2009 Dodge Avenger R/TPosted on April 11th, 2009
Mid-sized sport sedan appeals to active lifestyles
By Nina Russin
Two years ago, the Avenger replaced the Stratus as Dodge’s mid-sized entry. Mid-sized sedans are the auto industry’s bread and butter: they account for a third of all new car sales.
Having said that, it’s no surprise that the segment includes some best sellers: the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima among them. While annual sales of 1.9 million units sounds like a big number, gaining market share within the mid-sized segment is a formidable challenge.
Dodge’s strategy is to play up its strengths: stand-out styling and exceptional interior packaging. From its crosshair grille to the fat rear spoiler, the Avenger is not a face to get lost in the crowd. Unique comfort and convenience features such heated and cooled cupholders, stain-resistant fabric, Mygig infotainment system and rear seat DVD set the Avenger apart from the crowd.
While sedans lag behind crossovers and sport-utility vehicles in terms of cargo capability, a rear pass-through and available fold-flat front passenger seat give the Avenger the type of versatility buyers with active lifestyles look for.
Three available engines with front or all-wheel drive
The Avenger is Dodge’s first mid-sized car to offer all-wheel drive, enhancing its wet weather performance. Buyers can choose from three engines: a 2.4-liter four cylinder, 2.7-liter flex-fuel V6 and 3.5-liter V6. The 2.4 and 2.7-liter engines come with four-speed automatic transmissions: the 3.5-liter V6 is mated to a six-speed automatic with manual gear selection.
The test car is the Avenger R/T with the 235-horsepower V6 and six-speed automatic. Average highway fuel economy is 27 miles-per-gallon: three miles-per-gallon less than the thrifty four-cylinder. The trade-off is more muscle. The V6 produces 62 more horsepower and 66 more foot-pounds of torque than the four-banger. A taller first gear gives the R/T much better launch characteristics, while large overdrive gears make the most of its fuel economy while cruising.
The R/T is the most upscale of three available grades: the only model with available all-wheel drive. The front-wheel drive test car comes with standard 18-inch wheels as compared to 16-inch rims on the base model, a four-wheel independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, and four-wheel, four-channel antilock brakes.
Base price is $25,415, not including a $740 destination charge. Two option packages add leather seating, electronic stability program, traction control, navigation and audio upgrade, bringing the price as tested to $30,640.
Having driven the Avenger with the smaller six-cylinder engine, I’d recommend the high-output V6. While it isn’t quite as thrifty at the gas pump, performance is considerably better. Drivers who commute on crowded urban highways will appreciate the bigger engine’s low-end torque. It makes it easier to merge into high-speed traffic, and to pass other cars at speed on the highway.
The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, with no tendency to hunt. At wide open throttle, the transmission downshifts without producing excessive shift shock.
While its narrow greenhouse enhances the Avenger’s exterior styling, it doesn’t do much for the car’s visibility. There are large blind spots in the rear corners, and the thick B pillar obstructs visibility to the left side.
Speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering provides plenty of assist for maneuvering through parking lots, while maintaining a positive on-center feel at speed. As front-wheel drive cars go, the front-to-rear weight balance is pretty good. I didn’t dive into any decreasing radius turns, but I didn’t notice any tendency to understeer during normal driving conditions.
The four-wheel disc brakes do a good job of stopping the car in a firm, linear fashion. My fuel economy during the test drive was as good, or better than the EPA estimates. The key to maintaining good gas mileage is to keep the engine speed at or below 2000 rpm. It’s hard to do that with the Avenger in stop-and-go traffic, but fairly easy to maintain while cruising.
As an athlete, I’d prefer Dodge’s antimicrobial fabric upholstery to the leather in the test car: it’s stain repellent and cooler during the hot Phoenix summers. Buyers who prefer a more upscale look should find the leather trim to their liking. The same option package includes a couple of important safety features: electronic stability program and traction control.
I’d like to see electronic stability program as a standard feature on all new cars because it gives the driver much better control during emergency evasive maneuvers. On a similar note, the R/T is the only Avenger to come standard with four-wheel disc brakes and antilock braking.
On the other hand, I applaud Dodge designers for the standard chill zone bin that keeps up to four, 12-ounce cans cool. Ditto for the heated and cooled cupholders included in the premium option package.
Standard remote start on the test car allows drivers to turn on the climate control before entering the car: something anyone who has experienced a Chicago winter or Phoenix summer will appreciate. The uconnect phone that comes with the navigation option package adds Bluetooth interface. The hard drive adds real-time traffic alerts and rerouting.
Redundant steering wheel controls allow the driver to program audio channels without taking his eyes off the road: the tilt and telescoping wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view.
Satellite radio is a great feature for anyone who spends lots of time behind the wheel, providing commercial-free music, news, sports, and weather.
Designers did an excellent job of including 12-volt outlets and a USB port for electronic devices. Both first and second-row passengers have plenty of pockets and cupholders at their disposal. Overhead LED lights over both rows illuminate the interior at night.
Outboard passengers should have plenty of legroom in the second row. The large floor tunnel makes it all but impossible for anyone to sit in the middle position, though it will work for a child safety seat.
The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor. I have stuffed my mountain bike into the back of the Avenger with the front wheel removed. But it wasn’t easy: the chain got caught on the lip of the trunk, and it was a tight squeeze to get the bike inside.
The Avenger comes with front, side and side curtain airbags. All Chrysler cars come with a lifetime powertrain warranty, including free roadside assistance for the first three years or 36,000 miles.
Chrysler builds the Avenger at its Sterling, Heights, Michigan assembly plant.
Likes: Sporty exterior styling and a versatile interior with unique chill zone beverage holder, heated and cooled cupholders. The high-output V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission give the Avenger ample power for commuting on crowded urban highways.
Dislike: Poor rear visibility due to thick B and C pillars and a narrow greenhouse.
Model: Avenger R/T
Base price: $25,415
As tested: $30,640
Horsepower: 235 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 232 lbs.-ft @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 16/27 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $740 destination charge.
One response to “2009 Dodge Avenger R/T”
I think its a little small, this won’t get much attention.
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