2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T. Click image to enlarge

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Dodge Canada

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2009 Dodge Journey

Does it really come down to personality?

Sure, there are plenty of attractive offerings in the multi-activity, sport utility beast category. The Dodge Journey is definitely not one of them. And yet, there is a certain amount of gadgetry intrigue that grips you as you contemplate tapping the unlock button on the key fob. Aesthetics aside, the Journey is an evolutionary piece, from the people who brought you shrunken vans with cupholders up the wazoo. I’m thinking ‘vanute’, sans the cute. This particular Journey is the all-wheel drive version of the top-juice R/T, weighing in at an MSRP of $32,295. (Pricing shown does not reflect freight, taxes, or regional incentives.)

The cockpit/centre stack

2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T. Click image to enlarge

Can you say ‘corporate’? Don’t be expecting too much imagination within the Journey’s pilot chair, with the expected re-hash from the Avenger camp. The steering wheel is a manual tilt/telescope, with frontal control tabs for the vehicle info centre display. Audio controls are mounted on the backside of the steering wheel, a Mopar move that I am finally starting to appreciate. The cruise control stalk is mounted at the 4 p.m. position, apparently a refugee from a Toyota product. (Not a bad thing.) Headlamps get an auto setting on the turn signal stalk mount, with a unique and useable process for dimmer controls and fog lamp engagement. Wiper swipe is naturally intermittent for front and rear panes.

2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T. Click image to enlarge

The parking brake is a floor-mount foot pedal, dangerously close to being in the way of pant snag.

The console-mount automatic shifter appears to have started life in the likes of a Charger or Magnum, with six speeds that can be manipulated at the shifter via Auto/Stick. It is not well-positioned, with a strange downward angle and looseness that can easily be popped into neutral. The driver’s door pod houses power controls for windows, locks, and heated exterior mirrors. Both front windows receive auto descent, but only the driver pane benefits from auto ascent. The centre stack seems swapped, as in the positions for the HVAC and audio head unit. The Journey can be specified with a back-up camera display, and the 30-GB MyGig audio head unit, without the additional expense of Navi. Considering the poor placement of the screen, you’d be better off with a store-bought Garmin. The HVAC controls boast dual climate settings for the front passengers, and a rear temperature/fan setting for roof vent-driven toasting and cooling. The second row passengers can adjust the comfort level, with a roof-mount dial array. Should the adjustments be the work of bored tweens, the front HVAC controls can lock out the rear panel.

Cubbies!

Remember the first time you encountered a glove compartment under your seat? There’s some definite Magic Wagon savvy afoot within the Journey cabin, starting with dual gloveboxes. The top compartment is the popular Cool Box system, with an adjustable dial vent and removable rubbery can holder bed.

2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T. Click image to enlarge

Depth is minimal, with only two 355-ml cans easily stowed with the rubber biscuit in place. The lower non-locking compartment is thin, best suited for the owner’s lit. Above the centre stack is a flip-top compartment, with a removable rubber bed. There isn’t a floor-mount glovebox slider, but there is a cubby hidden below the front passenger seat flip-top cushion. If only it was as capable as that of the rear seat compartments of the Mazda 5; the only way you’ll fit your laptop in here is with a few hacksaw adjustments. The front passenger seat is one of the easiest to manipulate to position the seatback for Road Warrior workspace, or for long cargo items.

Front and rear doors include bottle holders, with a backlit dual front cupholder at floor level. This cupholder uses the triple-bladder cinch method, as does the second row dual cupholder, part of the centre flip-down armrest. Even the third row gang gets side panel-mounted beverage cavities. The driver’s seatback gets a rear pocket, with bag holder clips. There are two 12-volt DC powerpoints up front, below the audio head unit. A third 12-volt powerpoint is found at the ready to service second row needs, at the rear of the console.

2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T
2009 Dodge Journey R/T. Click image to enlarge

That same location boasts an AC plug-in, with the power feed controlled at the centre stack. Below the second seat floormats are two deep-well storage compartments, with removable trays just begging to be filled with ice and beverages.

The overhead

It’s busy at the top, with a Homelink transmitter, self-dimming rear-view mirror, and a sunglasses holder with conversation mirror. The visors slide for sun protection, and also contain backlit vanity mirrors. The roof rails require no special tooling for positioning, with indents clearly marked on the side rails. The power moonroof opts for a robust wind deflector.

Seat treat

Fore and aft movements of the driver’s seat receive power, while reclination and lumbar bladder inflation are manual instigation. The Comfort Dummy returned no complaints for first and second row positioning, especially with track adjustment and reclination in the second row. While most third seat access plans are thrown together at the last design minute, the Journey triumphs here, with simple manipulation of both sides of the 60/40 second row seat providing good access. The third row still allows a fistful of height clearance for the five-foot eight-inch Dummy, though the floor angle does bring one closer to their knees. Even the third row gets two steps of seatback reclination.

Cargo embargo

Third and second row seats are easily stowed/flipped for cargo conundrums. The rear of the cargo floor has a flip-top cover, with a sizable storage well. There doesn’t appear to be much thought given to future cargo area covers.

Spare care

Well, you’re going to get dirty, with the classic Mopar wind-down temporary spare tire. Tools are stowed below the rear storage well. The Dodge Boys will have more fun changing it for you, during the first five years or 100,000 kilometres of ownership.

The mill

The 235-horsepower 3.5-litre SOHC V6 is a snug fit, though it isn’t necessarily a knuckle-buster for access to front accessory drive components. Fluid levels are clearly marked and accessed. Of note; a brake master cylinder that realizes its shortcomings, installed with an elongated filler neck.

The Verdict

I’ve heard plenty a Ginzu knife being wielded as of late in regards to the Journey. Auto scribe chat has included the usual sharp Mopar plastic interior trim, styling devoid of inspiration, and even a gauge cluster with all the love of an ’85 Reliant. And it’s all true. While the Journey is about as corporate hodge-podge as you can get for a rush-to-market execution, there is genuine “think” behind the practicality that both soccer moms and hockey dads will appreciate. If it was pretty, with a smidge more quality control, this Journey would be a five-star trip, instead of this week’s three-and-a-half.

Next week: Volvo XC90

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