The Dodge Journey is the last car standing for the iconic American brand in Australia – the exits of the Caliber, Nitro and Avenger in recent times leaving the company’s fortunes resting solely on its roof racks.
As such, the Dodge Journey is somewhat unique in our market – with the exception, of course, of its rebadged sister car, the Fiat Freemont.
Unlike the Freemont, which is available with the choice of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines and priced from $27,000 to $33,000, the Dodge Journey is offered exclusively with a 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine. It costs $32,500 for the entry-level SXT and $36,500 for the flagship R/T tested here.
The Journey R/T’s high level of standard equipment makes it not only the value pick of the two-variant range, but also one of the best-equipped cars of any for its price. Highlights include 19-inch alloy wheels (up from the SXT’s 17s), rear parking sensors, leather seats and gear-shift knob, heated front seats, removable LED torch in the boot, premium six-speaker audio system with amplifier and subwoofer, satellite navigation, and a 9.0-inch rear video screen with wireless headphones and remote control.
Those features come on top of the Journey’s already-standard fog lights, reverse-view camera, tri-zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry with push-button start, electric front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen with DVD, USB and Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming.
Like few cars at its price point, the Journey is also available with the option of foldable third-row seating for $1500 (not fitted to our test car). Oddly, the five-seat version misses out on the in-built booster seats in the outboard positions of the second-row that are standard in the seven-seater.
Boot space is a tiny 176 litres with all seven seats upright, though measures an impressive 784L in five-seat configuration and expands to 1461L with the 60:40 split second row folded forwards.
There are a number of clever storage areas, including a bin beneath the passenger seat cushion, two covered tubs in the second-row floor and more space beneath the boot floor.
Head and legroom is generous for 180cm passengers in the second row, rivalling the Kluger and Grand Cherokee for space. The front seats are large and comfortable, and as with those SUVs the driver sits high with a commanding view of the road ahead.
Some of the cabin’s features impress, such as the soft-touch dashboard and door uppers, the smooth leather steering wheel, and the infotainment screen, which is large and user friendly.
It lacks an overall sense of quality, however. The plastics you touch regularly are hard and feel cheap, the glovebox lacks damping, there’s no footrest, no auto headlights, and the cabin’s rounded design clashes with the car’s tougher, sharper exterior. The top of the windscreen also generates excessive wind noise at higher speeds.
The Dodge Journey’s V6 sounds brawny and hauls its circa-two-tonne mass with ease – delivering exactly the kind of performance you’d expect from the brand famous for muscle cars like the Viper and Charger. It produces 206kW of power at 6350rpm and 342Nm of torque at 4350rpm, and is said to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 8.0 seconds.
The downside of all that grunt is fuel consumption. On the combined cycle, the front-wheel-drive Journey is rated at 10.4 litres per 100km and blows out to 14.8L/100km around town, making it thirstier than the Grand Cherokee Laredo (10.1 combined, 14.0 urban) and Kluger GX (10.2 combined, 14.0 urban) two-wheel-drives.
The Journey’s throttle pedal is sensitive to small inputs, which can make it feel jerky at low speeds as its weight heaves back and forward. Steady inputs are met with consistent power delivery, however, while nailing the throttle produces confident and effortless acceleration.
The six-speed automatic transmission is lazy, though, being slow to shift both up and down and occasionally delivering abrupt thunks, particularly when dropping back to first gear.
The slow steering makes drivers work harder than necessary when manoeuvring around car parks and city streets, and its weighting is frustratingly backwards, feeling heavy at low speeds and becoming lighter the faster you go. It’s generally consistent, however, with the exception of a vague patch around the straight-ahead position.
Its ride also lacks sophistication. The big Dodge is lumpy over urban roads, where it bobbles over bumps. It rocks from side to side over undulating surfaces, and picks up imperfections on seemingly smooth roads, ensuring that it rarely feels composed or settled. The R/T’s 19-inch wheels do it few favours in this regard.
The Journey is one of the most expensive in its class to service, too. Dodge doesn’t offer capped-price servicing in Australia, though estimates servicing at six-month/12,000km intervals will cost $1810 over three years or 72,000km. The Kluger, in contrast, costs $1020 to service for three years.
The solo Dodge comes with a basic three-year/100,000km warranty, trailing the five-year unlimited-kilometre cover of the market leaders.
The Dodge Journey is often overlooked in a sea of traditional SUVs, despite promising much on paper and delivering in a number of areas.
High running costs and poor ride comfort are big negatives for families, though the Journey’s unrivalled combination of space, equipment and grunt at its price may appeal to some young tribes.