LAS VEGAS – Dodge unveiled a vehicle that doesn't quite fit its brutish brand imagery. It doesn't even have a muscle bound name like Avenger, Charger, Challenger or Viper. But the 2009 Dodge Journey has the best chance of being one of the most popular Dodge's ever.
The Journey is a car-based utility vehicle with the capability of carrying five or seven passengers. We think it has a great chance to succeed where its corporate sibling, the Chrysler Pacific, didn't. The reason can be summed up in one word: price. And what you get for the money.
With a base price of $19,985, the Journey is sure to grab the attention of young couples and empty nesters looking for a utility vehicle. But they don't want a minivan and they don't deed a bruising sport-utility.
However, the Journey does look like a Dodge. It sports the brand's horse collar grille and it has muscular exterior styling that includes optional 19-inch wheels, quad head lamps and sculpted wheel arches. But it's all been softened, giving the Journey a more friendly and sophisticated look.
When potential buyers get to their Dodge dealers, what they're going to find is a vehicle with BOS – a bunch of stuff – for their hard-earned money. The Journey can be equipped with either a four- or six cylinder engine. It also comes in either two-wheel- or four-wheel-drive configuration.
And it can be equipped with either a four-speed or six-speed transmission. But that's only the beginning. Flexibility is the buzzword that fits the Journey. It has a dual glove box, a storage bin atop and beneath the center stack. The front passenger seat has a storage bin under the seat cushion and there are storage bins in the floor of the second row that can hold ice and drinks. There's also a bin beneath the cargo floor in the rear.
There is thoughtfulness about what the customer wants at work in the Journey. It has interior LED lighting with map lights that are adjustable. LEDs also illuminate the front set of cupholders. Docking stations for iPods will also charge the devices. A 115 volt electrical outlet is in the second row. And for those models with third rows, the second row seats will fold and slide forward with one movement. What's more the backs of the third row seats will recline.
What we found most impressive for the Journey was the interior. It was soft, inviting and quite comfortable. We had a high seating position but it wasn't so high as to make us feel out of place. The test vehicle was a top of the line R/T with all wheel drive and chock full of equipment.
There was one thing we didn't care for about the Journey. The climate controls were too low, forcing the driver to look down. We felt they should have been where the audio controls were.
Our test vehicle had special paint, a navigation system, a rearview camera, hands free phone capability, voice controls, a rear seat entertainment system, moonroof, a third row, tire pressure monitoring and more. With a sticker of $34,385, we didn't feel like the vehicle was over priced.
It was quiet, the 235 horsepower engine had enough oomph and the six speed tranny shifted smoothly. The Journey handled well and there wasn't a lot of body sway in the curves. We found the Journey to be a very pleasant drive, user friendly and awfully flexible for those who do more than just drive back and forth to work.
Journeys officially go on sale April 1. However, vehicles are being shipped to dealerships now. If a dealer has got one and you want it, guess what, sold!
In addition to the SE, the SXT starts at $22,985 while the R/T starts at $26,545. Add on $1,750 for all-wheel-drive in the SE and R/T and $2,545 for AWD in the SXT. Dodge did a yeoman's job on the Journey but customers will determine whether it pays off.