As good as it might be, the 2008 Avenger won’t have an easy time making inroads and those responsible for DaimlerChrysler’s Dodge division are acutely aware of this.
Here are the cold, hard facts. The North American mid-size sedan market, a nearly two-million-annual-vehicle category, representing close to one-third of all passenger cars, is already awash in family-focussed fourdoors.
The question is, can the Avenger muscle its way into the crowd and win over sufficient quantities of converts?
If style, content and attitude count for anything, the answer tips to the “yes” side of the ledger.
Unlike its closely related and uniquely designed Chrysler Sebring counterpart, the Dodge Avenger appears to have been patterned after the full-sized Charger, then shrunk to midsize dimens i o n s . From a distance, the two cars are actually hard to tell apart. It’s only when up close and personal that you realize you’re staring at a junior edition of the original, right down to the cross-hair grille, Coke-bottle-style hitch in the rear fenders and distinctive sweep of the roofline.
So the Avenger at least has familiarity going for it, along with a cabin that has plenty of space for five passengers, an attractive. driver-friendly cockpit and a trunk that, while not the largest in its class, can easily accommodate its fair share of valuables. One of the more unique and useful standard interior items is a compartment built into the passengerside dashboard that can chill up to four 12-ounce beverage cans. Also impressive are the optional stain-, smell- and fade-resistant seat fabrics that also possess anti-microbial properties (they don’t tend to harbor bacteria, fungi and other unseen nasties).
Base SE and mid-level SXT Avengers operate with a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Optional on the SXT is a 2.7-liter V6 with 189 horsepower at the ready. This motor can burn both regular gasoline as well as E85, a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gas.
For performance fans, the top-rung R/T delivers the appropriate punch with its 235-horsepower 3.5-liter V6.
A four-speed automatic transmission operates with the four-cylinder and 2.7 V6 powerplants, while a six-speed automatic is included with the 3.5-liter V6.
Selecting the R/T is your gateway to the Avenger’s extracost all-wheel-drive setup, a feature not yet available on the closely related Sebring. This ondemand system, which arrives a bit later in the model year, automatically moves torque to the rear wheels when slippage is detected, such as on ice or snow, and during acceleration between 25 and 65 m.p.h.
The base SE has an extensive equipment list that includes the usual air conditioning and power windows/locks/mirrors plus a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry and six airbags.
The SXT adds 17-inch wheels, anti-lock brakes, chrome grille, eight-way power driver’s seat, fold-flat passenger seat and a premium cloth interior.
The R/T’s content features a sport-tuned suspension, chrome-tipped dual exhaust finishers, fog lights and 18-inch wheels.
Depending on the model, you can add options such as a sunroof, two-tone leather seats, rear-seat DVD entertainment unit and traction and stability control.
Buyers can also replace the standard audio package with the MyGIG “Multimedia Infotainment System” that includes a touch screen or voice commands to operate both the entertainment and communications systems as well as a 20-gigabyte computer hard drive for storing music and photos.
The Avenger is a worthy successor to the now-retired Stratus sedan and in terms of looks and power the vehicle’s symmetry with the rest of the Dodge clan adds an important note of recognition that should resonate with the growing numbers of mid-size car buyers.