An American journey. It doesn’t always have to be sexy and sleek to get you from point A to point B, in fact, sometimes practical and functional are the smartest choice. By Renaldi Hutasoit
Normally, on these pages you read about cars that get your adrenaline flowing—cars that are nimble, responsive, fast or off-road ready. We have covered cars that are designed to enhance your masculine attributes or satisfy your appetite for adrenaline. Well guess what? Boys grow up and become men. Some men have kids, and these men need a spacious 7-seat wagon or SUV. We might not want it, but we will need it. There are many offerings from various brands on the market that can offer seating for seven people. But, as you read DA MAN, not many of them would satisfy your demand for style and presence. When you add flood and pothole-readiness to the equation (especially for all of you living in Jakarta), then the menu just got incredibly thinner. In fact, in the medium-upper segment, there is only one option: the Dodge Journey.
Important to remember, the Dodge Journey is not just a rebadged Asian car. Indeed, the first thing that comes to mind as I was presented with the Dodge Journey was that it has a very logical design concept all American cars have. I wouldn’t be surprised if everything about the car was the result of focus group discussions.
Starting from the exterior, the front fascia is rather handsome. Dodge managed to design a very attractive front fascia centered on the signature Dodge crosshair grille. It looks aggressive yet still has a touch of elegance needed to blend well with the rest of the body. Indeed, the rest of the body style looks rather normal and lacks character when compared to the front. To me, it is like the exterior was designed by two teams. Other than the subjective view of design, though, I found many aspects of the Dodge Journey that warrant compliments.
Open the rear doors fully, and you will notice the doors swing out much further than any normal car, all the way to 90 degrees. I found this really useful when the largest access to the mid-row seat is needed and wondered why all cars are not made this way. The Dodge Journey is also a storage star, as it should being a family car. As you enter, you would notice on the floor in front of the mid-row seat there are trapdoors that cover bins which you can use as cool boxes. Just put some ice with your soft drinks in the bins and you will have very functional refrigeration. Don’t worry about water from the melting ice, the bins are removable and can be cleaned easy. At the front, you have a hidden storage area underneath the front passenger seat base cushion. There is also a storage area underneath the luggage floor at the rear of the car.
The design of the interior itself is first class and very tastefully done. In the top line SXT Platinum model, which I tested (there are also the SXT-Luxury mid-range and SXT base models), all three row seats are covered in luxurious black leather, as well as the steering wheel and the door trims. The dash, while made of black soft plastic, would not look out of place in cars or SUVs costing double the Dodge SXT Platinum’s Rp 585 million asking price, especially with the strip of silver accent. Inside, the interior is also as quiet as some of these more expensive luxury cars, which allows you to enjoy the six-speaker Alpine premium audio system equipped in the SXT Platinum variant. Your view of the dash will be dominated by the huge 8.4-inch touch screen. Called Uconnect in Dodge land, it provides voice command control for entertainment, Bluetooth-connected phone, and last but not least, built-in GPS navigation (provided by Garmin no less). Don’t worry if you are not good with gadgets, because the Dodge Journey also has dedicated buttons for functions that you frequently use like the temperature and blower fan of the climate control, or the volume of the audio system on the steering wheel. At first, I found them redundant, but after a few hours in the car I found that Dodge’s focus group might be right.
The view behind the steering wheel is also excellent. Between the speedometer and rpm counter, there is a small screen that displays your vehicle information. You could select the information you want to be displayed from the buttons on the left of the steering wheel. On the right of the steering wheel are buttons for the cruise control.
The front seats are very comfortable. They manage to provide enough ergonomic support while being softer than normal European car seats. My only, minor, complaint is that the headrest is positioned too far forward; it touches my head much more often than other cars’. The similarly comfortable reclining second row seat can fold flat with a 60:40 split or slide forward with only a pull of one lever, granting easy access to the third-row seat. What is also very convenient and thoughtful is the fact that Dodge has child booster seats built into the second row seats. With a single pull of the straps, the booster seats will spring up into place ensuring that your kids can join mom and dad to enjoy the scenery while safely buckled in. The 50:50 split third row seats should be reserved for children or friends you like the least, because while the seats themselves are comfortable, leg room is less than ideal. It is good that Dodge leaves enough cargo space for multiple grocery bags or a couple of cabin-sized luggage trunks behind the third row seats, since some cars don’t.
Look above, you will find at the front a glass sunroof that comes standard in all variants of Dodge Journey. Behind the sunroof is the current must-have family car feature, the display monitor for the rear passengers, on which your kids can watch their favorite movies. Should they get bored and in the mood for gaming, Dodge has also provided the Journey with connections for their gaming consoles.
Being a car made by a safety-conscious American brand, the Dodge Journey is equipped with an array of passive and active safety features. All variants come standard with nine airbags, active front headrests, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Antilock Brakes (ABS), Brake Assist (BA), and Traction Control (TC). It also has tire pressure monitoring system that can show you exactly how much air pressure you have in each of your tires. Dodge even throws in a rechargeable flash light. If you put occupant safety above all else, then the Dodge Journey is for you, because it was awarded the Top Safety Pick 2011 by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety after passing the test with five stars.
It is not for you, though, if you put priority on performance. While the Dodge Journey certainly has that aggressive performance look, it is lacking in real performance. The 2.4-liter inline DOHC 4-cylinder engine actually produces 173 horsepower, on par with many other 2.4-liter executive sedans on the market. However, the Journey’s engine has to pull about 300 kilograms of extra weight compared to those sedans. As such, I would compare the acceleration only to a 1.8-liter mid-size sedan. Thankfully, throttle response, especially in the first 20 percent of its travel, is quite immediate that in Jakarta’s heavy traffic and 30 kph average speed, the lack of performance is not readily apparent. It is once you are on the toll road doing 100 kph-plus speeds that you will wonder why Dodge does not make the option of having the 3.6-liter V6 engine available in Indonesia. I really hope they will, because Dodge Journey’s target customers in this market can afford the higher price and higher fuel consumption. Further, the well composed and comfortable independent suspension can handle it.
So who drives a Dodge Journey? In Indonesia, these will be people who are in the higher income bracket that they can afford the luxury of choosing a car because they like it, not because everybody else has it or it would re-sell easy. For this market segment, comfort and convenience is a must, and the Dodge Journey certainly has plenty to offer. The Dodge Journey in this market segment will not be the main car in the household. It certainly fits the role as a second or a third car perfectly. Being a mid-size Crossover Utility Vehicle or CUV (SUV on sedan platform), the potential buyers will most likely have small children or are involved in active sports such as bicycling or camping. Hence, typically the buyers will be between 35 – 50 years old. For those of you in that demographic, the Dodge Journey should be the automatic choice, as there are no other similar offerings from other manufacturers within the same price range. The likely alternatives to the Dodge Journey are the Mazda CX-7 (less space, not a seven-seat SUV), Pajero Sport Dakar 4×4 (harsh old school SUV ride and less convenience), Honda Odyssey (low ground clearance, not flood-friendly), Subaru Exiga 2.0 GT (very similar except for the lower ride height), and the Toyota Harrier 2.4 (more expensive, follow-the-leader image). If the former paragraph describes you, then go for it, the Dodge Journey will fit you to a tee.
Dodge Journey Specs
Capacity: seven adults
Engine: 2.4-liter inline DOHC 4-cylinder
Power: 173 horsepower