2009 Dodge Journey
More About The Destination Than The Journey

We Like: Myriad out-of-sight stowage compartments.
We Don't Like: Retro powertrain, chassis, and interior refinement.

This should be a hit. Smallish car-based crossovers are all the rage, and this one offers a miserly four-banger, a $20,750 opening price, and an optional third-row seat (V-6s only). Wow features like storage under the front-passenger seat cushion and beneath the second-row footwells, integrated child- booster seats, the MyGig stereo/nav system with live Sirius satellite traffic and weather, and (soon) even Internet connectivity in the car should have buyers lining up and editors awarding big points on significance and value. But the journey from drawing board to showroom floor included shortcuts.

Inside, the oddly sloped center console places frequently-used audio controls at the bottom near a blunt corner where many drivers rest their knees. And our jury is unimpressed by the sheens and textures of the plastics. Chevy and Ford have seriously upped the ante in this department.

Midsize Avenger sedan underpinnings make the Journey smaller and 500 pounds lighter than a similarly equipped Ford Flex, yet Dodge's aging single-cam 3.5-liter V-6 returns fuel economy lower than the Flex's by the EPA's reckoning and identical under our lead feet (14.9 mpg). It's also slower through the quarter mile. An elderly four-speed automatic hobbles the 2.4-liter four-cylinder front-drive version with worse fuel economy than a three-row RAV4 V-6 delivers. The welterweight Journey should feel lighter on its feet than its middleweight Flex and Chevy Traverse rivals, and while steering feel and maximum lateral grip are slightly better, howling understeer, poor body-motion control, and a tendency to crash over bumps make it feel discombobulated on twisty, undulating pavement. Its performance in the telling figure-eight test also trails the bigger boys, and its generally undistinguished performance on road and track undermines the value of the R/T badge.

Adding a six-speed auto to the four and switching to the upcoming global V-6 should help close the gap in performance, refinement, and economy with the cream of the crossover crop, especially if the chassis and interior get spiffed up along the way. But for now, there are better ways of "getting there."
- Frank Markus


2009 Dodge Journey
Base price range $20,750-$29,160
Price as tested $35,745 (R/T AWD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.5L/235-hp/232-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 4370 lb (56/44%)
Wheelbase 113.8 in
Length x width x height 192.4 x 72.2 x 66.6 in
0-60 mph 8.4 sec
Quarter mile 16.4 sec @ 83.3 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 130 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.77 g (avg)
MT figure eight 29.1 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy econ 15/22 mpg
MT observed fuel econ 14.9 mpg
CO2 emmisions 1.11 lb/mile
RATINGS
Engineering ***
Design ***
Interior/functionality ****
Performance ***
On-road refinement **
Off-road ability ***
Value ***
BOTTOM LINE
The getting-from-point-A-to-B crowd can do better