Do you remember the last generation Dodge Avenger? If you do, you probably want to forget it. If you don’t, well don’t worry – you aren’t missing anything special. For 2012, Dodge has a refreshed Avenger with a new powertrain and better materials. Is it finally competitive in the midsize segment?
The exterior refresh focuses on the details. The crosshair grille is now more in-line with the rest of the Dodge line-up, while the rear taillights now feature two LED rings. That’s it for the major exterior changes.
Both the overall shape of the exterior, and the greenhouse remain the same. It’s a somewhat ugly greenhouse with a C-pillar design ripped from the last generation Charger, but it doesn’t work well in this application. The problem is, the C-pillar design wasn’t meant for a mid-size car – it was meant for a full-size car. So in the translation, the backseat occupants feel even more claustrophobic and sealed off than in the last generation Charger.
I received mixed comments from people throughout the week, both online and in real life. While most seemed to feel the new Avenger is pretty ugly, a few liked it. One person online went as far as to say it is literally the ugliest car on the road. While I wouldn’t go that far, it isn’t the best looking. It looks like a wannabe last-generation Charger reject. The rear is plain, the greenhouse isn’t great, and the front is livable.
Moving inside to the cabin things get slightly better. The materials have been upgraded significantly. The dash is made of soft material and the doors panels have some padding (though really not much). That’s the good news. Now the bad news is there are still cheap plastics to be found, with a few fit and finish gaps that can easily be spotted.
My main gripe is that I really had a hard time finding a comfortable seating position. The seats were flat with little to no bolstering on the bottoms. When I slid out of the car I would always have my thighs sliding on the hard plastic surrounding the seats. More thigh support is definitely needed.
The greenhouse isn’t just ugly from the exterior, it messes with your view from the interior. The rear C-pillars create large blind spots, and there is quite a bit of space between you and the front windshield. To make things worse, the dash is quite high.
I feel like I’m repeating my take on the exterior. It is better, but still only OK. Though the interior is a much more radical change (read improvement) from the last generation, it still is just class competitive. The Avenger’s interior isn’t anywhere near class leading. The Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima (yes, two Korean cars) both put the Dodge Avenger interior to shame.
The hidden jewel in the updated Avenger is actually the powertrain. The new 3.6-liter V-6 is rated at 283 horsepower and 260 pound feet of torque. The power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic with a self-shifting option.
Let me just say, I really like this engine. It is responsive, has a great sound to it, and it is somehow rated at 19/29 mpg. I averaged 18.8 mpg in the city and 28.1 mpg on the highway. Considering I was cruising at highway speeds with four adults, and a loaded trunk, I would say this is rather impressive.
I also wanted to note the transmission programming. I am so used to every transmission shifting as early as physically possible in an effort to eek out every last mpg. This transmission shifted as if it wanted to make sure you stayed in the main power band. This was a welcome surprise.
My tester had a sticker price of $24,880. That puts it right in the thick of the market for nicely equipped midsize sedans. So is the Avenger finally competitive? I would say it’s competitive, but that’s it. The Avenger is where it needed to be years ago. It’s a fine car that will probably be reliable, but that’s not enough. Good isn’t what sells cars anymore, they need to be great. The Avenger is a fine car, but at the end of the day, the competition is better.
Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Chrysler