Preview: 2008 Dodge Avenger
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Dodge re-enters the popular midsize sedan market once occupied by its Stratus with its 2008 Dodge Avenger, which looks much like a smaller version of the large Dodge Charger but is roomy and has available all-wheel drive.
The Avenger is aggressively priced at $18,220-$24,870. Most Avengers come with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is offered for the top-line R/T version, which has the most powerful engine.
This new Dodge shares powertrains and underpinning with DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Sebring sedan, redesigned for 2007. The Avenger is supposed to provide more value than such popular cars as the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion—although it's an open question if many Honda or Nissan shoppers will visit Dodge showrooms.
Marginal Base Engine
The R/T has a fairly potent 3.5-liter V6. It produces 235 horsepower and provides much stronger acceleration than the 4-cylinder, although I expected a faster 65-75 mph passing time and generally more highway punch. The R/T costs $22,870 with front-wheel drive and $24,870 with all-wheel drive.
In between the SE and R/T is the $19,120 SXT trim level, which comes with the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. But it's available with an optional 2.7-liter 189-horsepower V6. That engine costs $1,350 and comes with a "Touring" suspension and anti-lock all-disc brakes. Good deal, there.
The 2.7 V6 provides an estimated 19 city and 27 highway and needs only 87-octane fuel.
The 4-cylinder and 2.7 V6 work with a 4-speed automatic transmission, but the 3.5 V6 shoots power through a more modern 6-speed automatic with manual-shift capability.
The SXT adds a power driver's seat, anti-lock brakes, fold-flat front passenger seatback for long cargo and wider tires on 17-inch (vs. 16-inch) alloy wheels for better traction.
Top Ranked R/T
In keeping with its racy image, the R/T also has a sport suspension, with front/rear stabilizer bars, dual exhausts, anti-lock all-disc brakes and wider tires on 18-inch wheels.
The all-wheel-drive R/T deletes the sport suspension, but adds traction control and an anti-skid system.
The fairly wide array of options include a dashboard beverage cooler, power sunroof, navigation system, remote engine start, leather upholstery, upgraded sound systems, heated front seats, DVD entertainment and a 20-gigabyte hard drive that can hold music or picture files.
A test front-wheel-drive Avenger R/T had accurate power steering, although I didn't notice its "firm feel" feature listed on the window sticker. The sport suspension provided a compliant ride, and the brake pedal had a good feel.
Handling was fairly sharp. With smaller tires and less rigid suspensions, handling of other Avengers is slightly softer.
Dressing Up Interior
The front bucket seats provide good support, and gauges can be quickly read. Controls are easily reached, and climate controls are large. However, the center parking brake lever partially gets in the way of the twin front console cupholders.
The roomy trunk has a wide, but rather high, opening. Split rear seatbacks fold forward and sit flat to enlarge the cargo area. The trunk lid pops up well out of the way on twin struts, but there's no interior pull-down feature such as a handle to prevent hands from getting dirty on outside sheet metal.
The Charger has sold well, and there's no reason why the Avenger shouldn't be a decent seller although it's in a highly competitive market.