Back in 1935 the first American B-17 bomber prototype crashed nose-first and few people thought much of it with the exception of its makers, Boeing. Ten years later over 12 thousand B-17s had been built dropping more than 640,000 bombs in total and had earned itself a staunch reputation for utility and durability and the name ‘flying fortress’.
Hit the fast-forward button to 2009 and the U.S Air force maintains an unchallenged level of air firepower. But far under the clouds there is a new battleground for flying fortresses — the MPV marketplace. In the current tough economic climate American vehicle manufacturers are deep into survival mode. In a bid for total people-moving superiority the Chrysler group has added a new weapon to its arsenal in the Dodge Journey.At first sighting it may be hard to categorise the Journey, it has the look of a SUV, the stance of a wagon and three rows of seats. To label it a ‘Mini-Van’ would be treason when it’s a mid-size MPV/Crossover.
The exterior styling isn’t as polarising as the Dodge Nitro, but the Journey has a robust presence that will make some allies and intimidate competitors. The signature Dodge grille, with chrome cross hair and ram’s head badging, sits between quad-halogen headlights. A dipping bonnet and a raked-back windscreen add to the muscular appearance. In profile the Journey shows its sculpted wheel arches, and black pillars help give the impression of a bright spacious family-hauler. The rear design is far softer in character. An angled single-panel lift-gate with a built in spoiler matches up with jeweled four-piece taillights. Overall, the Journey has no-nonsense styling that extends a ready-for-duty attitude.
Get onboard and it becomes clear that the Journey shares the B-17’s utilitarian character. The many storage options and various seating configurations are class leading. There are two in-floor waterproof storage bins that sit between the first two rows of seats big enough for a camera, laptop or small arms cache. There is also a refrigerated compartment in the glove box that can keep two cans of drink cold. Further to that there is a large storage bin under the passenger seat cushion and more hidden storage under the rear load area floor. Stadium seating means the second row sits slightly higher than the front row, and the third row back is elevated even more. This increases visibility and makes games of eye-spy much more varied.
It required a 10-man crew to operate the B-17 but pilot alone can easily operate the Journey. The tested model was equipped with the MyGig infotainment system with a 30Gb hard disk that features a DVD player, sat-nav, reversing camera and a 6700 song music capacity. It’s a classy unit that is simple to operate and the LCD screen is mounted in a hooded surrounding above the centre stack, making it easy to read while driving.
Unfortunately the cabin isn’t all victories; the instrument cluster is strangely shallow and dated in its design. There are also tell-tale signs of the Journey’s double-agent status as both a right and left hand drive vehicle, the most obvious is the symmetrical dash layout and the hand brake mounted on the far side of the centre console. Touch surfaces are inconsistent, feeling firm in some areas and flimsy in others. The radio and control buttons are not tactile feeling, seem loose and are mounted distantly from the display screen.
Two-tone leather seats look great and the colours blend well into the door-inserts, wide and comfortable, they offer a commanding driving position. The cabin’s atmosphere overall is very light and pleasant, space is generous even in the third row of seats. There are too many useful subtle interior touches to list for example the second row of seats can be slid forward offering easy access for a driver to tend to children, and the rear doors open a full 90 degrees assisting those seeking the back seats.
Armed with a 136kW, 2.7-litre V6 engine the Journey produces 256Nm of torque. This could be best described as not quite adequate. The Journey isn’t quick on takeoff but cruises well once up to speed and has decent mid-range acceleration. Most buyers in this segment wouldn’t be too interested in straight-line performance, but the Journey’s burly size and weight are definitely noticeable when accelerating. The six-speed auto box is a gem working hard to extract full performance from the motor, quick to shift down and intuitive in its changes.
Propelled by the front wheels solely the Journey has no true off-road credentials, as its styling may suggest. However, the front-wheel-drive configuration makes the Journey easy to drive and predictable in all conditions but there is a little torque-steer under acceleration. The steering is responsive, firmly weighted and reasonably precise. The Journey experiences some body-lean while cornering giving away its high-altitude ride height. However, the ride is very comfortable and the Journey gobbles up potholes and road bumps with hunger. Wind and road noise are minimal in the cabin and a tranquil atmosphere is always sustained. Despite being a vehicle that was translated from left-hand drive, there’s reasonable room in the footwell, something that can’t be said for some of the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep family.
The Journey is equipped with a full payload of safety functions, including an ESP (Electronic Stability Program), three-row side curtain air bags, multi-stage driver and passenger airbags and Anti-lock Brakes.
Like the flying fortresses of old, the Journey’s real firepower lays in its utility and robustness. It’s a well sized seven-seater with a good collection of cabin equipment options. More effort could have gone into the dash layout and interior material choices, but it is easy-to-use and seems very durable. Dodge’s attempts at gaining a foothold in the N.Z market are reflected in the aggressive pricing for the Journey making it good value for money. All up it’s a solid choice for large families who require a dependable lifestyle vehicle with passenger space to load up the kids, fly past schools and activities and drop them off.
Price: from $45,990
What we like:
- Useful cabin equipment
- Spacious interior with great storage options
- Sharp styling
- Well priced
What we don’t like:
- Body-roll while cornering
- Interior finish
Words and Photos, Adam Mamo
Dodge Journey R/T (2009) – Specifications
2.7L DOHC 24V V6
” Power kW @ rpm 136 @ 5,500
” Torque Nm @ rpm 256 @ 4,000
” Transmission 6-speed automatic with Autostick®
Fuel Consumption (L/100 km)
” Urban cycle 9.1 15.0
” Extra-urban cycle 5.9 7.6
” Combined cycle 7.0 10.3
” CO2 (g/km) 186 246
” Acceleration ” seconds (0-100 km/h) 11.6
” Maximum speed (km/h)182
” Kerb weight 1,785 R/T
” Gross vehicle weight rating 2,520
” Max towing capacity Inc. tongue weight
7 Passenger + luggage
6 Passenger + 50kg luggage
1,368 / 68
1,600 / 160
” Oil with new filter L 5.7
” Engine coolant system L 11.4
” Fuel tank capacity L 77.6
” Washer fluid volume L 6
Wheels & Tyres SXT R/T
Standard wheel type 19″ machined cast aluminium
Tyres size 225/55R19
Spare tyre Compact
Type – Firm feel power rack and pinion
Overall ratio 18.6:1
Turns (lock to lock) 3.3
Turning diameter m 11.9
Discs ” Front/Rear 302×28/305×12
Calipers ” Front/Rear 66.0/66.0
Oil Change Intervals
Service A Flexible Oil Change Interval System ” 12,000 km (petrol engines)
Warranty Duration 3 years/100,000 kilometres