• Aug 27th 2008 at 12:18PM
  • 44

2009 Dodge Journey R/T – Click above for high-res image gallery

The 2009 Dodge Journey carries the size and shape of a typical crossover, and it has seating for seven and all the amenities you could possibly ask for at $30,000. On paper, the Journey has a plenty of things in its favor, yet we had our doubts.

First off, it looks a lot like the Dodge Caravan, which works against the Journey when considering that many crossover buyers want to avoid the minivan stigma. It's also based on the less than impressive Chrysler Sebring platform, which we have found to be just awful. Then there is Chrysler's corporate 3.5L engine, which is less powerful, refined and efficient than similarly sized engines from its competition. Chrysler's recent track record for vehicles that are less than class competitive also lent support to our notion that the Journey might be a letdown. Regardless, we tried to clear our minds of these things when the Journey arrived for a week-long stay in the Autoblog Garage. Hit the jump to see how Chrysler's new crossover fared.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

Our well equipped Journey R/T FWD finished in Inferno Red Crystal Pearl Coat Dodge came equipped with a sunroof, leather seating surfaces, a navigation system, second row DVD screen, and MyGig multimedia system among its many options. We basically got the "works" package, which tipped the price up considerably from the $26,785 base price of the Journey R/T to $32,375.

On the outside, the Journey has clean, straight lines and an athletic stance. The design also holds true to the main design themes of Chrysler's crosshair division. Our R/T model came equipped with large 19-inch chrome wheels that are shaded by the vehicle's bulging wheel arches. The minimalist corporate crosshair grille helps keep things simple up front, yet doesn't help the Journey make a memorable impression in the very crowded CUV segment. True story: on two occasions we walked right by the Journey while trying to find it in a parking lot. That doesn't happen when you're driving Nissan's new Murano, for instance.

Chrysler has struggled with interiors over the past several years, and the Auburn Hills-based automaker worked hard to get things right with the Journey. Materials are considerably better than they are in the Dodge Avenger, for example, with soft-touch surfaces on the dash and a more comfortable center console. Unfortunately, the improvements over other Chrysler interiors just aren't enough. For instance, while designers provided a flat surface for the driver's left arm to rest on the window sill, it's made of hard plastic and made our arm sore. The arm right below that's built into the door has a little give to it, but it's too low for a short arm to reach. The Journey's seats are also stiff and lacking in proper thigh support for long drives.

One thing Chrysler excels at is adding nifty features that make life easier for both the driver and passengers, and the Journey excels in this area. There is a storage area under the front passenger seat, a place above the glove box to keep your beverage cool, and gaming ports for the LCD screen. Oour personal favorite is the integrated child safety seats, which can be accessed by simply pulling a cord. As the father of two five year-olds, it's nice not switching car seats between my wife's car and mine. The integrated safety seats also mean I don't have to haul around two thoroughly stained pink booster seats that just get in the way when the kids aren't in the car.

We were left scratching our heads, however, with Dodge's decision to put seven seats in a space that can only comfortably fit five. The third row is so small that my 12-year-old and her friend had their knees up to their chests because there was no leg room. To make room for the ill-fitting third row, Chrysler also had to move the second row forward, which has far from class-leading leg room as it is.

While the crossover segment isn't where you'd expect to find a well-heeled, athletic chassis, the segment overall has improved greatly in this area over the past couple years. Given that the Journey is based on the floating, ponderous Sebring platform, we didn't have high hopes for it. Fortunately, our bias was easily stripped as the Journey was surprisingly capable on the open road. A trip to Chrysler's Chelsea proving grounds showed that the Journey could take hard cornering with relative ease and not a scary amount of body roll, and the Journey felt solid and in control on rough pavement.

Steering was another area where the Journey surprised us based on our exposure to the Sebring, as it provides good feedback of the road beneath your feet. While the Sebring's lifeless steering wheel is downright scary, the Journey's actually communicates the road to you and isn't so overly assisted that it feels like a wet noodle in your hand.

Chrysler's 3.5L V6 is the top shelf engine offered in the Journey, and while it provides adequate grunt to get you going, this ancient mill is still far from similar engine offerings by Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford and GM. With 235 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque, It's missing too much twisting force off the line and during highway passing situations. After driving other CUVs with 3.5L and larger V6 engines, the Journey gives the impression that there's an even smaller engine under hood. The six speed-automatic transmission, however, felt smoother than one we tried in the Sebring, which felt choppy and ill-calibrated. We would have liked the slush box to hold its gears a little longer during spirited driving, but Chrysler did provide a manual shifting mode. The Journey averaged a ho-hum 20.6 mpg during our time behind the wheel, which is almost exactly what we got in the much larger and more powerful Ford Flex.

While our one week with the Dodge Journey R/T was anything but exciting, Chrysler's newest crossover did perform beyond our expectations. Unfortunately, our expectations for the Journey were low, and this segment is filled with machines that virtues more appealing than the Journey. Chrysler has done a great job differentiating the Journey from its competition with neat features like storage bins and integrated child seats, but the issues we have with it are much more fundamental. While not quite good enough to stack up against the best vehicles in its class, the Dodge Journey R/T should find a few buyers who are enamored by its tricks.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I also have to agree........We own an 2005 Mazda MPV minivan......It carries 6 people, has a 3.0 liter V6 that is a Ford Duratec derivative, and gets about 24 MPG's on the highway if you keep your speed around 60 mph, and use the Cruise control.

      Why these smaller SUV's can't match that simple mid 20's mileage is a mystery to me.

      I still scratch my head about the logic of SUV's both big and small in general. Minivans or full size vans don't have the macho appeal or stylishness of SUV's, but their utilitarian use is so much better than SUV's.

      1. Your floor level to ceiling is much better for getting or out.
      2. Storage potential with seats removed is phenomenal.
      3. Visibility is great
      4. Generally, these Mini vans get better mileage too.
      5. Most Minivans can tow between 3,000-5,000 lbs. too.
      Most SUV buyers don't need 4x4 traction, unless they live in the areas of the country where weather freezes road surfaces, and you have lots of snow.

      I can even remember when Mini-vans could be optioned with full time 4wheel drive. GM's Astro/Safari platform had that option. I believe that Fords Aerostar mini van also.

      SUV's in my opinion supplanted the old stylish station wagon. Mini-vans were a hit years ago, cause they could haul cargo, people, and were so multi-faceted in their uses.

      I owned a ford Club Wagon......then moved to a Chevy Suburban. What a difference. The Suburban was tighter inside, had much less cargo space, was a terrible gas eater......etc.. Missed that Club Wagon, ugly as it was.

      That old Club Wagon with passenger seats out could take a 4x8 piece of plywood and you could close the back doors too. Even our Astro ext could do that!
      Anyway, I'm really puzzled with America's facination with these SUV's.

      Seems like vanity, vanity, vanity, rules so much of our vehicular purchases.

      They seem so illogical unless you are set on buying totally on stylish looks, and not function being the major reason.

      Just my opinion. Go ahead and pile on. I have thick skin. :)
        • 7 Years Ago
        @TJ: those numbers make sense. But I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss an 11% savings on fuel costs (using the city mpg number). At $4/gallon, that's over $400 per year... enough to cover 1 of your 12 monthly payments on a vehicle like this.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Both great perspectives. Thanks for the enlightenment boys.
      • 7 Years Ago
      They want to avoid the minivan stigma? Is that worse than the gas guzzling, earth-killer stigma?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Sanders, there are also those among us who require the capabilites of SUV's or "earth-killers".
        • 7 Years Ago
        I didn't say anything about earth killers. I said there are those who can't come to terms they're parents and still want to project an image of being single. This was admitted to me by several friends as to the reason they WON'T get a minivan. Throw the kids into the back seat and go heavy on the tint, no one will know.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Hey Reuben, Your "earth killer" rath should be directed @ Rick (if you must...) since he is the one who actually WROTE what you (mis)quoted to Sanders
        • 7 Years Ago
        Ah yes, because a minivan simply says 'you are a parent.' Maybe some people are offended by this.
        • 7 Years Ago
        There are the pretentious and vain among us who still have not come to terms they are grown up and have children, and still want to pretend they're single. It says something for the right tool for the right job...
      • 7 Years Ago
      Wait, what? How's this different than Celine Dion's Pacifica, whereas that one had AWD, at least?
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's starting to irritate me that this type of vehicle just isn't that efficient. 20.6MPG? Here come the people who point to its seven seats, completely ignorant that vehicles - no matter what their size - are rarely filled to capacity or even anything near it. Dodge pushes the fuel economy of the Journey, but the claims are a bit silly. http://goodcarbadcar.blogspot.com/2008/06/3-to-beat-chrysler-markets-journey-on.html
        • 7 Years Ago
        Ken, easy with the American "manual" bashing, you are on a car enthusiast site!
        • 7 Years Ago
        Agreed. They need that VW diesel they sell in Europe. Unfortunately, it is only available with a manual, which means no American would buy it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The Journey is really just a Mitsubishi Outlander with different skin. All of the little storage spaces and built in kids seats take its toll in the legroom department.

      Chrysler should really put in the 2.4L 4 with a turbo.

      Still the chassis that this car rides on has to be the most versitile in the industry. You can see how it can be made too soft like the Sebring to too hard like the EVO.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Oh really... PROVE IT

        sharing hard points does not mean "It is a Mitsubishi Outlander with different skin."

        People will never undernstand.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Chrysler did their own "work" finishing up the basic architecture they bought from Mitsubishi so much so they gave the platform their own internal name. So absolutely NOT is the Journey just an Outlander with different skin, or an Evo on stilts, or any other cute analogy you can come up with.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This crossover is a step in the right direction for Chrysler. I think it is a sharp looking vehicle. The interior styling and materials are not class-leading, but they seem to be a step up from the dreck that Chrysler has been giving us for a long time. They need to hurry and redo all their products before it is too late and there is only the Big 2 left.
      • 7 Years Ago
      We have been doing a lot of crossover-type reviews because there are a lot of crossovers coming out. We of course want to do Porsche and BMW, but it's important to cover everything.

      Second, the vehicle was FWD. You're (all that mentioned/noticed) right that it should have been stated in the third paragraph.

      Also, we try to keep reviews of mainstream vehicles short... about 1000 words. If we get into 3rd row leg room or gear ratios on a Journey, most everyone will be disinterested quickly.

      For a GT-R, M3, or a ZR-1, you get a lot more content. For crossovers and minivans, not so much.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Overall, good review. Like most cars, the top of the line models are a big waste of money. The Journey can be had for $23,125 with the 3.5L engine and 6 speed. For comparisons sake, the Honda Pilot starts at $27,595, Toyota Rav4 with 3 rows and the 3.5L engine is $26,940, and a Ford Taurus X $27,030. I'm not going to compare features for each vehicle because that's the reviewer's job. With this in mind, I think the Journey is fairly competitive in its segment. If you need seating for 7 the Journey should definitely be on your list.
      On a side note, was this the AWD or 2WD model?
        • 7 Years Ago
        That maybe true, but the automakers seem to think the market will support 7 seating. For example, both new generation Pilot and Rav4 offer 3 rows.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Well the Reviewer did a good job covering all the aspects of the vehicle; handling, interior, and exterior. To be a great review, it would have to include all that was mentioned by me, yourself and the other bloggers. Good discussion and facts. Maybe we should be reviewing these cars!
      • 7 Years Ago
      wow, for the R/T trim they wouldn't throw in the 4.0 from the Nitro? what garbage.
      • 7 Years Ago
      While your review was anything but exciting, it did perform beyond my expectations. Unfortunately, my expectations for Autoblog were low, and the media is filled with plenty of good magazines
      • 6 Years Ago
      Not sure why everyone is so down on this CUV. I test drove one the other day and compared it with my previous test drives of the Santa Fe, Highlander, Rondo, RAV4, and Outlander. Comparing it to these vehicles is a tough job but I can say that while the interior isn't up to par with the rest, I'd have to say it fares pretty well against this list.

      Before you start bashing me, remember that not everyone looking for a CUV has the same criteria, but it seems to me like most of the critics/reviewers have these common attributes...
      They are looking for a CUV that:
      1. Handles like a Porsche
      2. Interior space of a minivan
      3. Interior quality like a Bentley
      4. Horsepower on par with a Dodge Viper
      5. All of the above for under $25000

      Point is, there will never be a critic/reviewer that will be completely satisfied with any CUV simply because they constantly drive other SUV's that are better and costs thousands more. Then there are those that say a fully loaded Journey's price puts it into the realm of a Highlander, for example, which is a better CUV in terms of quality and reliability, but they fail to mention that you are now comparing a fully loaded Journey to a baseline Highlander.

      Remember that the Journey is targeted towards a specific demographic. Don't bother reading reviews of this CUV from people who are single and don't have a clue about having kids and being on a budget. That high-quality interior that you wanted so much won't be so high-quality after your kids are done with it. Kids are amazing and the path to discovery can sometimes lead to a path toward destruction first.

      When you compare the Journey to the list of CUV's I mentioned above, it fares pretty well. You name one of those vehicles that fit the following criteria:
      1. AWD
      2. rear seat dvd
      3. 3rd row seating (for the in-laws heh heh)
      4. bluetooth handsfree
      5. Touchscreen Voice activated radio
      5a. Sirius satellite, 30gb hard disk for mp3's
      5b. ipod interface and aux jack for non-ipods
      6. 3 zone auto-climate control
      7. integrated child booster seats
      8. stain proof fabric (for the kids)
      9. 19" chrome wheels.
      10. all of the above for $30k

      Closest one in the list in terms of features was Santa Fe and then Outlander, but they were way above the $30k mark.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Judging by the colour theme, the interior is bits and pieces stolen/bought/found from old KGB offices.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I think I speak for everyone when I say....

        WTF are you talking about?
        • 7 Years Ago
        I'm talking about BROWN.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Must be a european thing.... brown is not a color usually associated with the intel branch of the former communist regime.
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