The crossover segment has seen huge growth in recent years, and even more growth in recent months. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is about to or has introduced a new crossover utility vehicle of some sort into the automotive market.
The Dodge division of the new Chrysler/Cerberus corporate pairing is jumping into the fray as it introduces what is being called its first crossover vehicle, the all-new 2009 Journey. I beg to differ as Caliber sure seems more crossover than car, but we will play along – for now.
We took their new Journey on a journey of our own as we headed to the Texas Hill Country for a little wine and song as part of a birthday celebration. And while the destination was a great treat, the journey (or Journey, in this case) proved to us that while life can certainly be a journey, the destination just might BE the Journey.
The new crossover from Dodge shares basic architecture with the Avenger sedan but is treated to the utility and amenities of a minivan, and offers a driving experience somewhere right in between. Journey is nearly as tall as a minivan and offers a fairly commanding view of the road from the front seats – not nearly as much as that of the frame-based SUVs mind you, but certainly nowhere close to the “worm’s-eye” view from the cockpit of the Viper.
Journey can be configured for seating up to seven passengers in three rows (although tall individuals will not like riding in that third row) and is available with choice of base global 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine backed by a four-speed automatic transaxle or our tester’s sprite 235hp 3.5-liter V-6 with smooth six-speed automatic gearbox with AutoStick manual shift mode. Seems that somewhere around three-and-a-half liters seems to be the sweet spot for most manufacturer’s crossovers these days, providing a good balance of power and economy.
We enjoyed the larger powertrain setup and its mating to the AWD upgrade, an arrangement that proved itself on the twisty backroads of the Hill Country outside of Marble Falls and the four-wheel independent suspension kept us from feeling any of the displeasures in the road surface underneath us.
A little wind noise at highway speeds was about the only thing we would list as a strike against the new Journey, although I am wondering just how well a base model unit would have kept up on those challenging roads and carrying the weight of several passengers.
When we were not admiring the roadside beauty beginning to bloom out all over the Lone Star State we were kept entertained by some of the amenities our tester came outfitted with that included state-of-the-art technology complete with total control over iPods and the like along with 110-volt AC outlet and DVD-based video.
The new Dodge Journey is so flexible in configurations and options that its PR folks went so far as to call it the “Burger King of crossovers, where you can have it your way.”
OK, the king character creeps me out, but their assessment was fairly accurate, although I think I would have preferred them comparing the vehicle to a Swiss army knife. Nearly all of the seats flip or fold or something and there are storage compartments just about everywhere including underneath the front passenger seat and in the second-row floor, and let us not leave out the chill zone up front for keeping beverages cooler when the A/C is on.
While some of the new vehicles from Dodge and Chrysler have left us wanting for more, the new Journey is not among them. Despite commonalities with the more sedate sedans, this new crossover offers a very pleasant driving experience combined with the utility to fit many different lifestyles and activities.
Pricing begins at $25,920 for the R/T models (AWD, V-6, etc.) and includes all of the safety technology available from the automaker. Our tester came in at $32,265 very, very loaded and we saw fuel economy averaging in the low 20s. The EPA rates the 2009 Dodge Journey V-6 at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.