Journey is the first midsize crossover in the Dodge family. Its recent arrival in showrooms is driven largely by estimates that sales of the car-based sport-utilities are expected to top 1.2 million by the end of 2009.
Crossovers are the vehicles du jour of those who want to haul people and their things with all-wheel-drive security but without the truck-like bumping and bouncing and gas gobbling of midsize SUVs.
Chrysler is preparing to whittle its lineup to some 15-20 models from 30 in five years and sell Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles all from the same dealerships, it's curious why it's adding more new models.
The decision to add the 2009 Journey, built off the same platform as the Sebring and Avenger midsize sedans, was made before equity outfit Cerberus bought Chrysler last year. Cerberus has made the call to whittle offerings and dealers. Needless to say, there won't be a Chrysler "Journey." Journey comes in SE, SXT and R/T trims; front- or all-wheel-drive; a 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower 4-cylinder (SE) or 3.5-liter, 235-h.p., 24-valve V-6 (SXT/R/T); and seating for five or seven.
We tested the R/T with the 3.5-liter, AWD and three rows of seats, which, in profile, looks like a full-grown Dodge Caliber.
The V-6 has decent power but isn't the quickest thing on the road. And fuel economy is a paltry 15 m.p.g. city/22 m.p.g. highway mileage with AWD (16/23 FWD with V-6). Aspen/Durango go hybrid in 2009 to boost mileage. Too bad Journey won't join them.
The sports-tuned suspension and oversized 19-inch touring radials minimize jostling in the cabin but not body lean in corners. Forget pinpoint handling, too. Standard stability control with traction control do prevent wander.
But Journey isn't about how quickly or quietly you travel as it is about all the goodies for the trip, items borrowed from other vehicles in its lineup.
Consider a two-level glove box with the Chill Zone on top to cool a couple cans of pop. Thank a well placed air-conditioning duct. And the Flip 'n Stow front passenger seat with a bottom cushion that lifts to reveal a spot for a purse. Containers under the cargo floor hide more items.
And, borrowing a chapter from the Stow 'N Go seats in its minivans that hide in bins in the floor, Journey offers a pair of those deep bins in front of the second row, not for the seats, but for toys, games, snacks or 12 cans of pop -- plus ice.
If you haul kids, a pair of built-in booster seats ($295 for both) raise the seat cushions by 4 inches so you don't have to lug the aftermarket variety.
Other noteworthy features are grocery-bags holders behind the driver's seat, a stowage box in the dash, cell-phone/iPod holder in the center console, cupholders in the console and front doors, coin holder under the center armrest and observation mirror in the roof to keep an eye on the occupants of those boosters.
Rear doors open 85 degrees, or 10 to 13 degrees more than usual, for easy entry and exit into the second row. And second-row seats flip and slide forward to create an aisle to the third row, strictly for little kids. Noggin room is fine if you leave the knees at home. And the aisle to the third row is blocked by the seat tracks for the second.
With the third-row seats filled, there isn't a lot of room behind them. But the seat backs fold flat at the pull of a strap to dramatically expand cargo space. Second-row seat backs also fold flat, as does the passenger seat, to fit a ladder inside.
Liftgate is manual only. Odd that you can chill 14 pop cans but not open the back at the touch of a button.
The R/T performance Journey starts at $27,670. Cut $1,750 for FWD.
Standard stuff include anti-lock brakes, side-curtain air bags, roll mitigation control, remote engine start, power windows/locks/mirrors (heated), heated seats upfront with power for the driver, three power plugs and 115-volt outlet, AM/FM stereo with DVD/MP3 players and rechargeable cargo hold flashlight.
The third-row seat runs a stiff $1,220 but includes air/heat vents. A power sunroof costs $795.
Dodge marketing director Joe Veltri says Journey is targeted at young families with kids, active young couples without kids and empty-nesters. Those who need room for people and things -- and their pop.