Yes Yes Yes oh YES: smooth Pentastar V6, rear seat DVD player, spacious, great value
Oh dear me no: moody 6 speed auto, lots of plastic inside, no driver’s footrest, not terrible economical
Is the Journey a cross-over or SUV, a 4WD or people mover, or more simply, a mum’s taxi? It drives the front wheels only, so it isn’t a four wheel drive and it doesn’t have a whole lot of ground clearance so it isn’t really a cross-over. As near as I can tell it just a very roomy station wagon. However, I like its chunky style and the “get out of my way” stance on the road. From the outside, the Sherman-tank has and air of command and looks as roomy as it feels inside.
First a brief history: After being founded in 1925 and trading with varied success for many decades, the Chrysler became bloated and old fashioned, like all American car makers. They found Americans preferred any cars other than those made in America. Things started going very badly pear-shaped and the good ship Chrysler, one of the Yankee big 3, sailed into uncharted and uncertain waters. In order to stem the flow of their financial haemorrhage, they “merged” with Daimler Benz AG in the late 90’s to form Daimler Chrysler AG. Poor Karl would be most upset. Time was called on this marriage after a brief 9 years. Chrysler was a single girl once again and this lasted for a few years before Fiat, the handsome Italian, came calling. They dated for a short while before announcing their engagement with the marriage being completed only weeks ago. She kept her maiden name as a thoroughly modern girl does and joined it with the handsome Italian to become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, but their friends call them FCA, sort-of like Brangalina. I imagine this marriage will be long lasting because Italians go all “dolce-vita” when things get a bit eggy.
So, there you have it. The upshot is, that Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge voraciously hoovered up the technology-obsessed German minds that made Mercedes Benz a force to be reckoned with. The Fiat marriage makes FCA the 7th largest carmaker in the world and adds the economies of scale that massive cross platform development brings. There are the concomitant benefits in many extra models for little or no cost, and the vast distribution network which grew overnight when joined together. It’s a win/win no matter which way you look at it.
Jeep, particularly the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, have been sprinkled with bit of Mercedes Benz magic. The same goes for Chrysler. Dodge however doesn’t seem to have had the same care lavished upon it. While it looks OK for such a large multi-use wagon, the interior feels a trifle downmarket compared to the Jeeps. Then I saw the price, $36,575 to $40,877 drive-away, and it all came into focus. That’s cheap for a huge chunk of well-appointed metal like this.
The interior looked like good value when you see a power-adjusted drivers’ seat, smart entry/start, U-connect infotainment system and a bunch of safety stuff once only found in cars costing 10 times as much. To top it all off you the cabin has lots and lots of cow to make it feel a little more sumptuous, however that doesn’t make the plastic components seem any better. If you feel so inclined you can opt for the full length sun roof and a 3rd row of seats for the in-laws. You can decide later whether or not you tell them the seats are actually there as they fold neatly away. I don’t imagine most of us would want our hunny next to us and the parents and in-laws taking up the rest of the cabin. A 10 minute trip would feel as if it took a lifetime to complete.
Around town, the Journey was easy to manoeuvre especially considering her voluptuous figure. You sit nice and high with oodles of adjustment at the touch of a button. The passenger misses out on the electric seat adjustment because where those motors would normally live, there is a huge under-seat storage bin instead. You can easily throw couple of six-packs in by lifting the seat squab. As if that wasn’t enough, the 2nd row of seats have an under-floor bin on either side. Dodge says each is large enough to store 2 six-packs with ice. You could keep six 6-packs on board for long trips which is genius. You’d have enough cold water and coke for several days travel but you would be stopping every half an hour for loo breaks. Perhaps one bin could be used for tasty snacks instead.
In the city you tend to notice the 6 speed auto is a trifle moody. It is very moth most of the time but thumps into gears when she is having one of her hissy fits. She is frequently caught in the wrong gear, and when you put your hoof down, she slams into the right gear. On the highway no such problem exists. Because she is so spacious, you could take your man, plus a couple of chums, and enough luggage to fill a jumbo jet. The blokes in the back could watch a DVD without troubling anyone else. The entertainment system drops down from the roof with the sound coming through wireless headsets. Although the driver’s view through the rear-view mirror is obscured by the screen for the duration, it’s worth it to keep the whining from the back seats to a minimum.
If you have the optional 3rd row of seats, you can access those by moving the second row of seats forward like you do the front seats in a coupe. It’s really quite clever. They are handy but are normally not for adults on long trips, unless the adults are of a compact stature.
The excellent U-connect infotainment system allows you to pair your phone in a smidge under 10 seconds with no need for a pin if you confirm the connection on both the system and the phone. The big friendly screen has an easy to use layout. I like things fast and simple with as few menus as possible. The sound from it is impressive considering the price. I didn’t fiddle with the rear DVD system as I doubt in my hands it would never get used. If it doesn’t fire up first go I tend to lose interest.
The fuel economy is not overly brilliant around town, but it is quiet and very well equipped.
My only real beef is absence of a footrest for the driver. Because you sit so high, you find yourself moving your foot close to the seat so you don’t unceremoniously slide forward. You get used to it but it seems such a silly omission.
Corners are comfy at speed as long as they don’t get to busy. There is a lot of bulk and it feels bulkier the tighter the corners get. She never feels like she is going to let go, at least not under normal circumstances, and the electronic nannies take care of misdemeanours that occur if you are caught out.
The aging Ford Territory and Toyota’s new Kluger are among the other 2 wheel drive offerings around the same price range. The Journey seems better equipped for the price.
Would I buy one? No, I’d prefer a Jeep even if it costs a few shekels more and hasn’t quite the same space.
Engine/Trans: 3.6L V6 Pentastar/6 speed auto
Price: SXT $$36,757, R/T $40,877