There’s station wagons, there’s SUVs, there’s people movers. Then there’s the Dodge Journey/Fiat Freemont twins. A SUV look with people mover capability, station wagon style room and in R/T spec, rear seat DVD screen entertainment for (presumably) the kiddies. Punted along by a 206kW/342Nm 3.6L V6 engine alongside a six speed auto, there should be little to dislike. A Wheel Thing “journeyed” to the Australian Alps and dragged the family along for the ride.
It’s a good sized veehickle, with a 4.9m length, 1.7m height and 1.8 metre overall width encasing over 1.4m of shoulder room for the front and mid row seats; yes, it’s a seven seater (an option) body however the test car came fitted with five, allowing some useful cargo space at the rear.It’s a user friendly and family oriented device, with washable storage lockers in the floor behind the front seats (ideal for canned drinks), one in the seat itself under the passenger seat cushion and where the rear seats in the seven seater would be. There’s enough here to suit some finely chopped firewood…At the front is the aforementioned 3.6L engine. Although 342 Nm sounds reasonable, it has to haul around a kerb weight of over 1900 kilos and with two adults, tow kids, luggage, it doesn’t mind a drink. The 78 litre tank was drained at a best of around 9.5L per 100 kilometres and at worst, you’d be better off towing a fuel station behind you. With such a relatively low torque figure, through just six speeds and inside a vehicle that’s not exactly a lightweight, unfortunately consumption will be in the negative. If Mitsubishi can offer a seemingly miniscule 2.2L diesel with 360 Nm that kicks off from around 1500 revs (peak torque from the 3.6L is high at over 4300 revs), then surely there’d be something suitable within the Chrysler/Fiat family? The transmission itself was mostly smooth, however sometimes felt, at certain rev points, that it was being strangled, holding gear and refusing to shift up or down and extra engine work was required, plus there were some clunks and shunts, almost as if something wasn’t meshing properly. There were some instances of thrashing from the engine, almost as if the revs needed to overtake weren’t being fed properly to the transmission when the loud pedal was prodded loudly.
The exterior is solid, bluff, squared off and looks somewhat masculine with the front bumper being pumped out at the corners, housing the driving lights and a integrated skid plate in the centre. The Dodge family grille bisects a squared off headlight cluster before leading into a not unattractive profile, wrapped in premium pearlescent paint, before finally finishing in a workmanlike if blocky looking rear, whilst rolling on “tuning fork” 19 inch alloys. Of note are the wide opening doors, with the second row opening up to 90 degrees and allowing superbly easy access and egress. On top was the optional sunroof, sadly not used during the cold weather however the R/T does get heated wing mirrors. The meaty and leather wrapped tiller is on a reach and rake adjustable column, and if it was heated as well, I couldn’t find the switch. All seats in the R/T are leathered up, with the second row adjustable for angle and and can be moved forward and aft as well. Vision from the driver’s pew (leather clad and heated, thank you kindly) is broad, obscured to the rear by the fold down DVD screen when in action. Perhaps rear seat passengers would be better suited with headrest screens as that’s a real safety issue. What isn’t an issue is the 8.4 inch navitainment touchscreen; it’s largely intuitive, controls most of the onboard functions and is linked, in the R/T’s case, to a thumping Alpine audio system with a decent depth and clarity. DVD playback is also visible when the car is in park however the controls didn’t seem to always work in conjunction with the disc menus. Set and forget aircon for the rear seats, LED lighting a another storage locker in the mid row centre fold down add value to the family package.
The GPS system was also largely user friendly however the search parameters seem a bit arse about when dialling in an address. For the driver there’s a handy info screen, operated by steering wheel mounted buttons, with info such as fuel consumption, messages from the bluetooth linked phone and tyre pressure. That last one made a lot of difference as the front left seemed well under the other three. Going from 28 psi to 36psi helped the ride, especially with the load onboard. Having said that, with the usefulness of the rear under cover cargo space coming into play, on the Pacific Highway on NSW’s south coast, the rear did bottom out onto the bumpstops a few times thanks to the undulations. Under normal circumstances, the meaty rubber (225/55/19s) provided grip like superglue and it’s mostly neutral handling. Feedback through the tiller is reasonable but sometimes felt isolated from the road, feeling s omewhat numb on centre although loads up nicely offcentre. Noise from the tyres and wind was fairly muted, allowing good conversation levels and, for the kids, no need to ramp up the quite nice sounding headphones. Dive and squat were well controlled under heavy braking and hard acceleration plus body roll was minimal when tossed around. The brakes themselves lacked bite, however that could be more to do with the 2000kg plus load they needed to haul in.
At $36500 (RRP + ORCs) for the R/T ($32500 for the SXT), you’ll get a three year/one hundred thousand kilometre warranty and service intervals at six monthly cycles. It’s extraordinarily good value with the DVD, plenty of room and trim levels, but let down, badly, by the “hole” in the fuel tank and the occasional indifference of the transmission. There’s no doubt in A Wheel Thing’s mind that it’s a flexible, usable, family vehicle but one that could improve with the option of a low revving, torquey, diesel, a diet and a less restrained transmission.
For info: http://www.dodge.com.au/vehicles/journey
For pricing options, speak to your Dodge dealership, or contact Private Fleet and Bid My Car and for video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q35Xrn_KahI&feature=youtu.be.