Dodge Journey combines rugged SUV looks with the functionality of a people mover.
Although it’s very much a bit player in Australia the Dodge brand has been around for just over 100 years and still remains one of the world’s most recognisable names.
For most of its life Dodge was owned by Chrysler until the collapse of that other American icon during the GFC saw them both being snapped up by the Italian giant, Fiat. The Dodge Journey is a close cousin to Fiat’s Freemont.
A number of Dodge models have come and gone in Australia over the past decade – only one remains, the Journey. While it certainly does have SUV looks there’s no 4WD option and to our minds that makes it a people mover.
Potential family buyers should be aware that the third row seats, previously standard, are now a $1500 option.
Built in Mexico to a reasonably high standard Journey has a good paint finish and panel fit although not quite to the standard of Asian-built cars. Three models are offered, SXT, R/T and Blacktop Edition.
There’s plenty of interior space within the Journey. The front seats are firm and comfortable and provide the sort of high driving position we like.
In the R/T and Blacktop both front seats are heated. The second and third row seats each sit slightly higher than the two front ones, thus improving visibility for those occupants. This, together with five large headrests, does intrude upon the driver’s rearward vision.
The second row seats use a Tilt ‘N Slide system that folds and slides forward to make it easier to access the third row seats. As is usually the case, the latter are best suited to pre-teen children. For younger children there are integrated booster seats built into the outer second row seat cushions that fold back into the cushions when not in use.
Despite being almost five metres in length, the Journey is reasonably easy to manoeuvre around town.
Tri-Zone climate control air conditioning is standard in all models as is a power six-way adjustable driver seat. Seats are cloth in the SXT, with leather trim in the R/T and Blacktop.
In seven-seat mode boot capacity is a restricted to 176 litres, but that’s not unusual in this type of vehicle. The third row seat was a 50/50 rear split – with both folded load space is increased to 784 litres. The boot is well lit at night and comes with a detachable rechargeable torch.
While the Fiat Freemont comes with a choice of three engines, including a diesel, its Dodge twin comes only with a 3.6-litre V6 petrol which is also one of the Freemont options. Power peaks at 206kW at 6350rpm, torque is 342Nm at 4350rpm but has 90 per cent of that value from 1800 to 6400 revs. Transmission is six-speed with Dodge’s Auto Stick manual shift mode.
All Dodge Journeys get seven airbags including curtain airbags that extend along all three rows of seats. As well as the usual stability and traction control and ABS brakes with brake assist; electronic roll mitigation (ERM) which senses when a rollover is possible and applies braking force to the appropriate wheels to try and prevent it; and trailer sway control.
The focal point of the Journey’s Uconnect multimedia system is an 8.4-inch colour touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard. As is often the case it takes time to learn how to use the various features but once done it all works well. Importantly, it’s large and logical enough to minimise the amount of time that the driver’s attention strays from the road.
On the open road the big Dodge cruises effortlessly and would be ideal for any long journey
The Uconnect system can be operated through voice commands and Bluetooth syncing is relatively straightforward. There’s a single USB port that’s located at the front of the centre console and needs a fair bit of fumbling to find. The R/T and Blacktop also get an SD card slot in the dashboard.
For rear seat passengers in the R/T and Blacktop there’s a fold down screen in the roof which features the ability to play a DVD from the front or plug in a device with RGB cables in the rear. It comes with wireless headphones.
Despite being almost five metres in length, the Journey is reasonably easy to manoeuvre around town. The standard reversing camera’s view displayed on an 8.4-inch colour screen and certainly earns its keep in tight situations. The R/T variant that we tested also came with Dodge’s ParkSense Rear Park Assist System which uses ultrasonic sensors in the rear bumper to detect movement behind the vehicle and sound an audible alert.
On the open road the big Dodge cruises effortlessly and would be ideal for any long journey (sorry!). The downside is fuel consumption which is listed at 10.4L/100km – we finished our week-long test on 12.5L/100 km. If this is a major problem, the Fiat Freemont diesel is there as an alternative.
Handling is nothing to get excited about. Though it’s obviously not intended to be a sporty vehicle, Journey is competent enough and unless the driver does something really silly they aren't likely to get into trouble.