When you have a string of long weekends like we've had in the past couple of months, there's no better way to fill up those idle days than with a road trip. You can plan for them as much as you want by checking the weather, booking reservations, printing a route map and even setting aside an entire day to pack. Yet the one thing you can't plan is your road-trip buddies.
Don't get me wrong, I love company on the road as much as the next guy, but it's their baggage, quite literally, that I'm worried about.
How many times have you had to keep your feet up to make room for the picnic basket or had to sit slightly diagonal because your seatmate brought a full size pillow? I can't count the number of times I've had to wedge a softdrink can between my legs because all the cupholders were full. And who can't forget the fight for stereo rights?
Nothing kills a road trip faster than a bum drive up there. But I think I found just the car to remedy that.
Say hello to the Dodge Journey, and no, they didn't pay me for that subtle segue. I know it sounds like marketing hype, especially when talking about road trips with a car called "Journey".
It's yet another one of the Chrysler group's niche melding creations - an MPV meets SUV, pre-blinged for your convenience. The hodge-podge Dodge grille meets on a minivan with 19 inch chrome wheels may leave a lot to be desired, yet the real gem about the car is what's inside and how it's been put together.
It's the kind of car that keeps unruly passengers in mind. The Journey seats 5 but will easily accommodate two more care of pull up seats from the flat cargo floor. Second row seats bend and slide forward for easy access. All the seats can be folded and raised in any order you like to fit your buddies plus a surfboard or two. The second row has folding armrest to keep your friend with the full size pillow strictly at her side of the seat. Cupholders? The car has 10. Twelve if you count the chiller above the glove box, specially designed for softdrink cans.
Before you begin to complain about cargo space, the Journey has 3 more hidden compartments. Flip up the front passenger seat and you'll find room for magazines or chips. In the second row floor, you can pull back the carpeting to reveal two more compartments for all sorts of knickknacks.
As for the stereo fights, the Journey has multimedia options that could put the iPod to shame. Tucked away in the dash is the MyGIG system. It's a 6 disc CD/DVD/MP3 compatible in-dash player and voice recognition tuner combined with a 30-gigabyte hard drive. What does it all do? It's like having a dedicated on-board computer for tunes and all you need do is say "next track" to skip. Connect an iPod with a handy jack or link a cell phone via Bluetooth to play tunes, movies use the entire sound system as a hands-free conference phone.
So what does it drive like when fully loaded? Surprisingly, much like the family sedan. Propelling it is a 2.7 liter V6 engine that is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This drives the front wheels, although an all-wheel drive version is available on order basis. You can impress your friends with the manual shift override, but they'll likely be more occupied with the car's built-in flashlight. Despite the massive 19 inch wheels, the Journey continues to be comfortable and quiet. The engine's pull might not be blindingly fast, but certainly more than enough to overtake a car or two. You needn't worry abou chipping in much for fuel as the economy is also very good thanks to the 6-speed auto that quickly and smoothly shifts to the highest and most economical gear. Driver aids like a rear back-up camera and steering mounted audio controls keep hands firmly at the wheel.
Top notch safety systems like a tire pressure monitoring system, four-wheel ABS, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Electronic Roll Mitigation (ERM), Brake Assist and Trailer Sway Control (Yes, you can pull jetskis!) with a whole complement airbags also put the mind at ease.
All told, the vehicle makes for an ideal out-of-town cruiser that addresses even the most trivial of storage problems. And with more space to move around, it let's you concentrate on what any group enjoys most about these road trips: the journey itself.
The Journey certainly is quite aptly named. And those that make the purchase won't be disappointed.