2008 Dodge Avenger SXTPosted on June 29th, 2008
Mid-sized sedan with flex-fuel capability
By Nina Russin
The mid-sized Dodge Avenger rolled out last year, replacing the outgoing Stratus sedan. In order to make it competitive, engineers equipped the Avenger with some appealing powertrain options: three engines including one that is flex fuel capable, an available six-speed automatic transmission, and available all-wheel drive.
The name, “Avenger,” conjures up images of edgy styling and muscle car performance: two attributes the new Dodge sadly falls short of. This isn’t to say that the Avenger is a bad car; rather that it feels a bit anemic when its designers intended it to be anything but.
The test car is the SXT grade with the 2.7 liter, flex fuel engine. The engine and sport suspension are an option, adding $1350 to the car’s $19,520 base sticker price. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard on all but the 3.5-liter V-6, which gets a six-speed automatic. A gate shifter on the four-speed gearbox lets the driver downshift to third or low gear range, versus manual gear selection on the six-speed.
The E85 designation means that the car can run on gas containing up to eighty-five percent ethanol. Ethanol, made largely from corn, is a sustainable alternative to conventional gas. The problem with E85 is that it’s not widely available outside the Midwest, it’s more expensive than conventional gas, and produces poorer fuel economy. The recent floods that wiped out most of the nation’s corn crops probably won’t help matters.
The 186 horsepower engine has adequate power: just not an overabundance of it. Acceleration is a plain vanilla experience. Average fuel economy using conventional gasoline is 22 miles per gallon: about 27 miles per gallon on the highway.
A rack-and-pinion steering system provides good feedback at a variety of speeds, though response is rather soft. Optional 18-inch wheels give the Avenger a large footprint, keeping it flatter in the corners. The option package ($550) also upgrades the brakes from front discs and rear drums to four-wheel discs with four-channel antilock braking.
Visibility to the front of the car is limited, due to a tall instrument panel that obstructs forward vision. I had to raise the driver’s seat up several inches to get a clear view of the road ahead. Side mirrors do a pretty good job of compensating for blind spots created by thick rear pillars, though the pillars make it harder to back in and out of parking spots.
The Avenger’s biggest asset is its interior. It’s spacious, comfortable, and remarkably versatile for a mid-sized sedan. Standard stain resistant fabric makes life a lot easier for parents and active adults.
Both front seats have plenty of head, leg and shoulder room. A standard tilt and telescoping steering wheel allows smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. Front seat heaters, heated side mirrors and remote start are part of a convenience option package ($550).
The back seats are also surprisingly roomy. The tunnel through the floor limits legroom in the middle position, but two average adults should be pretty comfortable in the outboard positions.
I was pleasantly surprised to find LED reading lamps for both rows of passengers. The lamps are part of a option package that also adds a power sunroof and illuminated vanity mirrors ($935).
Two cupholders in the floor console are big enough for water bottles. The front cupholder can heat beverages up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, or cool them down to 35 degrees. The rear doors have molded bottle holders as well as map pockets.
A spacious glovebox can easily hold a purse or small pack. There is no bin beneath the center console armrest, but a large bin at the base of the center stack will hold a bunch of compact discs. A smaller cubby to the left of the gauge cluster is perfect for cell phones or PDAs. A 12-volt power point at the base of the center stack recharges electronic devices on the go.
Both second-row seats fold flat, extending the trunk floor for large cargo. With the seats folded flat, the Avenger meets our bicycle friendly standards. I was able to fit my mountain bike in back with the front wheel removed. Moving the stubby tires over the threshold between the trunk and pass-though was a two-person job: a lighter road bike would be less of a challenge.
The front passenger seat folds flat to further extend the cargo floor. A hard surface on the seatback can also function as a work station.
The MyGIG multimedia system is a hard disc drive that allows drivers to download tunes and photos. Play lists and photos are displayed on a screen in the center stack. A discount on the $850 option brings the price down to $200. The standard audio system includes an AM/FM radio, CD player and MP3 jack, with a year of free Sirius satellite radio service.
Coming in August: Mobile WiFi
Chrysler just announced a new wireless internet service that will turn the car into a portable hot spot. The dealer-installed option costs $449 plus installation, with availability beginning in August.
The router box is a secure WiFi and 3G connection, with a range of about 100 feet. It is compatible with all current Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles. There is a $35 service activation fee as well as a $29/month service fee.
The Avenger comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Antilock brakes and electronic stability program are available as options.
New Dodge Avengers are rolling off the line at Chrysler’s Sterling, Michigan assembly plant.
Likes: Spacious, versatile interior with stain-resistant upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated and chilled cupholder, and a rear seat pass-though that makes the sedan bicycle friendly.
Dislikes: Lackluster performance. Wide rear pillar obstructs visibility pulling in and out of parking spots.
Model: Avenger SXT
Base price: $23,820
As tested: $23,820
Horsepower: 186 Hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 192 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Optional
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/29 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base sticker price does not include a $690 delivery charge.
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