2009 Dodge Journey
2009 Dodge Journey. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site

Dodge Canada

Preview and photos by Bob McHugh

Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada

Find this vehicle in Autos’s Classified Ads

Photo Gallery:
2009 Dodge Journey

Las Vegas, Nevada – My first reaction to the Dodge Journey was, “Not another pricey crossover utility vehicle!” – that is until I found out you can buy a Journey in Canada for $19,995 with air, an automatic transmission, four wheel disc brakes and electronic stability control, all included.

There simply isn’t anything on the market quite like it at this price point. Another $1,175 adds a flexible seating package to make it a seven passenger vehicle.

Based on a stretched version of the mid-size Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Avenger platform, the Journey fills a void in the Dodge line-up left by the elimination of the short-wheelbase Caravan. While the Journey offers similar interior seating and cargo hauling flexibility, it avoids the Caravan’s ‘soccer mom’ stigma (not that there’s anything wrong with soccer moms).

2009 Dodge Journey
2009 Dodge Journey. Click image to enlarge

First shown at the Frankfurt Auto Show, the Journey was actually designed to appeal to a broad global passenger car market. In Canada, the engine choices are a 2.4-litre four-cylinder or a 3.5-litre V6. A diesel and a 2.7-litre V6 are also offered in other markets.

The flexible seating package adds a 60/40 split, tilt and slide second row seat and three-zone air conditioning, in addition to a 50/50 split third-row seat. The Journey can quickly adapt, without removing anything, to a variety of passenger seating and/or cargo needs.

Unique features specifically for families with young children are included and there are lots of clever storage spaces, like the removable bins hidden in the floor and another concealed storage spot under the front passenger seat cushion.

The base SE and SE Plus trim levels are unique to Canada and the Journey is also offered in SXT and a top-line R/T edition. All wheel drive (AWD) is available on the V6 powered Journey SXT and R/T.

2009 Dodge Journey
2009 Dodge Journey. Click image to enlarge

All versions of the Journey come with a four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link system in the rear. Four wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock system (ABS), traction control, roll mitigation, electronic stability control and a tilt/telescopic steering column are standard on all models.

The Journey features two engine/transaxle combinations to meet the needs of mid-size crossover buyers. A fuel-efficient 2.4-litre four-cylinder “World Engine” mated to a four-speed automatic transaxle, and a 3.5-litre V6 engine coupled with a six-speed automatic transaxle with “Auto Stick” manual shift mode.

The standard 2.4-litre is a World Engine (shared with Mitsubishi and Hyundai) that provides an estimated fuel economy of 11.0 L/100 km in the city and 8.0 L/100 km on the highway. It produces 173 horsepower and 166 lb.-ft. of torque and is coupled to a standard four-speed automatic transaxle – a manual transmission is not offered.

Dodge Journey SXT and R/T models come with a 3.5-litre V6 engine that produces 235 horsepower and 232 lb.-ft. of torque and delivers an estimated 13.5 L/100 km in the city and 8.6 L/100 km on the highway on front-wheel-drive vehicles while the heavier AWD model get 14.2 L/100 km in the city and 9.0 L/100 km on the highway.

2009 Dodge Journey
2009 Dodge Journey. Click image to enlarge
Styling

The Journey’s “not a minivan” design cues are obvious: a two-box shape without sliding rear doors. The Journey has a chiselled look with sharp edges, square headlights and an attractive side body crease that links the headlights to the taillights.

Well defined wheel arches hint at sporty performance as does the stubby spoiler integrated into the rear liftgate design and the chrome-tipped dual tailpipes, which are standard on vehicles with the V6 engine. The Journey’s high beltline is more angled in front, but less so toward the rear, making it easier for smaller rear-seat passengers to see out the windows.

A lightweight composite liftgate is a weight-saving innovation that also makes this big door easier to lift. High-strength steel is used in 36 percent of the body and Dodge has worked on keeping NVH to a minimum by various means including injecting body cavities with polyurethane foam, use of a mastic bonded floor pan, and triple sealed doors.

Interior

Seating for seven sounds like a minivan and Dodge has certainly put its expertise in multi-seat, flexible interior vehicles to good use. Unlike a minivan, however, the Journey’s seating is a 2/3/2 layout and access to the rear seat is past outboard second-row seats that fold and slide forward by activating a single lever.

2009 Dodge Journey
2009 Dodge Journey. Click image to enlarge

There’s enough space for an adult to sit in the third seating, but it’s certainly the least comfortable row to be in. The last row of seating is also a 50/50-split-folding style that provides a flat cargo floor when collapsed.

In the five-passenger models, a tri-fold load floor behind the second-row seat has a hidden under-floor storage compartment. The load floor is also reversible and configures into what’s called a “grocery bag” position.

The Journey excels in innovative in-vehicle storage: a front passenger seat cushion that flips forward to reveal a large storage bin is standard on STX and R/T trim levels. Behind the front-row seats are two covered in-floor storage bins that are designed to hold twelve pop cans plus ice. The bins also have removable liners that are dish-washer safe.

Three types of seat upholstery are offered. In addition to standard cloth on the SE model, “YES Essentials” a stain-resistant, odour-resistant, anti-static seat fabric is offered and it’s on standard on the SXT model. Leather upholstery is standard on the R/T model.

2009 Dodge Journey
2009 Dodge Journey. Click image to enlarge

Dodge claims more than 30 advanced safety and security technologies are available in Journey. It boasts a full complement of air bags and the all-row side-curtain air bags come with rollover protection. An electronic stability control system with roll mitigation is standard, and a Trailer Sway Control system is included in the optional trailer tow package.

Dodge claims the optional integrated child booster seats in Journey are a first in the mid-size crossover segment. The booster seat is designed for children up to 1.45 metres tall and between 22 kg and 39 kg.

An added plus for parents in the Journey is a feature that allows the second row seat to move forward more than normal and bring a child in a car seat within arms-reach of an adult in a front seat. As well, the Journey’s rear doors also open extra wide to 90 degrees, which makes it easier to install a child seat.

Initial driving impressions

Our media group was a mix of Canadian and Mexican journalists. About twenty Journey vehicles were available to test drive but only one of them had a four-cylinder engine and we were asked to give the Mexican press priority access to it. As a result, I was only able to drive the V6 versions.

The designated drive route took us to the Lake Mead area east of Las Vegas. There were many twisty sections and a mix of different road surfaces but none of it took us off paved road. Too bad, since both the Journey SXT and the Journey R/T that I drove had all-wheel-drive.

2009 Dodge Journey
2009 Dodge Journey. Click image to enlarge

I’m six-feet tall, and I had no problem finding a comfortable driving position; the tilt and telescopic steering certainly helped: a great standard feature. In general, the driver’s rear vision is good, as long as the third row seats are folded, but the head restraints do cause a restriction when the seats are raised.

While it’s no sports car, the Journey certainly handles better than most minivans and the ride was excellent. A “Touring” suspension upgrade comes with SXT and a “Performance” suspension with the R/T. The difference is subtle but both also come with a 19-inch wheel package with low-profile Kumho tires.

The 3.5-litre V6 engine can produce 235 horsepower and a generous 232 lb.-ft. of torque and is coupled with a six-speed automatic transaxle that comes with a quick manual sequential shifting capability. The new six-speed automatic transaxle has a higher first-gear ratio than the four-speed transaxle plus a more robust differential to give it enhanced acceleration performance from a standing-start.

A lower overall top gear ratio for the six-speed automatic also improves fuel economy during high-speed cruising. It’s also the reason that the rated highway fuel economy numbers for both engines are fairly close.

2009 Dodge Journey
2009 Dodge Journey. Click image to enlarge

The Journey’s all-wheel drive is an on-demand system. It only drives the front wheels until power to the rear wheels is needed. Its Electronically Controlled Coupling (ECC) also sends torque to the rear wheels when cornering at speeds over 40 km/hour with an open throttle.

Assembled at a Chrysler LLC factory in Toluca, Mexico, the 2009 Dodge Journey is expected to start showing up at Canadian dealerships later this month.

Verdict

Great value, the Dodge Journey is a vehicle that will be especially appealing to buyers with a young family. The base model is priced right on par with its U.S. counterpart. There is a price spread as you move up the trim levels, but a direct comparison is more complex.

At a glance: 2009 Dodge Journey
  • Trim levels: SE, SXT, R/T
  • Sticker price: $19,995 to $29,995
  • Power: 173 hp (2.4-litre); 235 hp (3.5-litre)
  • Transmissions: Four-speed automatic (2.4-litre); six-speed automatic (3.5-litre)
  • Fuel consumption, 2.4-litre: 11/8.0 L/100 km (city/highway)
  • Fuel consumption, 3.5-litre: 13.5/8.6 L/100 km (city/highway)
  • Basic warranty: 3 years/60,000 km
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years/100,000 km
  • Rust warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
  • Connect with Autos.ca