2009 Dodge Journey: Shock Value

Written by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Seems like the automotive world is being compressed more and more in the crossover utility category. With oil prices at their highest level ever and the value of the dollar shrinking like leftover party balloons, consumers are looking for varied options that will keep more money in their pockets while still offering the conveniences needed in everyday commutes. So let’s take a “journey” to see what Dodge’s first crossover has to offer.

But first we must understand the business case. Chrysler is in a precarious situation. They split from Daimler and now have a new owner, Cerberus, who wants the brand to be successful of course. That means cutting back on vehicles that were seen as similar to other products in the family, or those that didn’t sell well. So goodbye to the Magnum, Pacifica, Crossfire and PT Cruiser Convertible. And with so much promotion these last few years on the gas guzzling HEMI, you would think it’s a direct conflict of interest to keep pumping them out. Especially with new CAFE legislation for auto companies to meet 35 mpg average fuel economy by 2020. So will that hurt sales of the upcoming Dodge Challenger? No way! The key is for the Chrysler brand to hit the right consumers with the right product at the right time.

The Journey, a very roomy vehicle, comes with a fuel efficient 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V6. The power is good in the six, but not excellent. Forget about the four. I can only imagine accelerating onto the on ramp with seven passengers (which it will hold comfortably) and luggage. The vehicle also feels heavy and not so nimble. However, the compromise is that you are getting a package that shocks you at $19,985 and offers a plethora of comfort features like the three rows of stadium seating and enough storage bins to create a scavenger hunt with the kids. I mean, there are closed containers under the floor boards, storage under the seat cushions and rear floor panel and a cooler (Chill Zone) in the glove compartment. Add to that full-sized door pockets, huge vents and a front passenger seat that folds flat to allow a nine-foot object to be stowed. The second row also folds flat and tilts and slides. An integrated booster seat is another neat feature for families. That’s one less item to travel with. Standard safety must-haves include three row curtain airbags, ABS, electronic stability control, panic brake assist and electronic roll mitigation.

On the tech side, Dodge seemed to have hired super producer Timbaland, with his technology inspired music tracks, for advice. Actually you can store 30 gigs of Timbaland’s music via the Journey’s “MyGIG” (also stores photos and voice messages), or just travel with your iPod and connect to the vehicle directly. The kids will enjoy the huge 8” DVD screen and don’t even have to worry about a car charger for any electronics since there is a standard 115 volt household outlet in the Journey. The touchscreen navigation has been updated from Chrysler’s typical platform with easier inputs and more precise directions and the available back up camera allows a clear view to the rear. Bluetooth is available by way of Chrysler’s “UConnect” and voice command is another way of communicating with the Journey. You can also leave yourself up to three-minute long messages and reminders. The rest of the interior is typical Dodge with lots of rough plastic trimming.

Dodge is going after young singles, couples and younger families with the Journey. FWD, optional AWD are motivation choices. Triple door seals winterize the vehicle while high strength steel adds further protection from the outside world. The styling is similar to a large sports wagon; think of a longer and taller Caliber. The wheel wells are tough and chrome packages accentuates the vehicle’s angular curves. Offering great value, the vehicle comes in three packages: SE ($19,985), SXT ($22,985) and the R/T ($26,545). The SXT and R/T can be had with AWD. Compare with the Ford Edge and Chevy Equinox.

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