• Dec 8, 2010
An Old Dog Learns A Few New Tricks

2011 Dodge Avenger - Click above for high-res image gallery

Chrysler has chosen vastly different fates for its Sebring and the Dodge Avenger, despite the two essentially being identical vehicles. While the Sebring underwent a complete personality makeover for 2011 and emerged with new sheetmetal and a new nameplate to match, the Avenger was left to soldier on with more conservative tweaks. The Dodge version of Chrysler's midsize sedan still wears the same basic body lines as before, masking over the significant adjustments to the vehicle's interior, drivetrain and suspension. While the Chrysler 200 may be stealing (okay, borrowing) the show, the 2011 Avenger is no less improved, at least when equipped with the company's new 3.6-liter V6 engine.

With 283 horsepower and respectable fuel economy, the new six-cylinder turns the Avenger into a vehicle that no longer takes its driving cues from capital punishment, though lower-rung trim levels don't fare as well. Buyers who opt for the old 2.4-liter four-cylinder will be met with visions from the vehicle's less-than-award-winning past, including plenty of engine vibration and fuel economy that's not on par with new hardware coming out from the competition. All this begs the question: Is there room for both the Dodge Avenger and the Chrysler 200 under the new company tent?

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Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

The 2011 Dodge Avenger has eschewed the full nose-job of its Chrysler cousin in favor of a simple fascia tweak. The new front bumper cap is slightly rounder compared to that of the 2010 model and it accommodates the redesigned Dodge corporate grille well. With that simple change, the Avenger now looks a bit more feminine, you but you won't hear us complaining. The rear now wears a similarly subtle redesign and is joined by new LED taillights.

We aren't exactly wild about the new lamp design, but they fall in line with similar units on vehicles like the 2011 Dodge Journey. There's something to be said for brand cohesiveness. We would have preferred to see the back of the Avenger receive a quick cleanup akin to that of the 200. In our estimation, tricks like shaving the vehicle's badges and using simple design tweaks to integrate the trunk lid and the tail lights would go a long way toward making the Avenger a more attractive vehicle.

2011 Dodge Avenger side view2011 Dodge Avenger front view2011 Dodge Avenger rear view

The good news is that once you're indoors, the differences between last year's Avenger and the 2011 become much more apparent, starting with the dashboard. The cheap-feeling expanses of hard plastic have been done away with and replaced by a very snappy-looking single-piece unit. Swaddled in soft-touch materials, both the door panels and the instrument panel go a long way to improve the perceived quality of the cabin. Contrasting stitching on the armrests and gauge binnacle is a thoughtful accent and make the pieces feel considerably more high-quality, while the sedan's instruments have been replaced with more legible units that are easy on the eyes.

In base trim, the Avenger comes with the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder and four-speed automatic as last year. Since our mothers always taught us to keep our traps shut if we couldn't come up with something nice to say, we'll just skip commenting on this rental-spec drivetrain combination altogether. Our tester was thankfully equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission, and while it's a huge improvement over the four-cog unit, this transmission still struggles to make up for the shortfalls of the relatively thirsty four-cylinder. With just 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque, the engine slurps down fuel at the rate of around 31 miles per gallon on the highway. While it does manage to crest the 30-mpg mark, there are larger, heavier mid-size sedans on the market today achieving mid-30s with more modern four cylinders.

2011 Dodge Avenger interior2011 Dodge Avenger front seats2011 Dodge Avenger speedometer2011 Dodge Avenger engine

The 2011 Avenger isn't a lightweight by any means, and the four-cylinder engine has a hard time producing enough grunt to boot the sedan up to speed. The six-speed transmission spends its time switching through gears to keep the engine revs high, resulting in plenty of engine noise and vibration at interstate speeds.

Of course, all of this can be avoided by simply opting for the very capable 3.6-liter V6. While we weren't able to grab any time behind the wheel of a six-cylinder Avenger, its driving characteristics ought to be nearly identical to the 2011 Chrysler 200 Limited that we drove recently, as both cars make use of the same suspension upgrades, including a quicker-ratio steering rack, stiffer bushings, springs and dampers as well as larger roll bars. Even with all of those enhancements, the Avenger still feels soft and more easily unsettled compared to competition from Hyundai, Nissan and Chevrolet.

2011 Dodge Avenger rear 3/4 view2011 Dodge Avenger grille2011 Dodge Avenger wheel detail2011 Dodge Avenger side detail

Given the blatant similarities between the 200 and the Avenger, Yours Truly would just as soon drive the Chrysler in V6 trim were the choice limited to those two models. Both carry identical price tags, with the Avenger starting at $19,245 plus destination, though with its freshened sheetmetal, this author finds the 200 to be a marginally more attractive package.

In any case, if you have your heart set on going Mopar, take our advice and step up to the Avenger Heat. At $23,745, it rolls with the Pentastar V6 as standard equipment. With 29 mpg highway and over 100 additional horsepower compared to the four-cylinder, the price premium is well worth it.



Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 64 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      What an ugly car!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've been driving an Avenger R/T rental for the last two weeks while my car is in the shop. Honestly the best feature is the comfort of the seats and that's about it. The suspension is so damned soft it sways more than a decade old LeSabre. The motor while adequate in V6 form is certainly nothing to write home about. Given it's decent torque curve and being wrong wheel drive in conjunction with what is apparently the worlds first slinky based suspension, the Avenger has the horrible habit of losing traction under the lightest acceleration whilst making the driver look like an asshat.

      Somehow the people that designed the interior managed to put a single sharp edge on the console exactly where most driver's knees will contact when resting their leg. Another interior sin is the interior door pulls, they look as if they were freshly lifted from some chromed plastic hell in China, shaped precisely to cradle a grapefruit.

      I might consider buying this car if I had no regard for quality, appearance, driving characteristics and simply needed a vehicle in which to careen into a watery grave off the Pacific coast, otherwise your money is better spent on pretty much any other car in the same price bracket.

      This car is awful.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This looks too ugly to be bland.

      Those bumpers looks sad.
      Gordon
      • 2 Years Ago
      I certainly enjoy my Avenger. Very confortable, good leg and head room, and plenty of V-6 power. I am getting 24 mpg driving around the city and country. Haven't taken any long trips as yet, but there is one planned in the near future. I am very pleased with mine, and encourage others in the market for a midsize car to give the Avenger a trial run.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just a quick re-dux until the D-EVO based cars get here in 2013 which isnt that far away at all.

      They had 2 options, do this to the car or discontinue it until the new one gets here in 2013. Keeping the line running and the dollars coming in seems like the better decision ro me.

      Its a car for people that "just need wheels".
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Avenger is a car for people who "just need wheels" BUT the competitors also offer FAAAAR superior "wheels" for the same amount of money. It gets even worse when you are comparing the base, bargain basement models.

        That is what worries me.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've always liked the Avenger's looks...but then again, I drive a new TL, which I think is sharp and elegant - so let's save all the comments on that tangent. With this Avenger freshening , I credit Dodge for the tidy new interior overhaul and mechanical improvements. I think the exterior update should have been more obvious and involving. However, from Chrysler's financial standpoint, I can understand that there is a cut-off point for investing in restyling & retooling for a soon-to-be outgoing model.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Although the interior is nice, the exterior still looks like it's from the late 90's.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah...just compare this to the new Sonata. I think the Sonata even costs less!
      • 4 Years Ago
      The bumper seems to suffer from severe underbite in that first picture. But maybe its just the angle and lighting or something.
        • 4 Years Ago
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah I'm not sure what they were thinking with that front fascia refresh...definitely preferred the old Avenger front, at least it looked appropriate. I can only assume this was because it's some last-minute refresh that also had to meet newer crash regulations or something, but it's clearly not a great effort.
        I'm not sure why this and the 200 have the exact same base price though...they really should just drop the lower end options from the 200 entirely if Chrysler is supposed to be the upper end brand. A crappy 2.4L motor and 4-speed automatic are not luxurious in the least.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hey people...Dodge redid the suspension,so the looks are similar to the 07-10 Avenger its driving dynamics are totally different !!

      Wonder what the 3.6 does 0-60 in the old 3.5 R/T did 6.5 0-60 !

      I actually think its a good looking car as well,though this base model like all other cars in base form are not the best.

      I rented a Hyundai and Toyota and alot of Honda's in the past and I was not impressed with th imports,the old Avenger was inline with the imports,remember base model cars are well..base.....Cant wait to drive a new Avenger !
      • 4 Years Ago
      Am I the only person who thought the Sebring was better looking than the Avenger? Athough the Sebring was ugly, it was at least distinctive. The Avenger has no redeaming qualities imho when it comes to the exterior
      • 4 Years Ago
      "In any case, if you have your heart set on going Mopar, take our advice and step up to the Avenger Heat."

      It sounds like you are implying that while Dodge is Mopar, Chrysler is not.
      And that is simply not the case; any Chrysler corporation vehicle - Chrysler, Dodge, even Jeep - is be considered a Mopar.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Revision or not, I wouldn't go anywhere near this car. What a pile of crap. This is lipstick on a pig taken to a whole 'nother level.
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