2012 Avenger New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Avenger is an honest, straightforward sedan at a good price. In certain respects it's less sophisticated than some competitors, but it's powerful, comfortable and reasonably economical to operate. It's also quiet and pleasant to drive.
A thorough update for the 2011 model year made the Avenger much more competitive in key areas. For 2012, the Avenger model line-up has been revised, replacing super-hero sounding names with five simple alpha-numeric designations, and making prices even more attractive.
Dodge calls Avenger America's most affordable mid-size sedan, and based on current retail prices, we can't disagree. Yet the Avenger isn't just selling price. Both the base four-cylinder engine and the upgrade V6 deliver excellent power and competitive mileage ratings. We might call it a mid-size package with compact value.
Avenger has been styled as a smaller version of Dodge's hot-selling, full-size Charger. It's clean, tightly creased and not bad looking, but it doesn't stand out in any particular way, and certainly not like the Charger. Its basic visual impact is retrograde, and that could appeal to some mid-size buyers.
The Dodge Avenger cabin contributes to a relaxing, pleasant driving experience. The quality of the interior materials isn't the best in the class, but the Avenger is comfortable and the controls are intuitive and easy to use.
The Avenger SE retails for hundreds of dollars less than the next competitive mid-size sedan, and it comes well equipped. Its 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder is strong and smooth, with acceleration performance that's better than adequate. With the 4-speed automatic transmission, the Avenger SE is EPA-rated at 21/30 mpg City/Highway. Avenger SXT models come with more equipment and the 6-speed automatic with the four-cylinder, increasing the EPA Highway rating to 31, for mileage ratings of 20/31 mpg.
New for 2012, Avenger SE V6 upgrades with a 283-hp, 3.6-liter V6 and a 6-speed automatic. It's thousands less than other mid-size V6s, yet it's the most powerful V6 in its class. EPA ratings are 19/29 mpg.
Avenger R/T comes with the V6, a sports suspension and racy stripes and interior treatment. We might call it a contemporary muscle car. Loaded with navigation and the Boston Acoustics audio upgrade, an Avenger R/T we tested barely cracked $27,000.
The Avenger chassis is shared with the Chrysler Sebring, which was designed to be a convertible as well as a sedan, so the chassis is stiff and strong. You'll feel the tightness in both the cabin and handling. Dodge aced the suspension, and both ride quality and cornering response are excellent, benefits of that rigid chassis. The fine balance of comfort and handling contribute significantly to Avenger's appeal.
This mid-size has earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award. Avenger comes standard with six airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.
The front-drive Dodge Avenger sedan is available with four- and six-cylinder engines and two different automatic transmissions. Trim levels have been renamed for 2012, and there are five available.
Avenger SE ($18,995) is powered by a 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower I4, matched to a 4-speed automatic. Avenger SE comes standard with manual air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and remote locks, four-speaker audio with CD, cruise control, rear-window defroster and 17-inch steel wheels with plastic covers. SE options: SiriusXM satellite radio ($195) with one year subscription, Dodge's Uconnect ($360) voice command system with Bluetooth connectivity, and an engine-block heater ($95).
Avenger SE V6 ($21,495) is equipped identically, except that it comes with a 3.6-liter, 283-hp V6 and a 6-speed automatic.
Avenger SXT ($21,495) comes with the four-cylinder, but upgrades to a 6-speed automatic. SXT also upgrades to eight-way power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, six-speaker audio with SiriusXM, automatic temperature control, body-color heated exterior mirrors and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
Avenger SXT Plus comes standard with the V6, premium cloth seats with red stitching, a 6.5-inch touch-screen media center, fog lamps, rear deck lid spoiler and 18-inch aluminum wheels. SXT options include a cold weather package ($295) with heated seats and remote start, a power sunroof ($895) and a Sun/Sound Package ($1,640) that adds the sunroof, GPS navigation and 276-watt Boston Acoustics audio.
Avenger R/T ($25,595) is the sport model, with the V6, firmer suspension, leather-bolstered sport seats and unique graphics inside and out. It comes standard with the cold weather package and Boston Acoustics audio. Options are limited to the sunroof and navigation ($695).
Safety features on all models include multi-stage front air bags, front passenger side-impact airbags, full cabin head-protection curtains, electronic stability control (ESC), four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), active front head restraints and tire-pressure warning. The Avenger is rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.