The Car Connection Dodge Avenger Overview
The Dodge Avenger, discontinued in the spring of 2014, is a mid-size four-door sedan that might well be invisible if it weren't for its appearance in rental-car fleets across the country. With an all-new Chrysler 200 launched for 2015, the Avenger lost its twin under the skin, and so it's been quietly retired and won't be replaced immediately--if ever.
In its later years, the Avenger was clearly uncompetitive with perennial segment leaders like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, not to mention the hard-charging and ambitious second-tier entrants like the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima. While its engine and transmission options were updated, and it received a very mild mid-cycle refresh to its styling, it did not get the full makeover awarded to its sibling the Chrysler 200 (nee Sebring). By the end of its seven-year model life, the Dodge Avenger was outdated and sold almost entirely on price.
Launched in 2008 to replace the old Stratus sedan, the Avenger was 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 was 2014.
The Avenger's bold styling camouflaged an unremarkable sedan that struggles to compete with more refined competitors. Historically, materials and build quality were an issue for the Avenger, and its safety ratings always lagged the competition. In IIHS crash tests, the Avenger scored "good" ratings for front and side protection; the newest models of theearned a four-star rating in Federal tests.
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 two more model years, 2013 and 2014, 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.