This is what real Canadians buy. They may dream about exotic cars from far-off lands. They may yearn for a fancy SUV with shiny chrome everywhere, a supercharged motor and more capabilities than Survivorman. But Canadians buy a lot of Dodge Journey crossover utility vehicles (CUVs). A lot.
DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reports than more than 20,000 Canadians have put a Journey in the driveway this year. It is Canada’s ninth best-selling light truck and here’s why: it’s functional, practical, safe (a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) and, most of all, affordable.
That is, you don’t need to snap up a Journey R/T Rallye with all-wheel drive (AWD) like the one I recently drove ($38,390, as tested). No, you can get the basic version for $21,495. That’s the MSRP or manufacturer’s suggested retail price. You and I and everyone know that the sticker is not usually the final price. There’s always a deal or a discount if you work for it and certainly that’s long been the case with the Journey.
Of course, while that $20,000-something starter model may have the same basic look and shape of the R/T, the differences are huge. The base engine is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder rated at 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque, and it’s linked to a four-speed automatic transmission. It’s fine if you’re not all fussed about power and performance.
But the engine of choice is the 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic. This is the mill you get standard on Limited and R/T models and it churns up a solid 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Ward’s has named the 3.6-litre one of its 10 Best Engines for three years running and that’s good for Chrysler. This V-6 is sold in almost every model Chrysler makes.
That’s the engine. The driving is not just about power, however. The raciest of the Journeys is the R/T with its somewhat aggressive suspension tuning. This version rides firmer than lesser Journeys, but it’s hardly punishing. The tighter handling is really a plus; the less expensive Journey models are on the soft side.
As for AWD, well, don’t buy a Journey to go mud-crawling; that’s Jeep’s thing. But if you want extra grip on bad-weather days, this system is fine. The fact is, in most daily driving, any Journey AWD is really a front-driver; AWD checks on demand. The rear wheels are powered when the front wheels slip, in other words.
Yes, Dodge says AWD does come into play on dry pavement in some conditions to improve handling, but let’s not confuse matters. The Journey is a front-drive rig until you need the rears to do some work and all of this happens automatically. The idea behind this AWD system is to avoid getting stuck in the driveway on a snowy day.
My tester was loaded with many creature comforts (one-piece, soft-touch instrument panel) but the really terrific stuff comes with a price, though nothing is ridiculous here. Third-row seating with 50/50 folding is extra, for instance. It’s packaged with rear air conditioning and adds $1,475. A trailer-tow package lists for $225, Garmin navigation goes for $825 and rear-seat video is $1,175. All reasonable, competitive pricing.
What stands out isn’t the equipment but how easy it is to operate. Right up high in the centre of the dashboard, my tester had an 8.4-inch colour touchscreen that allowed me to control all the Journey’s key functions, from setting a navigation destination to syncing a Bluetooth phone to turning on the heated seats (standard in all Journey models). The system is intuitive, though, if you like, you can crack open an owner’s manual as thick as a telephone book.
(Sidenote: Even the most basic Journey has a 4.3-inch Uconnect touchscreen to operate the radio and such. Other standard features across the Journey line: power heated and fold-away mirrors, seven air bags, dual-zone climate control, illuminated cup holders, keyless Enter-N-Go with push-button start, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls and the class-exclusive second-row in-floor storage bins.)
As a design exercise, the Journey’s interior is good. The gauge cluster has a full-colour display backlit in Dodge red lights and I like it; it looks racy. The centre stack is soft and sculpted so you don’t bang your knees when you climb in. A cushioned centre console armrest hides a large storage bin with a 12-volt outlet and USB port to hook up your MP3/iPod charging connections. Throughout, you’ll find lots of storage. Even the seats are properly padded. We’re not talking super-rich padding, but better than I expected.
Best of all, the ride at highway speeds is tame and quiet. Silence is golden on a road trip and Chrysler’s engineers figured out how to isolate the cabin from the road racket.
Put all these pieces together and you can see why Canadians buy the sensible and affordable Journey by the tens of thousands.
2013 Dodge Journey R/T Rallye AWD
Type: mid-size crossover wagon
Base price: $32,795. As tested: $38,890 (including destination charge of $1,595)
Engines: 3.6-litre V-6
Horsepower/torque: 283/260 lb-ft
Transmissions: six-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel drive
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.8 city/8.2 highway
Alternatives: Ford Edge, Ford Explorer, GMC Terrain, Chevrolet Equinox, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Mitsubishi Outlander.
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