Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Dodge Journey, by Bob McHugh

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2009 Dodge Journey SE Plus, by Chris Chase

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Manufacturer’s web site

Dodge Canada

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2009 Dodge Journey

North Vancouver, British Columbia – For parents who need a practical family vehicle with three rows of seats but don’t want an SUV or a minivan, the new Dodge Journey is the most affordable “crossover” vehicle in the mid-size class. Unlike the more expensive and recently discontinued Chrysler Pacifica crossover, the Journey is aimed at mainstream family buyers rather than luxury buyers.

2009 Journey SE five-passenger models with a four-cylinder engine start at under $20,000, while mid-level SXT models with a V6 engine begin at $24,000, and top-of-the-line R/T models start at $28,000. Adding two third row seats is an extra $1,075.

Compare that to other mid-size crossovers and you’ll see why the Journey is a good value. Among four-cylinder crossovers, the new mid-sized Toyota Venza is expected to start in the high 20s or low 30s, while the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo are comparably priced but smaller in size. Among V6-powered mid-size crossovers, the Ford Taurus X, Ford Flex, and Toyota Venza (optional V6) are all priced considerably higher than the Journey, as are the SUV-like crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse, Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9, and Subaru Tribeca. Only the Hyundai Santa Fe V6 offers comparable features for a comparable price, but it’s more of an SUV than a crossover. (See Autos’s Buyer’s Guide for full details on pricing)

Basically, the Journey is a replacement for the popular short wheelbase Dodge Caravan which was discontinued last year. The Journey is based on a stretched Dodge Avenger platform, and offers seven-passenger seating capacity, six airbags, lots of interior storage and cargo space, available all-wheel drive, and family-friendly features like integrated booster seats, rear air conditioning and available DVD entertainment systems.

Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD. Click image to enlarge

Autos’s Contributing Editor Chris Chase reviewed the base four-cylinder Journey SE model in August, but today’s test drive will focus on the top-of-the-line Journey R/T V6 model equipped with optional all-wheel drive (MSRP $29,995). Standard equipment on this model includes the powerful 235-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability; all-wheel drive; 19-inch all-season tires and alloy wheels; front fog lights; leather seats with front seat heaters; power driver’s seat, fold-flat front passenger seatback, second row 60/40 folding seats, six-CD changer and Sirius satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control; keyless entry and remote starter, floor console, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

Available options include third-row 50/50 folding seats; chrome alloy wheels, rear air conditioner and heater; U-connect hands-free communication system; a backup camera; MyGig infotainment system; navigation system; rear-seat DVD; trailer towing package; and power moonroof. Equipped with all these options, a Journey R/T AWD can top out over $32,000 plus $1,300 Freight.

My test vehicle included over $3,000 worth of options: the Convenience Group 2 with U-connect hands-free communication, auto-dimming rearview mirror with microphone, roof rack crossbars, air filters, LED interior lighting ($400); Flexible Seating Group with 3rd row 50/50 folding seats, 2nd row 60/40 tilt and slide seats, easy-entry 2nd row seats, and three-zone automatic climate control ($1,075); power moonroof ($1,000); and chrome alloy wheels ($600). With Freight and A/C tax, the as-tested price came to $34,470.

Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD. Click image to enlarge
Interior impressions

The Journey has four conventional swing-out doors (the rear doors open 90 degrees) and the step-in height is slightly higher than a typical sedan. The seven-passenger Journey’s seats are arranged in a 2-3-2 layout and to improve the rear passengers’ view, the Journey’s second and third row seats are higher than the first row: the second row hip-point is 40 mm (1.6 in.) higher than the first row, the third row hip-point is another 17 mm (0.6 in.) higher than the second row, and 57 mm (2.2 in.) higher than the first-row seats.

There is plenty of headroom in all three rows; legroom in the first and second rows is generous but only adequate in the third row which has a higher floor and shorter seat cushions. However, the second row seats will slide forwards, freeing up more legroom in the third row when necessary. As well, the second row seats fold out of the way in an “accordion” like manner to allow access to the third row. This feature is included with the optional third row seats.

For parents who need to reach their small child seated in the second row, the Journey’s sliding second row seats can be moved forwards and the front passenger seatback folded flat to allow the driver to attend to the child while still in the driver’s seat. As well, the Journey is available with integrated child booster seats in the second row. These seats boost a child 102 mm (4 in.) higher so they can use the seatbelts. It also makes it easier for the children to see out the windows. The booster seats are designed for children who are up to 1.45 m (4 ft. 9 in.) tall and between 22 kg and 39 kg (48 and 85 lbs.).

The R/T’s attractive two-tone leather seats and matching door inserts give the interior a sporty look and the dark dash is highlighted by tasteful chrome trim. The quality of the plastic dash material is not first-rate, but I can forgive this because of the Journey’s simple controls and straightforward functionality. The Journey’s simple dash layout and protruding centre stack are easy to reach and operate, although it’s unusual to have the radio positioned so low in the centre stack. I liked the volume and seek controls located on the back of the steering wheel which are easy to operate while driving.

The Journey’s comprehensive backlit gauge cluster is easy to read as are the green-on-black displays for the heater and radio in the centre stack. The driver’s seat includes power height, recline include manual lumbar adjustment and two-temperature seat heaters. My test vehicle had the optional second-row roof-mounted heater/air conditioner controls as well as rear 12-volt and 115-volt power outlets.

Storage areas abound in the Journey, starting with the upper and lower gloveboxes in the front which include an air-conditioned cooler for two pop cans; a deep storage bin under the centre armrest; a folding centre armrest/cupholder/storage bin in the second row; a hidden storage bin under the front passenger seat, and two hidden under-floor storage bins behind the front seats that can hold 12 pop cans plus ice.

Six of the Journey’s seven seats have individually folding seatbacks so cargo-carrying flexibility is maximized. The rear cargo area is fully carpeted as are the backs of the second row seats, but the side walls are made of a soft plastic which is likely to get scratched. With the right front passenger seatback folded down, items up to seven feet long can be loaded inside the vehicle. The cargo area includes a removeable flashlight and a 12-volt powerpoint. The rear hatch requires some effort to close but the cargo opening is large and easy to access.

As a family vehicle, passenger safety has been given a high priority. Standard safety features include multi-stage front driver and passenger air bags, front-seat-mounted side air bags, and side-curtain airbags for all three rows, as well as standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Brake Assist, electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, Trailer Sway Damping, and optional back-up camera.

Driving Impressions

The Journey is an easy vehicle to get in and out of and the driver has good visibility in most directions, however shoulder-checking while changing lanes is hampered by a poorly positioned right-rear head restraint in the second row. A standard tilt and telescoping steering wheel and power height-adjustable driver’s seat accommodate both shorter and taller drivers. The front seats don’t have much lateral support but they are large and reasonably comfortable. The second row outboard seats are also quite comfortable but the centre position isn’t. The two third row seats aren’t cramped, but they’re not very comfortable either.

Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD car test drives dodge
2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD. Click image to enlarge

The 235-hp 3.5-litre V6 is a powerful, smooth and quiet engine and it works well with the six-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration tests of a front-wheel drive Journey R/T conducted by AJAC demonstrated a 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.2 seconds, and an 80 to 120 km/h passing time of 7.9 seconds. That’s acceptable considering the Journey weighs over 4,000 pounds. The Journey R/T AWD has a heavier curb weight of 1922 kg (4238 lbs), so it would be slightly slower.

In braking tests, the Journey R/T FWD stopped from 100 km/h in 45.6 metres (150 ft.), not as good as its standard four-wheel disc brakes ABS and Panic Brake Assist would suggest, but not significantly worse than average either.

On the freeway, the Journey R/T is a quiet, comfortable cruiser with the V6 engine turning over just 2,000 r.p.m. at 100 km/h in sixth gear. However, as it’s a rather heavy vehicle, the V6-powered Journey is thirstier than the four-cylinder Journey. The R/T’s fuel economy (L/100 km/mpg) is pegged at 14.2/20 city, 8.9/32 hwy while the base SE four-cylinder offers 11.0/26 city and 8.0/35 hwy.

The R/T’s six-speed automatic transmission includes a manual shift mode which allows the driver greater control over engine speed in situations where it’s necessary to gear down (hills) or lock out overdrive (around town). But for most purposes, the automatic function works seamlessly.

The R/T’s on-demand all-wheel drive system drives only the front wheels until wheel slip is detected – it then automatically transfers power to the rear wheels as needed to improve traction. In the cockpit, I couldn’t detect if and when this power transfer was taking place. But there’s no doubt, that come winter, the benefits of the Journey’s all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and roll-over control systems would be much more apparent and appreciated.

On the highway, the Journey R/T’s excellent ride characteristics can be attributed in part to its fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts/rear multi-link), isolated suspension components, and large P225/55R19 all-season touring tires. For long road trips, the Journey is an excellent cruiser, although I’ll reserve judgement on seat comfort until I’ve actually done a long trip. Handling is stable with minimal lean in the corners, but the Journey feels heavy when asked to make quick transitions, its long wheelbase and curb weight being the main culprits.

Verdict

As V6-powered crossovers go, the seven-passenger Journey R/T is reasonably priced and offers many family-friendly safety and convenience features. Criticisms include an uncomfortable third-row seat and thirsty fuel consumption.

Pricing: 2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD

Base price: $29,995

Options: $3,075 (Convenience Group 2: U-connect hands-free communication, auto-dimming rearview mirror with microphone, roof rack crossbars, air filters, LED interior lighting $400; Flexible Seating Group: 3rd row 50/50 folding seats, 2nd row 60/40 tilt and slide seats, easy-entry 2nd row seats, three-zone automatic climate control $1,075; power moonroof $1,000; chrome alloy wheels $600)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,300
Price as tested: $34,470
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Dodge Journey

    Related articles on Autos
    First Drives
  • 2009 Dodge Journey, by Bob McHugh
    Test Drives
  • 2009 Dodge Journey SE Plus, by Chris Chase
    Day-by-Day Review
  • 2009 Dodge Journey, by James Bergeron

    Competitors
  • 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Toyota Venza

    Manufacturer’s web site
  • Dodge Canada



  • About Greg Wilson

    Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).