2013 Dodge Avenger Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 26, 2013

The 2013 Dodge Avenger has an eye-catching design and is well-equipped, but it failed to provide an inspiring driving experience.

The 2013 Dodge Avenger stands out as refreshingly different, design-wise, yet in most other respects it falls woefully short in a class of high-achievers. It's grown further from rental-only territory and closer to becoming a worthy competitor for the cars in the segment, certainly, but essentially, as we say with the closely related Chrysler 200, it's a case of too little, too late.

Within the past several years, Chrysler has given it a new V-6, a retuned suspension, and a mostly new interior. It's undoubtedly better than it was before, but models introduced in recent years like the new Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima, along with the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima introduced a couple of years ago, have kept the competition tough.

What we're relatively sure of is that, especially after a mild retouch a couple of years ago, the Avenger's exterior looks attractive and stands out. It's a smaller take on the design of the large Charger sedan, and it has a lock on brand unity that few small cars carry over from their successful big siblings. The big crosshair grille instantly identitfies it as a Dodge, but it's the upkick at the rear fenders that really connect it to the Charger—and give it just a hint of muscle. Inside, Dodge gave the cabin appointments a little more polish a couple of years ago, with some better detailing and soft-touch materials around the dash, but the lower half of the dash was mostly left untouched. And in general, the look neither has the premium look of the Charger or even the detailed, sporty look of the new Dart cabin.

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For most everyday buyers, the 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder and four-speed automatic should be skipped right over and left to the rental fleets. The four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic—the default combination throughout most of the rest of the model line—is quite perky, but there's a bit too much coarseness at times. Otherwise, the 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that's optional is a vast upgrade, with a strong, smooth demeanor. Most of the time, the six-speed automatic is a good companion, with smooth shifts under full-throttle acceleration, but in lighter-duty driving there's some shuddering and indecision. Also, the V-6 has a bit of an issue with torque steer. The Avenger has old-fashioned hydraulic power steering, and a lower ride height in front than in back; together they give it decent road manners and feedback, but it's not happy and taut at most speeds.

The 2013 Avenger can look deceptively small compared to some of the newer mid-size designs, with their elongated rooflines, but it's arguably about the same size as a Sonata or Optima. Front seats are comfortable and a bit on the wide side, but they lack much back support; in back there's enough legroom, although the mini-Charger roofline can make it feel a bit confining. Entry and exit can be an issue in the back seat, too, thanks to high sills and a low roofline.

Safety has been an areas where the Avenger doesn't disappoint. It's an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, and it comes with curtain airbags and stability control. On the other hand, with the roofline blocking visibility, there's no rearview camera or blind-spot monitor.

Dodge has reduced prices on the top-of-the-line R/T model, and it's added leather and heated seats to the SXT options list for 2013. The base Avenger SE includes air conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; 17-inch wheels; a split-folding rear seat; and cloth upholstery, but it's the only model in the lineup to be saddled with a four-speed automatic. The SXT adds a power driver's seat, 17-inch alloys, fog lamps, leather trim, automatic climate control, heated mirrors, and more. A Bluetooth hands-free interface is lacking from much of the lineup, but Satellite radio and a USB port are standard or optional on all models, and a navigation system is now offered on the Avenger, as is a Boston Acoustics premium sound system.

For 2013, there's also an enhanced Rallye appearance group that brings 18-inch alloy wheels, black-bezel headlamps, a body-color grille, rear spoiler, and available black-and-red cloth interior.

7

2013 Dodge Avenger

Styling

The 2013 Dodge Avenger creates interest by aping the larger Charger sedan from the outside, but its interior feels less inspired.

What we're relatively sure of is that, especially after a mild retouch a couple of years ago, the Avenger's exterior looks attractive and stands out. It's a smaller take on the design of the large Charger sedan, and it has a lock on brand unity that few small cars carry over from their successful big siblings.

The big crosshair grille instantly identitfies it as a Dodge, but it's the upkick at the rear fenders that really connect it to the Charger—and give it just a hint of muscle. Inside, Dodge gave the cabin appointments a little more polish a couple of years ago, with some better detailing and soft-touch materials around the dash, but the lower half of the dash was mostly left untouched. And in general, the look neither has the premium look of the Charger or even the detailed, sporty look of the new Dart cabin.

6

2013 Dodge Avenger

Performance

A smooth V-6 and six-speed automatic transmissions are promising fundamentals, but the Avenger lacks driving enjoyment.

The 2013 Dodge Avenger manages to deliver specs and numbers that are entirely competitive in this class, but in the end its performance just isn't very inspired.

For most everyday buyers, the 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder and four-speed automatic should be skipped right over and left to the rental fleets. The four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic—the default combination throughout most of the rest of the model line—is quite perky, but there's a bit too much coarseness at times. Otherwise, the 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that's optional is a vast upgrade, with a strong, smooth demeanor. Most of the time, the six-speed automatic is a good companion, with smooth shifts under full-throttle acceleration, but in lighter-duty driving there's some shuddering and indecision.

Also, the V-6 has a bit of an issue with torque steer. The Avenger has old-fashioned hydraulic power steering, and a lower ride height in front than in back; together they give it decent road manners and feedback, but it's not happy and taut at most speeds.

7

2013 Dodge Avenger

Comfort & Quality

The 2013 Dodge Avenger is quite roomy but not all that refined.

The 2013 Avenger can look deceptively small compared to some of the newer mid-size designs, with their elongated rooflines, but it's arguably about the same size as a Sonata or Optima.

With flat, rather wide front seats, as well as plenty of headroom and legroom, there's space for a wide range of body type, but a lack of side support. Back seats are a bit flat, but contoured like those of most other mid-sizers, with enough legroom for adults and just enough headroom--although you might need to bow your head for entry and exit.

But the Avenger's tall shoulders and high beltline--designed to mimic those of the larger Charger to some degree--definitely have their cost, making the back seat more of a Dramamine zone than the back seat in sedans with a taller, airier greenhouse, like a Sonata. Dark trim most everywhere inside save for the upholstery enhances the more confining feel.

The Avenger's trunk is on the small side of the scale, but we'd guess it to be large enough for most family needs.

Ride quality is for the most part quite good in the 2013 Avenger; four cylinder models tend to ride better of the two, while V-6 models are a bit pitchier, yet quiet and refined in highway cruising.
8

2013 Dodge Avenger

Safety

Good safety ratings, a sound structure, and a good set of features rank the 2013 Dodge Avenger as a safe pick among mid-size sedans.

Safety has been an areas where the 2013 Dodge Avenger doesn't disappoint. It's been an IIHS Top Safety Pick, and it comes with curtain airbags and stability control.

The Avenger has done well in crash tests; it's earned four-star scores overall in federal-government NCAP tests (with four-star scores for both frontal and side impact tests); and it earns the new Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)--even though it achieves an 'acceptable' rating in the new small-overlap frontal test.

All Avenger models include dual front, side and curtain airbags, plus anti-lock brakes, stability control, and active headrests.

There's one pretty serious issue, however; the roofline and thick rear pillar can block visibility, and there's no rearview camera or blind-spot monitor.

9

2013 Dodge Avenger

Features

The 2013 Avenger piles on the value with a long list of features, although it's missing Bluetooth at the base level.

The 2013 Dodge Avenger is offered in SE, SXT, and R/T models. Since SE models include the old-tech four-speed automatic transmission and are geared mainly as a price leader for fleets, we recommend avoiding that model. But SXT models offer a good value, and Dodge has lowered priced on the sporty R/T for 2013.

The base Avenger SE includes air conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; 17-inch wheels; a split-folding rear seat; and cloth upholstery, but it's the only model in the lineup to be saddled with a four-speed automatic.

SXT models add (in addition to the better six-speed automatic paired with either engine) a power driver's seat, 17-inch alloys, fog lamps, leather trim, automatic climate control, heated mirrors, and more. A Bluetooth hands-free interface is lacking from much of the lineup, but Satellite radio and a USB port are standard or optional on all models, and a navigation system is now offered on the Avenger, as is a Boston Acoustic premium sound system.

Top-of-the-line R/T models are priced $500 lower for 2013 and get a number of performance appearance cues plus a stiffer suspension, special accented and red-stitched cloth seats (or an all-black interior), red ambient lighting, special red accent stitching throughout, and the Boston Acoustic sound system. Available exclusively on the R/T is a Uconnect Voice Command system that includes a 6.5-inch display, Bluetooth streaming audio, twin USB ports, and navigation with real-time traffic functions.

For 2013, there's also an enhanced Rallye appearance group that brings 18-inch alloy wheels, black-bezel headlamps, a body-color grille, rear spoiler, and available black-and-red cloth interior.

7

2013 Dodge Avenger

Fuel Economy

Compared to other mid-size sedans, the 2013 Dodge Avenger has disappointing gas mileage numbers.

At 21 mpg city, 30 highway with the base four-cylinder engine, the 2013 Dodge Avenger lands near the back of the pack.

The same goes for versions with the Pentastar V-6, at 19/29--though we've noted numbers in the low twenties in spirited driving.

With the SXT model you upgrade to the six-speed automatic with the four-cylinder. That's more responsive and agreeable, and it achieves better real-world results. Oddly, it's actually rated 1 mpg lower in the EPA city test (but 1 mpg higher on the highway), for a rating of 20/31 altogether.

As such, the 2013 Avenger is no standout, and not a good choice for those who want to make a green choice among mid-size sedans.

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7.4
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Styling 7.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
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