It was a good day to smell summer, the sweetness and funk of it. We drove into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The aroma of honeysuckle mixed with the decay of road kill, a pungency at once inviting and offensive.
“Should I raise the windows?”
“No,” said Mary Anne, my wife. “I love the smell of summer.”
We are of a time when summer travel was done in cars equipped with “four-40 air conditioning,” four windows down at 40 miles per hour. We were moving substantially faster than 40 on this trip in the 2009 Dodge Journey R/T wagon. But we let the air rush through open windows to dissipate the day’s heat and humidity.
It was an impromptu ramble in a wagon that was more fun-to-go than fun-to-drive. The difference is more than semantic.
“Fun-to-drive” applies to a car such as the Infiniti G37 Journey coupe reviewed in this space June 1. It is the kind of car you drive simply for the joy of driving. It surpasses destination in entertainment and memory.
“Fun-to-go” vehicles, by comparison, are conveyances. They get you from one place to another without necessarily adding to or detracting from the enjoyment of the trip. Little is demanded of them other than that they be safe, convenient, comfortable, reliable, gifted with a few infotainment amenities such as satellite radio and video screens, and affordable.
The Dodge Journey, a mid-size wagon available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and offered in base SE, mid-level SXT, or upscale R/T trim, meets all fun-to-go demands. In the tested front-wheel-drive R/T version, equipped with a 3.5-liter, 235-horsepower V-6 engine, it even flirts with fun-to-drive. Acceleration is good. Handling is unobtrusive, which is a good thing. Unobtrusive handling beats discernibly bad handling every time.
And although we chose to drive with the Dodge Journey’s power windows down, it was not because the wagon lacked air conditioning. When used, its automatic cooling and ventilation systems worked wonderfully well.
“What do you think?” I asked Mary Anne.
“About what?” she asked.
“The Journey,” I said.
She was puzzled, until I told her that I was referring to the Dodge wagon.
“Oh,” she said. “I could like this one. It’s okay. It has lots of stuff.”
Translation: It’s not fancy, but it’s pleasant. It gets the job done. It has lots of cubby holes, including an optional “Flip ‘n Stow” compartment underneath the front passenger’s seat. You can put purses and briefcases in there. The wagon is a motorized closet.
Mary Anne said the Dodge Journey “would have been great” on bygone trips when we loaded our three children, now adults, into cars and wagons and hauled them all over the country. There is seating for five people in the Dodge Journey. Optional third-row seating can accommodate two people more.
I told her the Dodge Journey serves multiple lifestyles, including those of young families and empty nesters. Sometimes, I talk too much.
Mary Anne grew silent and leaned toward her open window, allowing the air to rush her face full force. After a moment, she pulled back inside and sighed.
“Do you think we’ll ever have grandchildren?” she asked.