Handling – Rims with Wooden Spokes. Organic and Environmentally Friendly
The unibody chassis (chassis code: JC49) is supported by four-wheel independent suspensions that consist of MacPherson struts in the front and multi-link in the rear with stabilizer bars fore and aft. Traction is provided by a set of P225/65R17 Kumho Solus KH16 all-season touring tires on 17- x 6.5-in cast-aluminum wheels. The made in China Solus generates communicative road noise and is relatively quiet.
The Journey has 113.8-in wheelbase, 192.3-in length, 75-in width, and 67.5-in height. It has the longest wheelbase and heaviest curb weight in the JC/JS platform.
The suspension components are bolted to a platform that is as much as a melting pot in Downtown San Francisco. It is directly derived from Chrysler Group’s JS module that underpins the Dodge Avenger which is the identical twin to Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Caliber in which they are also related to Jeep Compass/Patriot. The top of the JS family tree can be traced back to Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler era; the platform was co-developed together and intended for their compact cars. The Mitsubishi version (GS) underpins the Lancer, Lancer Evolution X, and Outlander.
If the platform can support the high performance rally-bred Evo and those Jeep products, the platform should be as structurally strong as any new vehicle today. However, in Journey’s case it is not true. Perhaps, Chrysler is pushing the envelope too far for using a platform originally intended for compact size cars and small CUVs. To support this two-ton beast, structural integrity is jeopardized.
When driving on irregular pavement and particularly going offroad, even at below average speed, the chassis would emit metal-to-metal distortion noise at where the bottom of the B-pillars meets the side sills. This location also happens to be the weakest point of a vehicle. The distortion noise is amplified as the affected interior trims are moving at different rate than the chassis. This phenomenon can only be explained by insufficient bending stiffness in the chassis despite the use of structural adhesives. The longevity of the chassis is questionable. At this relatively young age, the chassis is already flexing like a salvaged 20-year old car that had once dove into the Dead Sea.
Putting that aside, the suspension behaves just like its corporate rental sibling, Chrysler Sebring, when driving offroad. To make matter worse, the compact car rated suspensions in the Journey have to cope with a lot more curb weight and two additional passengers than the Sebring. Pavement ruts are transmitted to the cabin violently via the bump stops as the SXT’s Touring Suspension keeps on bottoming out. On smooth open highway, the sacrificed offroad capability exchanged for smooth ride quality but it is somewhat underdamped with the typical floating on water feel associated.
Steering – a yoke, some ropes & tons of obedience
The conventional hydraulic powered rack-and-pinion with 3.3 steering turns (lock-to-lock) steering is light to operate and lacks on-center feel which result in lane wander. The problem is also hampered by the large 18.6:1 steering ratio. Road feel through the 5.75” thick sidewall is lacking. Not much is expected from the steering and handling department knowing that the Sebring is nothing extraordinary in these areas as well. How could a bigger version improve the inherited deficits?
Braking – Non-existed
Stopping power is generated by four-wheel discs brakes with 11.9- x 1.1in vented in the front and 12.0- x 0.47-in solid in the rear with four-wheel anti-lock (ABS), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), traction control, trailer sway control and electronic roll mitigation (ERM).
Pedal input through the Bosch supplied master cylinder and booster is soft, and the pedal can sink to the floor. All of which are considered as today’s standard for an ordinary domestic product. Braking force conveyed by the TRW Automotive supplied calipers are ordinary during regular driving. Under heavy use, particularly at the long declines in King’s Canyon, brake fade is apparent without intentional provoke. The Hayes-Lemmire supplied discs have the tendency to wobble and become more noticeable when front rotors get hot. More it shakes, more fade experienced.
It has been a long time since we experienced these deficiencies on a public street under normal operating conditions. An absolute failure!
Interior – A Timber Casket with Opening at the Ends
Back in the stone-age, creature comfort in the ox-wagon consists of singing, “…Country roads, take me home. To the place, I be-long. West virginia, mountain momma. Take me home, country roads…” in liaison repeatedly until when one started to think, “‘yo momma, look awfully hot…”
Interior workmanship has been improved compared to the Chrysler products few years back but still just average in today’s standard. The Denso supplied instrument cluster is very dated. The LED displays are like 1st generation LCD watch. The hidden advancement is the use of Inoplastic Omnium supplied composite liftgate.
Road and wind noise is subtle except for the occasional whistle from those huge side mirrors. The firewall is filled with closed-cell expanding foam to dampen noise from the powertrain. In return, it created a nice concert hall environment to listen to the Alpine supplied 6-speaker sound system that has solid bass with clear mid and high notes.
Notice no blind spot thanks to the large heated side mirrors. Power chord to the auto-dimming rear view mirror is fully exposed, free hanging from the ceiling. The lack of attention to detail is very apparent even at this so obvious spot which makes me think if the accountants are designing the car or the engineers.
Seating is comfortable and has wide range of adjustability which makes seeking for the perfect driving position feasible. The 6-way driver’s seat has electronic fore and aft adjustment. Recline is done manually.
No matter how the tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel is adjusted, it would block half of the tachometer on the right (only up to 3,000rpm is visible). On the left side, the wheel would block the coolant temperature gauge and only reveal the bottom part of needle (can’t see L, H imprint).
The wheel also blocks wiper and turn signal stalks. The function control on these stalks is not easy to use since the wheel has blocked our view and it is simply confusing to operate. We realized cost saving for consolidating all the buttons on stalks instead of separating the buttons for cluster dimming, and fog light. The fog light operation is very head-stretching, the switch is a pull type on the top of the stalk but the pattern is suggesting a twist operating action.
There are these toggle switches behind the 3 and 9 o’clock positions of the spoke. At first we mistakenly thought that they were pedal shifters since they were at the industrial norm location for such playful pedals. After some hair pulling confusion moments, as we were tapping the buttons as if we were operating the DCT pedals in the BMW M3, we finally realized they were actually for the stereo. The right hand side one is radio volume and a center button for source. The left side is for changing station/track. Confusing as hell, if we could see the radio screen while we were driving we could have figured them out much sooner.
The blame is on the design logic on the configuration of the center console. The radio is located at the lowest part near the shifter, making it very difficult to read without completely moving the head. To make things worse, the display also contains the clock. It is a dicey maneuver to read the display every time. The very top of the center console situates the emergency blinker switch, traction control button, and an 115V AC adaptor switch. I guess the designer is expecting the driver to use them more often than the radio, more frequently than checking the time.
The interior features Flip ‘n Stow, Spy & Drive, Chill Zone and Autostick…the what! It is quite alright if you don’t have the lingo of the hills to comprehend the terms just mentioned. In standard language, they are referring to storage under seat cushion, secondary mirror to observe the passengers in the backseats, self-cooling glove box, and automatic transmission with manual mode, respectively.
Marketing dictates engineering? Dodge should spend time in engineering than just putting fancy names to everything so ordinary. Overall, the Dodge Journey is more like a minivan than anything else – Minivan featured interior and 3,500 Ibs towing capacity. The only truth in Dodge’s advertising point of sale is the Journey being an alternative to minivan. We doubt if it should read as an alternative to CUV since the Journey resembles more of a minivan than anything else.
Powertrain Performance & Refinement
Handling & Ride Characteristics
Brake Performance & Feel
Comfort & Workmanship
Features & Technologies
Will I buy one factor
My recommendation factor
What happened to the name like Pacifica? Why keep on inventing new names? What exactly is Dodge’s brand image? To narrow it down, is there any special attraction in this all-new CUV?
Can’t tell how a raised car platform with a station wagon trunk and third row seat can win the hearts of any CUV shoppers over the other well-established CUVs. The Journey can’t be any more affordable than the Santa Fe, can’t be any creamier than the Highlander, or as sporty as the Murano.
Where the Journey is best fit and the only appropriate segment is in the lot of your local car rental company. On that note, the difference between the Journey and trekking in ox-wagon is very few – they are just pure mode of transportation. Perhaps, the stone-age ox-wagon wouldn’t catch on fire due to leaky power steering mechanism – a recent recall on the Journey. END