For those seeking a value-priced midsize sedan with a sprinkling of performance, the Dodge Avenger is a good choice due too sporty looks, an affordable pricetag and a punchy V6 with class-leading power. However, a thirsty four-cylinder engine, small interior and aging platform mean that most other buyers would be well-served to consider one of the Avenger's more modern rivals.
Originally launched for the 2008 model year, the Avenger received a thorough update for 2011 that brought a more refined interior, a potent Pentastar V6 and a re-tuned suspension.
These changes gave the Avenger a competitive cabin with a generous helping of upscale soft-touch materials, plenty of standard features and a simple, pleasing design. There's noticeably less space for rear-seat passengers than other mid-size sedans, though, and expected technology features like Chrysler's latest uConnect infotainment system and a rearview camera are nowhere to be found.
Perhaps the highlight of the Avenger is the optional 3.6-lier Pentastar V6, a smooth and potent mill that pairs with a six-speed automatic produces 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
Unfortunately, most folks looking for a family sedan are more interested in a sensible four-cylinder engine, and in this area the Avenger comes up decidedly short. Its 2.4-liter four makes a middling 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque, but the real problem is fuel economy (or lack thereof): with the archaic standard four-speed automatic, mileage checks in at just 21/30 mpg, while opting for a six-speed automatic nets only a 20/31 mpg rating.
The entry-level Avenger SE includes the four-cylinder/four-speed auto powertrain in addition to A/C, power windows, power locks, keyless entry, cruise control, cloth upholstery, manually-adjustable seats, 17-inch steel wheels with hubcaps and an AM/FM/CD stereo system. An SE V6 package adds the Pentastar motor and 17-inch aluminum wheels, a rear decklid spoiler and dual exhaust with bright tips.
The Avenger SXT brings the six-speed automatic transmission in addition to 17-inch aluminum wheels, automatic headlamps, fog lamps, eight-way power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, six speakers, automatic temperature control, body-color heated exterior mirrors, SiriusXM Radio a trip computer.
Those looking for a sporty driving experience should opt for the Avenger R/T, which includes the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and six-speed automatic transmission along with a sport-minded suspension setup with increased roll stiffness, more aggressive springs, thicker stabilizer bars and increased damping rates. Unique 18-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in more aggressive tires.
To go with its more aggressive suspension package, the Avenger R/T adds a body-colored grille, black headlamp innards and R/T decals outside including "war paint" on the front fenders.
For the interior, Dodge swapped in more aggressive seats wrapped in leather and a fabric it calls "Aunde." A unique gauge cluster with a center-mounted tachometer and a steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather round out the changes inside.
Stand-alone options include a navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity and a sunroof.
The optional Blacktop package adds a host of blacked-out touches. Available on the SXT and SE trim levels, it brings a gloss black grille, dark-tinted headlamp bezels, a body-color spoiler and unique 18-inch wheels finished in black gloss. Inside, black leather seats complete the treatment.
Also available for the SXT and SE is the Rallye Apperance Group, which adds black headlamp bezels, body-color grille trim, a rear spoiler and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Every Avenger leaves the factory with a full range of safety equipment, including dual front, side and side curtain airbags as well as traction and stability control systems.
Shoppers considering the Dodge Avenger should also take a close look a the stylish Ford Fusion, the well-rounded Honda Accord, the fun-to-drive Mazda Mazda6 and the popular Toyota Camry.