2009 Dodge Journey

2009 Dodge Journey 2009 Dodge Journey
First Drive Review

The Dodge marque has a history that is long and storied. Unfortunately, it's a long, storied history full of muscle cars, trucks, and Hemis. And despite plenty of warning, Dodge has been caught woefully unprepared to respond to recent market shifts and governmental legislation, both of which threaten to relegate many of Dodge's core values to the history books alongside the Coronet, Ramcharger, and Super Bee.

Dodge's recent car and car-based offerings—yes, including the hot new Challenger—have given us little hope that the brand would get a clue. But just as we started preparing to number Dodge's days, it has shown us a shiny new crossover called the Journey, ready to do battle in a crowded—but white-hot—market. And it enters with a decent amount of ammo.

Yet Another Crossover, Yet Another Spin

Since for all intents and purposes the Journey is yet another mid-size crossover with few truly unique qualities, we figure Dodge wanted to come up with another way to pitch it. So here it is: This, friends, is the vehicle for people whose lives are in "transition." No, not the wigs-and-heels kind of transition, but the one that occurs when guys have kids but don't want to shed their dignity by driving a frumpy minivan, or the kind that happens to couples whose kids are shedding them but who aren't ready to ditch the versatility they've became used to with their minivans (and who may be ready for their dignity to return).

How well will the Journey serve these, uh, transistites? Reasonably well, we think—and indeed, it should even please many families not finding themselves going through "the change," provided it's features they're looking for and not thrilling performance or standout styling.

We'll get to the performance thing in a bit, but for the record, we have no problem with the styling. In fact, the Journey is a relatively good-looking vehicle with a solid stance, an elegant tapered greenhouse, and a square-jawed mug. Basically, it appears to be a tall, stretched Avenger, which is more or less what it is. Sure, it breaks little ground, which will make causing a splash in the crowded crossover segment a challenge, but few folks in this segment are looking to make waves.

Action-Packed Features List

Besides, who wouldn't appreciate such handy features as theater-style seating, a window line low enough for children in back to see out, an optional emergency-size split third-row seat for carpool day (on SXT and R/T models), available rear-seat entertainment, and integrated booster-seat cushions in the second-row bench, which slides fore-and-aft nearly five inches?

Other nifty bits include a telescoping steering wheel (something all too rare among domestic offerings), LED interior lighting, Bluetooth connectivity, double-decker glove boxes with an air-conditioned upper section, and the optional voice-activated MyGIG infotainment system, which takes a bit of time to master but, once figured out, works pretty well. It's too bad the radio faceplate is located down at knee level, requiring the driver not only to take his or her eyes off the road but also to literally turn and look down to decipher the small graphics. Interestingly, navigation-equipped MyGIGs come with a separate screen at the top of the dash that displays the map in what is otherwise a covered storage bin.

But wait, there's more! The second-row seats slide and fold forward for third-row access in a one-handed operation, and the third-row seatbacks split, fold forward, or recline up to six degrees. The rear doors open nearly 90 degrees for ease of entry and loading, and there's a clever concealed storage area under the front-passenger seat cushion.

But the most unique aspect of the vehicle by far: the standard, removable underfloor cooler/storage bins that can hold a dozen cans of soda—on ice—without leaking. Younger transistites can fill them with baby toys, Cheerios, and baby bottles. Elders can fill them with gardening tools, golf balls, or even a cooked casserole (one of Chrysler's engineers swears his wife did exactly that over the holidays). Wigs and heels will also fit. We were sold even before we got in.