Dodge has had an "in your face" attitude for many years and been quite successful with that reputation. However, as buyers change their driving habits, other attributes come to mind when they begin looking to purchase their next new vehicle.
While in some respects the Dodge Journey projects an aggressive stance on the road, it brings much more to the drive in that it may, in fact, be a kinder, gentler addition to the Dodge lineup.
The vehicle may resemble and offer some of the attributes of an SUV, but it drives, rides and operates in a more carlike manner. After testing it on the streets and highways in and around Las Vegas, I had many accolades for Dodge and its new entry.
One of the most interesting attributes to come to light early in my drive was how quiet the Journey is in the passenger compartment.
As goals for designers and engineers become more about cost, weight and fuel savings, making the passenger compartment inviting and comfortable continues to be a challenge. The folks on the Journey team seem to have the task firmly in hand.
First and foremost, it's based on the same platform as the Avenger sedan. This program establishes an SUV-like vehicle that provides a smooth ride and a taste of sporty handling without sacrificing the ride. It turns out to be a mid-level fun-handling vehicle, while offering up a high level of functionality.
Excellent ride, good handling and functionality take the Journey over the top in providing more than what buyers expect. And that doesn't often happen in this category.
A number of cool storage components hold more than their share of cargo. One surprising area is under the front-passenger seat cushion. Tilt it forward and there lies a bin capable of holding your laptop, external drive and lots more.
Dodge/Chrysler minivans are famous for their fold and stow seats, but here Dodge took a driver's direction. The 60/40 split second-row seats scissor up and forward with one hand to allow easy access to the third-row seat, if you order that option.
The surprise comes when you open the two trap doors on the floor to expose more storage compartments. These hold cold drinks complete with ice because the liner is removable, making cleanup quick and effortless. I wondered out loud, "It would make a good livewell for fishermen."
I am glad to see a car maker finally looking at groups of buyers beyond the young active XYZers. Dodge folks admitted they also are going after the more mature empty-nesters.
These two broadly polarized groups seem to be attracted to the same vehicles, yet no one until now was willing to admit their vehicle was targeting them.
A wide variation between the base SE model at $19,985, the SXT at $22,985 and the R/T at $26,545 means the Journey can satisfy more owner needs. The SE easily can fit into the growing family's plan as readily as the R/T can fit the traveling plans of a retired couple.
Two engines are available: the 173-horsepower 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder provides plenty of performance to satisfy the basic needs.
However, if performance is at the top of your list, I suggest you step up to the 235 horsepower offered by the 3.5-liter V-6 and the handling of the R/T suspension system.
The R/T takes the Journey to a higher level of power and handling. Throw in the optional all-wheel drive system and what more can you ask for? The most surprising discovery during my test was that I truly had fun with the other models.
As I have found with nearly all third-row seating, it is best left to the little people in your family, not the adults. If you do not need seating for more than five, leave off the third row and get a large rear storage area. Here, too, is an under-floor compartment that hides plenty of stuff from prying eyes.
Driving along with my good friend and racer Denise McLuggage, we both exclaimed to each other on how surprised we were with the ride comfort, minimal interior noise and handling of the Journey. While we both are more at home behind the wheel of a Viper, we found the Journey to be a pleasant surprise and one I can gladly recommend.