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First drive: Dodge delivers more memorable Journey

Sole survivor: Dodge has introduced a substantially upgraded Journey to Australia.

Pentastar V6 and classy new interior send Dodge’s sole survivor on fresh Journey

30 Mar 2012

DODGE’S days might be numbered in Australia, but that hasn’t stopped the historic American brand’s underrated seven-seat Journey people-mover receiving substantial design and mechanical upgrades for the 2012 model year.

The 2012MY Journey, which will become the last Dodge model to remain available in Australia once stocks of the small Caliber hatch and mid-size Nitro SUV run out in coming months, is differentiated on the outside only by a slightly more subtle ‘crosshair’ chrome grille (sans Ram’s head logo), revised bumpers, body-coloured (instead of black side sills), updated LED tail-lights and, for the top-shelf R/T variant, 19-inch alloy wheels.

But its more significant changes under the skin – including a classier interior design and Chrysler’s new Pentastar V6 – are also likely to carry over into the rebadged Fiat Freemont, which is expected to eventually replace the Journey here as part of a new local distribution deal following the global merger of Fiat and Chrysler.

Although the facelifted entry-level Journey SXT has been available Down Under for some time with the new 3.6-litre petrol V6 – priced $500 higher than the 2.7-litre model it replaces at $37,500 plus on-road costs – Chrysler Australia this week announced a $43,500 base price for the flagship Journey R/T 3.6, which is $1500 more than the previous R/T 2.7.

Both the wheezy 136kW/256Nm 2.7-litre V6 and more muscular 103kW/310Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel – which achieved combined cycle economy of just 6.7L/100km – have been discontinued from the 2012 Journey line-up, which now comes with a six-speed automatic transmission as standard across the range.

Biggest mechanical change, however, is the standard fitment of a Euro 5 emissions-compliant 206kW/342Nm 3.6-litre 24-valve petrol V6, making the Journey – which weighs between 1942 and 1981kg - Australia’s most powerful people-mover.

Despite the power hike over the old 2.7, which reduces the Journey’s claimed 0-100km/h acceleration time to eight seconds, official combined cycle fuel consumption increases by just 0.1L/100km to 10.4L/100km.

Both 2012 Journey models also receive a host of interior upgrades, including a completely redesigned dashboard, steering wheel and seats, plus significantly higher-quality materials and surfaces throughout.

There is also a host of new features that Chrysler Australia says adds $3000 of extra value, making the Journey a vastly better value proposition alongside people-mover rivals like the Toyota Tarago, Chrysler Grand Voyager, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai iMax and Kia Grand Carnival.

New Journey equipment includes keyless entry and starting, four-way power lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat, tyre pressure monitor display, chilled upper glovebox and two new touch-screen multi-media systems.

The 2012 Dodge Journey SXT comes standard with halogen quad headlights with auto-levelling, front and rear foglights, black roof-rails, three-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, six-way adjustable power driver’s seat, a six-speaker sound system, Chrysler Group’s UConnect Touch multi-media system with 4.3-inch colour touch-screen, AUX/USB/Bluetooth connectivity and voice control, premium instruments with colour TFT display, heated exterior mirrors and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The range-topping Journey R/T adds 19-inch painted alloys, full leather trim for all three rows of seats, heated front seats, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, an 8.4-inch colour touch-screen satellite-navigation system with DVD player, a premium six-speaker 368-Watt audio system with subwoofer, second-row overhead nine-inch video screen with wireless headphones and rechargeable torch. A sunroof is optional, while a space saver spare is standard across the front-wheel drive range.

Both models continue to offer 60/40-split second-row seats and a 50/50-split third row, both of which fold flat to the floor, plus storage bins under the front passenger seat and in both second-row footwells. The second-row seats slide a total of 120mm, while cargo capacity is 1461 litres with the rear seats stowed, but shrinks to just 167 when they are in use.

The Journey’s grocery bag hook has gone, the portable rechargeable torch is now standard only on the R/T (optional on SXT) and exterior paint colours now unavailable include White gold, Stone white, Deep water blue, Inferno red and Silver steel. For 2012, Journey hue choices comprise Brilliant Red Tri-Coat, White, Storm Grey, Blue Pearl, Pearl White Tri-Coat, Brilliant Black and Bright Silver.

Standard safety equipment continues to include electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation (ERM), all-speed traction control, ABS brakes, trailer sway control, multi-stage driver and front-passenger air bags, front seat-mounted side airbags, three-row side curtain airbags and ac active, anti-whiplash front seat head restraints.

GoAuto recently drove a five-seat AWD Crew version of the 2012 Journey for an extended period in Los Angeles and came away mightily impressed with the dramatic increase in quality the new interior brings, as well as the new V6’s refinement and performance.

Within the toned-down exterior lies a vastly more upmarket cabin comprising soft-touch surfaces on all regular contact points, including a nicely textured soft black dash top that would not be out of place in a BMW.

Adding to the Journey’s new-found class under Fiat stewardship are liberally chromed internal door-pulls, air-vent surrounds and highlights on the leather-clad three-spoke steering wheel, plus a full-width alloy-look fascia element.

The Journey interior remains as flexible as ever, featuring clever lidded under-floor compartments that can be removed and hosed out, while a multitude of cup-holders and power outlets, an enormous amount of legroom for the sliding second-row seats and rear doors that open to 90 degrees further aid its practicality.

Combine this with huge, well-bolstered front seats that feel more like captain’s chairs, massive amounts of both reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel and generous visibility in all directions including a commanding view of the road ahead, and the front-drive SUV-look Journey provides almost all the answers for those looking to substitute people-movers for crossover wagons.

In fact, the lack of all-wheel drive, an archaic foot-operated parking brake and a heavy, top-hinged tailgate appear to be the only throw-backs to the Journey’s American mini-van roots.

The demise, for now, of the turbo-diesel Journey is disappointing, but Chrysler’s lusty new Pentastar V6 more than compensates for this with plenty of low to mid-range torque, providing effortless 100km/h cruising at less than 1500rpm in tandem with a slick-shifting six-speed auto.

Unlike GM Holden’s same-displacement V6, the more muscular Pentastar also revs cleanly and freely all the way 6500rpm and is so silly-smooth at all revs it can barely be heard., However, there is some resonance through the pedals during engine overrun and when the transmission shift up a gear, and the Euro-firm suspension set-up – which keeps bodyroll to a minimum despite the tall body and with little compromise to ride quality, even on 19-inch rubber – can be noisy over bigger road obstacles.

The leather-lined Crew-spec Journey we drove in California was roughly equivalent to Australia’s R/T variant, coming standard with top-end features you’d expect in a luxury sedan, and new 2012 equipment like the intuitive 8.4-inch colour touch-screen infotainment system lift the flagship Journey to a new level.

The angular Journey is still a bold people-mover, but its more subtle front-end styling is now far more commensurate with its new-found interior and powertrain finesse. Sub-$45,000 crossover wagon buyers would do themselves a disservice not to try out the 2012 Journey before settling elsewhere.

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Dodge Journey (plus, on-road costs):
SXT (a)$37,500
R/T (a) $43,500

GoAuto can help you buy a new Journey

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