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Old 09-19-2008, 01:11 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Took a "Journey" to Detroit (Review)

I used to be pretty hard on GM, but they've improved a bit over the years. Now, it appears that Chrysler is in some serious trouble and is now squarely in the crosshairs. I drove their latest latest and greatest iteration of a "Not a Wagon": the Dodge Journey. This is the the 3rd new design that has failed to deliver.

Why am I in this guzzler to begin with? Detroit iron at the rental lot included a 300 HEMI-C, Impala SS V-8, and various full-sized SUVs, in which to choose. I picked the only V-6 in the lineup. It had an "R/T" badge on the back, so it must be exciting and more efficient than the others, right?



The first problem started with putting the suitcase in the back. It's an average-sized suitcase (fits in most overhead bins -- longways). With the 3rd seating row in position, not possible. You might be able to put a baseball glove or maybe some groceries back there. I tossed the bag in the back seat.



I get in and find a well-equipped hodge podge of amenities. White and black, two-tone leather seats, a modern gauge cluster in a 1984 housing, and satellite radio in a flurry of buttons. OK, I'll give the drive a try. I reset the trip, FE, and found my Sirius favs. On the road. Again.



The 6-speed slapshift automatic was thrown into drive, and off I went. Maybe this has some potential after all? Shifts were frequent to keep the revs down. RPM at 60 mph is about 1750 RPM, but quick to unlock the TC.

Hitting the road became a literal, jarring experience. The stiff suspension transferred the punishment to the cabin, while off-camber changes rocked the whole vehicle from side-to-side, you know, like an amusement park ride. Handling must be great with this type of ride -- so, the first exit ramp was taken with gusto. Classic understeer and body roll. I asked myself why I didn't take the Impala...



If it weren't for the satellite radio, this would probably the most disappointing new model I've driven, barring the new Avenger. What is Chrysler thinking?

It did have some interesting features: a synchronized rear climate control system, plenty of storage and some capacity with the seats folded flat. This AWD model handled traction with ease, but is it really necessary? It even had an eco-friendly remote start! I'm sure rear seat passengers would be entertained if not beaten senseless by the ride. It's almost like they took the Jeep Liberty, took away its utility, and threw in some goodies. Very hastily.

Now for the mechanicals. This is where the poor build quality and lack of design focus in this model was blatantly revealed. The following was noted:
  • Groaning from the power steering
  • Creaking suspension components
  • Driveline noise, vibration, and harshness
  • Scary transmission behavior: one downshift approaching a stop, from 3-2, made a horrible clunking and grinding sensation. Like a few rocks got stuck in the differential and were ground out. It's one of those sounds like a 4-low engagement gone wrong, or reverse while moving forward. Not good.
  • 18.5 MPG on the combined cycle, from over 5000 lbs of 3.5L V-6 and whatever else makes up this brick-on-wheels (and so-so power for the FE hit).


New Vehicle Photos: Edmunds.com

I'll stop here. I came in with an open mind -- it actually looked useful at the Auto Show. It's now sitting outside in the hotel lot among the other Domestic rentals. There are too many little things that are generally irritating to continue.

The Crossover design is running rampant -- perhaps to wean SUV buyers into a smaller conveyance, but has debuted at the wrong time. FE didn't seem to be a design consideration. A 4-cylinder is available, but at nearly 2.5-tons, this is not reported to be a good combo.

My experiences with new Chrysler-brand models have been poor, at best. The Avenger was a terrible package. Then, its bread and butter, the Grand Caravan, has actually gotten worse in quality and driveability. I prefer, and passengers agree, the Chevy Uplander was a much better ride. So it goes, I suppose.

Maybe I'll visit the Henry Ford Museum and Rouge Assembly Plant tomorrow, with some extra time. Perhaps then, the History of better days in the Motor City will pair with the potential of new models on the factory floor. I'll certainly take note of proper, Domestic wagons of the past.



Raw Data:

2009 Dodge Journey R/T AWD
EPA Class: Mid-Sized Station Wagon
$29,500 hard earned dollars
6-speed auto, sequential shift
30 mph current avg. speed.
18.5 MPG current avg. FE
3.5L V-6: 235 hp and 232 torques
Manufactured: Mexico
Gross Weight 5250 lb.
EPA: 15/22
On the Odo: 8000 miles
Rent Again? Not if I can help it.

RH77

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Old 09-19-2008, 06:20 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Thanks for the review as always!
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Old 09-19-2008, 06:55 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I used to be a big Dodge fan. Now they can die like most American companies have already done as far as I am concerned. I had a really bad experience with my "Dream Truck" I always wanted and it turned out to be the biggest (and most expensive) piece of crap I ever owned. I had $100.00 beaters that were more reliable than that steaming pile of Detroit crap.

Chrysler Corp need to bring back the K car. It saved their ass once before
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Old 09-19-2008, 10:59 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Dude, you coulda had a Hemi! One of my lodge brothers has a 300 Hemi and gets 28 mpg on his commuting days. Not bad considering the brick-like shape.

I agree that Chrysler has lost its way. My daughter drives an '02 Jeep Liberty that we all love. In April we wound up renting a new '08 Liberty in Virginia (smallest vehicle left in the Dollar lot). What a bloated, wallowing pig! 16 mpg! Crappy center console design. Auto tranny could never make up its mind on hills. Uncomfortable seats. Huge blind spots. The only thing they managed to improve upon is the feel of the gas pedal: the '02 has a really sensitive pedal just off idle, while the '08 is very progressive.

Overseas ownership truly ruined them. Mercedes treated Chrysler like a red-headed step child while trying to sell them off. I hope they survive, but they appear to be hopelessly behind the trend curve. There isn't one of their products that interests me. Well, maybe the Challenger.
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Old 09-19-2008, 05:50 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I agree -- bring back a 21st Century equivalent of the K-car!

As a follow-up, the biggest weakness was noted to be the transmission. I was able to start it out in 5th gear at any throttle position. At 35 MPH it would downshift to 4th. I found starting in 3 or 4 got the best FE. Then, up to 6th ASAP.

I'll post a side story on the topic when I get home, but I toured the Ford Rouge Plant and Ford Museum today. Insiring for anyone with a passion for cars or History.

The lesson: Henry Ford built a car that was efficient and affordable for the masses with the Model-T. We need to look to our past to guide the future: "Back to Basics" would be a great idea.

Bonus content: an unsolicited FE discussion with Ford about the new F-150... Coming Soon!

RH77

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