front end, continuing on with the bulging fender flares and finishing up with the squared off rear end.
The CUV’s body gives it a somewhat aggressive appearance with its bold boxy bodywork and oversized light housings, despite being a very friendly family vehicle. Quite possibly the most attractive aspect of our Journey is the way the Deep Water Blue Pearl paint is offset by the chrome clad six spoke wheels measuring 19 inches in diameter. Aside from the fancy rollers the Journey’s outward appearance is a bit boring, with not much in the way of intricate details, and while the Journey rides a bit higher than you would expect for a compact, that is what crossovers are all about.
The interior of our Journey was two tone Dark Slate Gray with what Chrysler calls Light Graystone inserts on the door panels and seats, not to mention that it is overflowing with lots of cool stuff; like the storage compartments hidden in the seats, dash and a pair of functional coolers in the rear foot wells as well as a flip down monitor in the headliner with remote and wireless headphones as well as a very convenient flashlight in the trunk.
The highlight of the interior was a large LCD navigation display at the top of the center stack that integrates the controls for the multi zone climate control and the AM/FM/SIRIUS/DVD infotainment system with a built in six disc changer and hard disk drive. The instrument cluster is broken up into three squared off sections and resembles something more like what you would have found in the original Dodge Caravan from the 1980s than a the 21st century crossover and on the other side of the dash is a hidden soda can cooling compartment. While the materials being used aren’t quite what you would call top notch quality, the fancy features are more than enough to distract buyers from the poor finish.
The front seats do offer a bit of style with their lighter inserts, but they are so padded that the driver will feel like they are sitting on top of as opposed to in them, elevating the driving position a little more then we would have liked. However the hidden compartment in the passenger side bucket added a rather unique wow factor to our Journey. The second row features a set of built in booster seats for children who have outgrown their baby seat but aren’t quite comfortable with the standard shoulder restraint. It also gives them a better view of the SIRIUS Backseat TV Service being fed into the 8 inch screen and will keep their feet off of the coolers built into the car’s floor pan. Being a CUV, the Journey offers seating for up to seven passengers with its fold up third row, however unless you are an amputee or a certified non cluster phobic, the bench is a bit cramped and leaves little room for luggage when being used.
The problem with putting a plus size body on a car’s chassis is that it is a bit of a compromise. While our Journey came with the optional High Output 3.5 Liter 24 valve V6 making 235 HP and 232 lb-ft of torque coupled to a six speed automatic transmission complete with manual shift selection, the CUV still felt underpowered and the estimated 16 MPG around town and 23 MPG on the highway were less than impressive. Due to its nature as a crossover, the Journey felt tall and tipsy, a sensation that was only made worse by the overly padded seats that we were sitting on as opposed to in.
However Dodge’s target market shouldn’t mind considering that Journey shoppers won’t be doing much in the way of performance driving. Meanwhile more practical drivers will be pleased to know that the CUV delivered a solid ride no matter whether we were on our way to the grocery store or making our daily commute on the freeway.
Why to Buy
The Journey is still new and fun and offers more options then you can shake a stick at, and while 3rd row seating is a major factor for CUV buyers, we have to point out that there is nothing better than having a cooler in your car. Parents will feel warm and cozy knowing that the Dodge Journey has earned back to back Top Safety Pick awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ensuring that their little ones are secure.
Starting out at $23,925 the Dodge Journey is definitely a well priced economy car, however or well optioned SXT model came complete with almost $10,000 worth of options. Aside from the pearl paint and heated front seats, the Journey’s single most expensive option is the Entertainment Group #2 package that consists of the AM/FM 6 disc DVD navigation radio, Uconnect phone with voice command, hard disc drive, 6 infinity premium speakers with subwoofer, 368 Watt amplifier among other things for $2,495; but if you want the flip down monitor you will have to pony up an additional $825. The other pricey option that we feel goes a long way to upgrading our Journey are the $1,420 Chrome appearance group that includes those rims we were telling you about earlier. This brings the grand total of our Deep Water Blue Pearl Dodge Journey SXT up to $33,375.
Why Not to Buy
As fun as the Journey is with all its hidden compartments, there are more practical people movers on the market; like the Mazda5 and Toyota Highlander . The crossover’s cabin is a bit cramped especially when loaded with seven passengers and a full load of cargo, which won’t be that much, and optioned to almost $10,000 over the price of a base Journey, it is a bit much. However if Mopar is you cup of tea and you want a bit more sport with your CUV, Dodge also offers an R/T version dressed up with a bit more chrome.
Top Speed Final Verdict
At first we were impressed with the Dodge Journey’s laundry list of cool features and high tech add-ons that will keep the kids occupied for hours but by the end of our stint with the new CUV we weren’t convinced that the extra dollars spent made sense.
“The Journey is okay to drive, but the cabin materials leave something to be desired. A solid if wholly unspectacular choice…The Journey is boring yet dynamically competent. Library quiet, too.”-Car and Driver
“The Journey’s boxy—but not boxy enough to make a statement—exterior is totally, completely, utterly forgettable. Even with flared fenders, the Journey has no curb appeal whatsoever. In fact, the Journey’s so unrelentingly bland that it manages to appear much smaller than it actually is.”-The Truth About Cars
“The 2009 Dodge Journey packs a useful seating layout and an amazing number of storage containers into a body of reasonable proportions…Yet every other manufacturer now has an entry in the compact and midsize crossover SUV segment, so standards for driving dynamics and cabin design are high. If the Journey were the least expensive seven-seater in town, you might write off its faults, but the V6-equipped Mitsubishi Outlander, Suzuki XL7 and Toyota RAV4 are all priced within $1,000.”-Edmunds