Because you need to drive something when going back home to visit the family.
Those familiar YouTube series “Regular Car Reviews” will instantly recognize the title of this piece. It’s incredibly similar, and that was done on purpose. Here at Cartownhack we love Mr. Regular and would never want to steal his thunder. That being said sometimes we also like to talk about normal cars and our love-hate relationship with them. The target of this piece is the 2009 Dodge Journey SE. Why this seemingly random SUV? Well, it’s the car I drive around San Diego, California, whenever I go home to visit my parents.
The rule of thumb is that in times of scarcity any car is a good car. That’s made all the more true when you leave a city filled with public transportation options (in my case San Francisco) for a suburb where public transit is a polite way of saying mobile homeless shelters. So, it’s out of necessity that I drive a 2009 Dodge Journey SE for a few weeks every year. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about the 2016 Dodge Journey. I do know that it looks incredible compared to the 2009 model that sits in my parents’ driveway. It’s also pretty affordable, with the base model SE coming in at $20,995. There are five trims in total, with the R/T AWD capping off the range with a starting price of $33,695.
While the 2016 SE sports a small 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine it still seats seven and can return up to 500 miles per tank. The R/T AWD is powered by a bigger 283-horsepower V6 and looks especially menacing with the available Blacktop appearance package, offering a gloss black grille, 19-inch gloss black aluminum wheels and tinted headlamp bezels among other new exterior features. Of course the 2009 Journey SE my parents own is nothing like the 2016 model described above. The engine is the same, a 2.4-liter inline-four producing 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque. I don’t know how the current model drives, but in the ’09 stepping on the gas feels like trying to load a website during the dial-up Internet age.
Inside things don’t get much better. The 2009 SE is filled with cheap plastic and cloth. I won’t even bother with a simile or a metaphor here. If you’ve been in a cheap car before you know exactly what I’m talking about. That being said, even with all its flaws this is still a serviceable SUV. The four-cylinder engine sucks at speed but actually isn’t awful on gas, returning 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. That’s not bad for a vehicle that seats five in relative comfort. The interior is cheap but remember I only spend two weeks tops in this thing. During that amount of time you certainly notice the lack of refinement but that doesn’t mean you really care.
Another thing to consider is that the particular Journey was born during a time of crisis at Chrysler. You shouldn’t expect a budget Dodge SUV with a 2009 model year to be a home run, and indeed the Journey barely gets scored as an infield single. Still, it gets me from one side of San Diego to the other a few weeks out of every year and in between my visits home it does its job as a family hauler Monday to Sunday. To quote the cult cartoon classic “Futurama,” it’s more than acceptable. It’s adequately satisfactory.