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Motoring: Dodge Journey has its pluses

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | November 10th, 2008

Timing is everything. That applies to everything in life, but probably the industry this applies to most is the automotive market.

A few years back, when gas was relatively cheap and everyone was crazy about horsepower, Chrysler came out with the 300C, the Magnum and the Charger. These vehicles were just right for the time and were an instant hit. Chrysler's competition took too long to react and now when Pontiac finally brings a competitor to these vehicles with the G8, fuel prices may deter customers from such vehicles.

People are now more than ever before, interested in very efficient vehicles.

That means Dodge got the timing of its new Journey crossover just right. Because what this vehicle is, is an affordable, practical vehicle that can seat up to seven-people in moderate comfort and propel them to their destination without burning half a years salary on fuel.

Well that is the theory behind the Journey anyway, but how does it actually perform?

Before I tell you exactly what it was like to live with for a week, I should give you some basic information. First, the Journey is available in four trim packages, i.e. SE, SE Plus, SXT, and the R/T.

All these trim levels can be had in front-wheel drive form, however you can order the SXT and R/T trim with all-wheel drive if you prefer.

There are two-engines on offer too. The SE and SE Plus come with a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder unit that produces 173hp and transfers its power to the road via a four-speed automatic gearbox.

The SXT and R/T trims come equipped with a 3.5-litre, V6 that produces 235hp, and also has a much more modern six-speed automatic gearbox with the Autostick (manual override) feature.

My test vehicle was a nearly loaded R/T with all-wheel drive and pretty much every gadget you can get, and was thus priced at about $35,000. But before we get to whether it is worth the money or not, lets look at it in more detail.

From a styling point of view, this is a pretty attractive vehicle. Usually vehicles meant to be a family hauler are about as exciting to look at as a construction workers lunch box, but the Journey actually has some attractive design cues. While I think the front could have been styled better, the rear three-quarter view is quite stunning, but sadly the interior is nothing to sing praises about.

OK, so there is nothing majorly wrong with the interior. I mean it has decent seats, decent space, and decent storage compartments to throw your stuff in. But my God is it boring to look at. Plus the designer also mixed up the location of the HVAC controls and the stereo, as a result the stereo, an item you would play with more often than the climate control system, is located at the lower half of the dash, which makes it a little annoying because your eyes have to dip a lot lower to use the functions of the stereo than they should need to. Sure my test vehicle came with the convenient stereo control buttons behind the steering wheel, but if buying the base model, you would not have this convenience.

Apart from that, the seats are fine, albeit a bit too firm for my taste. However the driving position is pretty good, and with its large glass area, visibility is pretty good too.

Pretty good is also how I'd describe its engine. My test vehicle had the 3.5-litre V6, and it is surprisingly peppy, but you really have to lean on the accelerator to get the best out of this motor. That is probably why I averaged a less than impressive 13.5-litres/100km. On normal pressure, this feels very slow and unexciting to drive, and the rather vague steering doesn't help either. I have felt lifeless steering before, but this vehicles system really does not tell you what the front wheels are actually doing, however I don't think too many soccer mom's will think about stuff like this while they are driving.

That pretty much sums up the Journey's experience, it is not a vehicle for enthusiasts, it is for people who just want a practical vehicle at an attractive price. It certainly is priced well at the base level. You can get into a new Journey for as little at $19,995 (plus all the regular delivery fees and taxes), but I would not be spending $35,000 on a loaded Journey like my test car, especially since the Dodge Grand Caravan's are more affordable and offer even more practicality.
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