This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here possibly applies to the models you can get at home.
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2009 Dodge Journey R/T
Nice idea, but someone forgot the details
The 2009 Dodge Journey is billed as a crossover MPV/SUV with the ride comfort of a sedan. It seems as if every manufacturer is offering its own definition of “crossover” these days, attempting to locate niches no other carmakers have thought of, making the term pretty hard to nail down.
Much the same goes for “SUV”. The “sport” part may or may not include off road capability or sporty performance. The only constant, then, is “utility” or the ability to load the kitchen sink, kegs of beer and lengths of timber, plus one or more passengers.
What the Journey is, in fact, is a big comfy station wagon with loads of space, seating for up to seven, bins galore, seats that fold flat to increase cargo area, lots of safety features and some interesting options.
Safety equipment includes multi-stage front driver and passenger airbags, front-seat-mounted side airbags, three-row side-curtain airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Electronic Roll Mitigation.
Options include a reversing camera, sunroof, satnav, an upgraded entertainment system with voice control and Bluetooth connectivity and a rear seat DVD player with monitor.
Apart from the usual door bins for bottles and oddments, there are storage areas under the front passenger seat cushion, a cooler cubby for two cans (chilled by the air conditioner), two hidey-holes for cool drinks and ice (between the front and rear seats) and a stash under the rear floor behind the third row of seats.
Two engines are offered in SA. These are a 2,0 litre turbodiesel developing 103 kW of power with 310 Nm of torque, and the version tested, a 2,7 litre naturally-aspirated petrol burner developing 136 kW at 5 500 rpm and 256 Nm at 4 000 rpm. A 3,5 litre petrol V6 is available in its home country, but not here.
Behind the wheel, the driver’s seat is electrically adjustable fore and aft, as well as up and down, while a manual control looks after recline angle. The steering column can be adjusted up and down as well as in and out, so pretty much anyone can get comfortable.
The front seats are flat and firm, but comfortable enough for extended journeys. Wish I could say the same for those in the back, though. They are flat and hard, and despite a degree of backrest adjustment, have all the comfort of plastic auditorium chairs. My guess is that they were stolen straight out of the Jeep Wrangler parts bin, where they should have been left.
I foresee that cries of “Daddy, are we there yet?” will be heard before the family road trip has even passed Costa’s corner shop. And, whatever you do, don’t be the kid stuck in the middle. Find a way of getting into the cargo area in the back, if you can.
Performance in town is as brisk as anyone really needs, all round visibility is good and with a little practice, parking is easy.
Out on the freeway at 120, the engine loafs along at about 2000 rpm in sixth gear, but lacks sufficient low-end grunt to maintain momentum up inclines without hunting for a lower ratio.
This highlights another area of concern. Chrysler has access to some excellent gearboxes, but the one in this version of the Journey is not one of them. It hunts and hesitates too much.
The brilliant and almost intuitive CVT unit fitted to the Misubishi Lancer is an example of what can be achieved – Chrysler just needs to fit a beefier version to its bigger-engined offerings.
Briefly, the Dodge Journey is a great idea that just needs a little development. Give it the 3,5 litre V6 available in its home market, a more responsive gearbox and comfier seats and they will have a winner.
Price: R 289 900
Power: 136 kW at 5 500 rpm
Torque: 256 Nm at 4 000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 11,1 seconds
Maximum speed: 182 km/h
Car magazine fuel index: 12,36 l/100 km
CO2 gm/km: 288
Maintenance plan: 3 years/100 000 km
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to in order to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and visit to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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