Just before Christmas, Driven reviewed the facelifted Dodge Journey SXT, an interesting and versatile vehicle; but I had this nagging feeling something had been missed.
So I asked Chrysler for a go with the more luxurious, more expensive R/T. I drove aimlessly, trying to identify the elusive x-factor: Mercer, Tuakau; somewhere near Maramarua. It was getting dark before it hit me.
It was the seating, the way its front passenger seat also folds to provide more than 2.5m of continuous stowage. The article had reported this useful feature and how you could stash a decent ladder there. But what if it wasn't a ladder? What if it was ... me?
The elusive attribute is that the Dodge can also be a mini-motel, at least for one person, or one person and his or her dog. Or two people if one doesn't mind sleeping sitting up. No stranger to a campground, or being hounded in the dead of night from roadside rest areas, I resolved to test it.
Unless you've recently passed the SAS selection course, the folded seats are not a particularly comfortable sleeping platform, but that's what an inflatable air mattress is for. With mine inflated, I was as snug as a bug in a sleeping bag.
True snugness requires sleeping head to the tailgate because there's an unfortunate gap between the folded first and second row seats roughly at the hip. Bridge it with a hunk of plywood or MDF - which I didn't have - and you could sleep head-to-dash, which somehow seems more natural. I'll point that out if I write the supplementary Sleeping in Your Journey owner's manual for Chrysler.
The car is full of overnight-friendly features. There's no need to strain to read a book by twilight before dozing off. The R/T has a flip-down video screen to entertain passengers, so I crawled into the unfolded third-row seat with some cold popcorn and watched a scary DVD: Rest Area Slasher IV - Journey to Hell. This DVD setup is good for daytime use, too, if you transport kids or adults who bore easily.
I generally don't like tinted windows, but the Journey's provide useful privacy. To complete the privacy package, jam tea towels in the front side windows and drape a large beach towel across the windscreen, held in place by the generously sized sun visors. I'll include that advice in the manual.
Built-in aids for Journey-sleeping include a portable rechargeable torch in a cargo area recess. Unfortunately, the torch in mine didn't work; could this mean some hapless motoring writer - this being a press car - has already spent a night under its vinyl headlining? Surely not.
There's underfloor stowage for knives, forks, plates or even packages of cereal; and several 12v power outlets for the electric jug or other appliances that won't blow its fuse.
Best of all, the Journey has a lovely strip light in the tailgate in case you want to read rather than watch DVDs; heck, you'd pay $100,000 to have some of this stuff in a proper campervan.
And the Journey's somewhat chunky interior styling suggests that one might be sleeping in an actual building, not stretched out in a car like a loser.
The home-on-wheels aspect of the Journey makes the buying decision so much easier. It's not just a $46,000 V6 hatch, but a potential home away from home; one fight too many with the Significant Other and you needn't worry about finding a cheap motel; one drink too many and you needn't worry about flashing blue and red lights and closing your lips around the tube.
If the local economy takes a Grecian downturn, the Journey can become your home, each night with a new view, so long as you're on your own. Homeless owners of Journeys could meet up and form little circles at night, as the covered wagons heading into the Wild West did in the cowboy movies I used to watch.
I awake refreshed, feeling a little like someone who has just been on the TV show Intrepid Journeys. Or should that be Intrepid Journey? I'll brew a coffee and have a think about that.
This'll get you to bed on time
It shouldn't take long to reach the site for the overnight nap. The Journey's a brisk tripper with Chrysler's latest techno pride, the 206kW 3.6 litre Pentastar V6 that's being rolled out across much of Chrysler's six-cylinder world. It's 70kW more powerful than the older engine and torque is up by 86Nm, to 342Nm. Official overall fuel consumption of 10.4 litres per 100km is the same as before but, during our search for the perfect park-up, it averaged 12.8 litres per 100km.
Stuff you'll need for overnighting in the Journey
* A bottle with a wide mouth just in case nature, um, calls.
* A hunk of cord and some clothes pegs so you can hang your delicates out to dry.
* A copy of PJ O'Rourke's book Holidays in Heck to set the mood. This volume is much more toney than his earlier Holidays in Hell, which the author described as being about the "s*itholes of the world", and the Journey is definitely no s*ithole.
* Some CDs. The car has a good sound system - way better than any MP3 device.
* A roll of toilet paper, useful for so many things other than the obvious, from making earplugs to plugging draughts, not that the Journey has any draughts.
* Snacks and drinks. Don't worry about spilling because everything short of battery acid just wipes off the excellent leather upholstery.