- Clean interior design
- Distinctive look
- Strong, smooth V-6
- V-6 has torque steer
- Rough-shifting automatic transmission
- Unrefined experience, overall
The 2014 Dodge Avenger looks great and comes with a long list of features, but it's just not rewarding to spend time behind the wheel.
The 2014 Dodge Avenger, now out of production, was the brand's last mid-size sedan. The last of the Avengers wasn't particularly competitive in a ruthlessly Darwinian market for mid-size four-doors that saw the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Nissan Altima trounce it in sales, among others.
Tha Avenger was last updated way back in the 2011 model year, and it bears the same blocky sheetmetal with which it debuted for 2008. The disappearance of the Avenger will likely be mourned only by Dodge dealers left to fill its segment with either pricey versions of the not-all-that-successful Dart front-wheel-drive compact sedan or the lowest end of the large, powerful, rear-wheel-drive Charger sport sedan.
A recent change in focus means that Dodge will become a sporty specialty brand, and Chrysler the mass-market make. So while there's an all-new and much improved 2015 Chrysler 200 now hitting dealerships, there will be no Dodge equivalent. If you want a mid-size Dodge sedan, find yourself one of the last Avengers--and prepare to keep it for a while.
At least the 2014 Avenger stands out from the crowd; its design does its best to echo the full-size Charger sedan. Although many details are similar--from its cross-hair grille to the kicked-up "shoulder" ahead of the rear fender--its front-wheel-drive proportions don't work as well as those of the rear-wheel-drive Charger. The Avenger carries a hint of the Charger muscle in its lines, but the similarity is more visual than functional.
Inside, the mid-size Dodge is arguably about the same size as a Sonata or an Optima, despite its slab-sided and upright lines. 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. 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.
The 2011 update gave the Avenger its excellent and powerful Chrysler Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 engine, along with a much nicer interior and a retuned suspension. But four years later, against almost entirely redesigned competition, it's still sadly an example of "too little, too late."
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.
Dodge has reduced prices on the top-of-the-line R/T model; it 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.
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.
2014 Dodge Avenger
An uninspired interior lets the Dodge Avenger down; the exterior's a nice knock-off of the larger Charger.
In our opinion, the Avenger stands out in a crowd with attractive design, thanks to its styling refresh a couple years ago. There are just enough pieces of its larger sibling, the Charger, there to make the Avenger feel at home in the current Dodge lineup, which is a challenge for so many other small cars and their brands.
Dodge's crosshair grille is an instant identifier for the brand, but it's really the Coke-bottle fenders that tie the Avenger to the Charger–and even hint to some small amount 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.
2014 Dodge Avenger
There's not much fun in the way the Avenger drives, but acceleration is strong on V-6 versions.
While the 2014 Dodge Avenger looks competitive with its segment on paper, the performance just doesn't feel all that inspired.
We'd recommend that shoppers leave the 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with the four-speed automatic for the rental fleets–choose that model with the six-speed automatic instead. It's zippy enough, though the engine feels coarse at times.
If you're looking for more performance, the 283-hp 3.6-liter V-6 is a huge upgrade in smoothness and demeanor. The six-speed automatic works well here, too, especially with hard acceleration, but stop-and-go traffic can leave it shuddering at times.
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.
2014 Dodge Avenger
Comfort & Quality
Space isn't the issue in the Avenger--it's the quality of the seats and trim that's the problem.
While the 2014 Avenger may look smaller than many of the other midsize sedans on the market, it's actually about the same size as an Optima or Sonata.
Ride quality is for the most part quite good in the 2014 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.
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.
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.
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.
2014 Dodge Avenger
Safety scores have been good in the Avenger, despite its advancing age.
With exception to some rear outward visibility issues, the 2014 Dodge Avenger doesn't disappoint in the category of safety.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it a uniform four stars out of five, not only as an overall rating but also for frontal crash, side crash, and rollover safety. And the 2014 Avenger is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) again this year, even though it achieves just an 'Acceptable' rating (one notch below the top 'Good') in the new and tougher small-overlap frontal test.
All Avenger models include dual front, side and curtain airbags, plus anti-lock brakes, stability control, and active headrests. It doesn't offer either a rear-vew camera or a blind-spot alert system, both options it could use to compensate for the large rear three-quarter pillars that block much of the driver's rearward vision.
2014 Dodge Avenger
The Avenger comes with a great standard set of features, though it omits Bluetooth from the party.
There are three trims available on the 2014 Dodge Avenger–SE, SXT and R/T–though we'd recommend avoiding the SE model. However, the R/T models get some of Dodge's sporty accessories, and the SXT model makes for a solid value.
Top-of-the-line R/T models 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.
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.
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.
2014 Dodge Avenger
Gas mileage is a major disappointment in the mid-size Avenger, even with the four-cylinder engine.
If you're looking for a green- or budget-conscious midsize sedan, the 2014 Dodge Avenger isn't one of the best choices on the market.
Base SE models with the old four-speed automatic transmission are rated at 24 mpg combined (21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway), placing them near the very back of the pack.
With the SXT model you upgrade to the six-speed automatic with the four-cylinder. While it's more responsive and agreeable, its real-world results are generally better--but its EPA rating stays the same, at 24 mpg combined. Oddly, it's actually rated 1 mpg lower in the EPA city test, at 20 mpg, but 1 mpg higher on the highway, at 31 mpg.