When it comes to performance, the 2008 Dodge Avenger is a tale of the haves and the have-nots.
Three different models of the 2008 Dodge Avenger are offered, ranging from very simple to luxurious and sporty. The base SE and mid-level SXT come with a 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, while the top R/T model includes a 235-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. In between is a 189-horsepower, 2.7-liter flex-fuel-compatible V-6 that's optional on the SXT.
The 232-horsepower V-6 in the Avenger R/T is "thoroughly up to the task of getting the Avenger up to speed," according to Car and Driver. In fact, reviewers are unanimous in their praise for the top-of-the-line engine options in the Avenger. Watch out for that step down to the base 2.4-liter engine on the Avenger SE and SXT, though, because it's a big one. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com note that although the Dodge Avenger base engine will serve adequately for driving around town, it is, in Edmund's words, "sluggish and excessively noisy at highway speeds." Road & Track says "the slightly-too-noisy 2.4-liter inline-4 World Engine...produces...173 hp and 166 lb.-ft. of torque"; the "hotted up version, sporting the 3.5-liter six will make 235 HP and 232 lb.-ft. of twist," according to Autoblog. The intermediate engine’s far better than the four-cylinder too: “Refinement still isn't a strong point,” Edmunds warns, “but with this engine, the Avenger feels much stronger during highway maneuvers.”
The lower-end engine options on the 2008 Dodge Avenger are linked to four-speed automatic transmissions that can't quite compare to the transmissions found on other cars in the Avenger's segment. Kelley Blue Book finds that Dodge Avenger "acceleration isn't as effortless, upshifts aren't as smooth and highway cruising isn't quite as relaxed" in the base Avenger as on the segment leaders. While still far from perfect, the "more sophisticated six-speed automatic transmission" that links this 2008 Dodge V-6 to the wheels does provide a performance improvement over the four-speed, according to Edmunds. Automobile says "the six-speed automatic is smooth and fast-reacting, especially in manual mode." All-wheel drive is a new option on R/T models this year.
Mileage figures aren't stellar here. ConsumerGuide tests showed that "a 4-cylinder SXT averaged 23.5 mpg," while the "front-drive R/T averaged a disappointing 17.7 mpg...[the] AWD R/T didn't fare much better, averaging 18.2 mpg."
On the handling side of the performance equation, the 2008 Avenger is, befitting its mid-size sedan segment, largely unremarkable. Road & Track gives a thumbs-up for the "soft, comfortable ride with well-weighted steering," but others find fault with the Dodge Avenger's body roll and tendency to break free in corners. ConsumerGuide notes that "handing is compromised by artificial feeling steering and surprising body lean in corners...R/T models demonstrate somewhat improved steering feel and better overall grip but fall short of sporty pretensions, even with all-wheel drive." Edmunds suggests that the "reason to get the R/T is its upgraded suspension tuning, which provides more responsive and secure handling on back roads, along with a composed highway ride." Cars.com compares it unfavorably to its competition: "Avenger R/T doesn't have the reflexes of a Mazda6 S or a Nissan Altima SE...the structure is solid, but the steering doesn't have a performance feel, and the expected understeer isn't as easy to overcome as it is in the new Altima SE."