Dodge Avenger History
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The Dodge Avenger may be the invisible mid-size four-door sedan. Often found in rental fleets, it's never quite come up to the level of the many tough and seasoned competitors in the segment--including the perennial leaders, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, as well as hard-charging and ambitious second-tier entrants like the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima. Even the Chrysler 200 (nee Sebring), the Avenger's twin under the skin, may earn more awareness than the Dodge--in part because of the memorable "Imported From Detroit" TV ads for the 200.
Launched in 2008 to replace the old Stratus sedan, the Avenger has been steadily updated to make it more competitive following Chrysler's 2009 bankruptcy and takeover by Fiat. Its interior was completely renewed in 2010, it got a new and more powerful V-6 engine in 2011, and a new six-speed automatic transmission in 2012. The car's last model year is likely to be 2014, after which it will be replaced by an entirely new model from the growing Chrysler-Fiat stable.
The Avenger's bold styling camouflages an unremarkable sedan that struggles to compete with more refined competitors. Historically, materials and build quality have been an issue for the Avenger, and its safety ratings have always lagged the competition. In IIHS crash tests, the Avenger scores "good" ratings for front and side protection; the newest models of thehave earned a four-star rating in federal tests.
See our full review of the 2013 Dodge Avenger range for more information, including options, prices, gas-mileage ratings, and specifications.
The Avenger made its 2008 debut with a choice of three engines: a base 2.4-liter four-cylinder came with base cars, while higher-priced versions could be outfitted with either a 2.7-liter V-6 or a 3.5-liter V-6. All-wheel drive was offered for a short time, but has been deleted as Avenger sales have dropped. The Avenger's cabin is spacious, and its chunky styling has some appeal, but it's become a rental-car special because of its uncompetitive handling, acceleration, and general refinement.
For the 2010 model year, the Avenger returned with just two powertrain options. The 173-hp four is among the least pleasing four-cylinders in the Avenger's class, which includes the Ford Fusion and Volkswagen Jetta and the Hyundai Sonata. The smaller V-6 engine has been dropped, leaving the front-drive Avenger with its top engine choice as the 235-hp V-6. With this engine, a sport-shift six-speed automatic is the only transmission offered--and it's got issues, with a hesitation in downshifts. Fuel economy ranges from 21 mpg city, 30 highway, with the four-cylinder to 16/27 mpg with the V-6. Handling on the R/T edition is suitably tight, but other features suffer from a bouncy ride and plenty of road and powertrain noise.
Then 2011 and 2012 both brought some good news. The 2011 Avenger got Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, making 283 horsepower, and it's a vast upgrade in refinement and responsiveness. Likewise, the mid-range SXT four-cylinder model, for 2012, gets a six-speed automatic that helps make the most of the four-cylinder engine. The Avenger was carried over for one more model year into 2013, with only a few minor changes and a few new options, including an enhanced Rallye Appearance package with dark-tinted headlamps and a body-color grille.
Dodge for a short time confused its own market with a bevy of new trim lines, retracting them after just one model year. For instance, the 2011 Avenger was offered as the Express, Heat, Mainstreet and Lux, while the 2012 Avenger was offered in SE, Rallye, R/T and Lux trims.
The nameplate of Avenger actually started life as a two-door coupe built on Mitsubishi underpinnings in an Illinois plant run by the Japanese automaker. That car, sold from 1995 to 2000, offered handsome lines that disguised its origins as a Mitsubishi Galant--or, in Chrysler terms, a Dodge Stratus sedan.
The Avenger is due to be replaced by a model engineered and built in the U.S., but this time borrowing some Fiat components—and using an extended version of the Dodge Dart platform. These models are now expected for the 2015 model year—possibly earlier—and and will include a new nine-speed automatic transmission--not the dual-clutch unit that had at one time been planned as an interim technology.