The Dodge Avenger is certainly a vehicle that makes you reevaluate the entry level car market. Starting out at $21,500 the four door mini Charger may seem like a good deal, however after checking enough option boxes to make it a V6 powered Official Passenger Car of NASCAR complete with navigation and a set of stylish 18 inch wheels just like our fully loaded 2009 Avenger SXT, the price creeps up pretty close to the $30,000 mark. The Dodge Avenger is the smallest sedan in the Chrysler lineup and because of that it carries a few styling cues from its larger four door brother, the bold faced Charger, with touches like a squared off front end and bulging fender flares and a solid looking rear end.
Covered in a beautiful coat of Deep Water Blue Pearl paint our Avenger SXT came equipped with stain resistant cloth seats and a 2.7 Liter six cylinder engine mated to a four speed automatic transmission that made 187 HP while returning an estimated 19 MPG around town and as much as 27 MPG on the highway. Heavily optioned with features like a power everything including a sunroof, Chrysler’s Uconnect GPS with Sirius satellite radio, remote start and a cup holder that can either cool or warm its contents depending on what you wish, not to mention the $740 destination charge; a well equipped Avenger like this one will set you back a total of $27,955. Quite a bit more then you would expect to pay for Dodge’s smallest offering.
Continued after the jump.
When we first laid eyes on the Official Passenger Car of NASCAR we were immediately taken in with the pearlescent Deep Water Blue body giving the plain Jane economy car a touch of testosterone and transforming it into a mini muscle car with its bulging fenders, rounded edges and puffed up three box shape. Being the motor sports enthusiasts that we are, the most attractive feature we found were the blistered fender flares that house the 18 inch five spoke rims. We especially liked the hump that runs along the car’s beltline creating a pair of strong shoulders out of the rear quarter panel that gives this little front wheel drive four door the stance of a bona fide wide tire wearing dragster. A look that is only accentuated by the protruding front lip that just out from the bottom of the front bumper and the raised rear wing on top of the deck lid.
As attractive as our SXT was, the compact still looked like it was trying too hard to be something more, in fact the only Avenger to ever catch our attention beforehand was the 2008 concept Avenger Stormtrooper with its white paint scheme highlighted by a few well placed red accents as well as the unique wheels and upgraded lighting. If Chrysler would add a few of these subtle well thought out street racer themes into the production version we could grow to like the little Avenger even more.
As delighted as we were with the outward appearance of our Dodge Avenger SXT, the inside certainly wasn’t anything to write home about, thanks to an overabundant use of cheap plastics and less than desirable vinyl, but the worst part is that the inferior looking interior pieces are shoved right up in your face. This makes it extremely difficult to overlook and even harder to ignore, long live Chrysler’s classic Rubbermaid interior. We would be lying if we reported back that we were anything but disappointed.
Our Avenger SXT’s seats were wrapped in stain resistant black cloth and despite the urge to test them out by heading down to the local 7-Eleven and picking up a Big Gulp, riding around on top of the over padded seats and grabbing a hold of the squishy rimed steering wheel was enough to make us think twice about making the drive. While almost every other surface inside the Avenger is made out of some kind of plastic, Dodge ’s interior design team did manage to dress it up with some shiny trim pieces in a few key places like on the speaker surrounds, door handles, climate control knobs as well as the shifter. Meanwhile every other piece that isn’t black, like the door pulls and center stack are merely painted plastic.
The only redeeming feature inside of the entire Avenger was the colorful navigation display. Chrysler’s Uconnect multimedia GPS system incorporated an AM/FM/Satelite radio with built in six disc DVD/MP3 player, Sirius real time traffic information and a hard disk navigation unit into a well laid out touch screen display right in front of the driver.
Just below that piece of user friendly technology is one of the coolest cup holders in any vehicle we have ever come across, because it can either heat or cool your beverage depending on what you ask it to do as well as a climate controlled soda can holder built into the dash right above the glove box.
Similar to our interior experience, the time we spent behind the wheel of the Avenger was a let down. Possibly the worst part of our Avenger was the power train, made up of a 2.7 Liter 24 Valve V6 that makes 187 HP and 191 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 4 speed automatic transmission. While Chrysler claims that the combination is good for an estimated 19 MPG in the city and 27 MPG at highway speeds, we noticed that on the road it drank like a V8 and felt like a four banger.
Perhaps it was the long spacing between the quartet of cogs but the small six cylinder sounded like it was always working too hard, you would expect anything making that much noise under the hood to be setting a land speed record, and we can reassure you that we were far from it. Yes our Avenger SXT is a forward thinking Flexfuel E85 compatible vehicle, but burning the alternative fuel ethanol is not enough to make us feel good about being green behind the wheel of such a dog.
The Avenger’s drive train also left quite a bit to be desired. Normally you would expect that and economy car would handle like a damp sponge, however the Avenger’s suspension was stiff and the steering was heavy, offering up a bit more resistance than we were used to on turn in for this kind of vehicle. The worst part is that the Avenger didn’t act this way in a sports car riding on rails sort of way either, in fact it was just plain uncomfortable and even a bit annoying.
Why to Buy
The 2009 Dodge Avenger SXT starts at $21,500, but after adding on the extras like Pearl Coat Exterior Paint for $225, the $1,495 Premium Convenience Group that includes A/C, remote start and power windows, $295 for the 18 inch wheels, $425 for the Electronic Stability Program, $1,300 for the 2.7 Liter V6, $775 for the power sunroof, $1,200 for the Uconnect GPS with one year of Sirius Traffic Service, Multimedia Navigation System with GPS, color touch screen display and a hard drive as well as the $740 destination charge; our well equipped Avenger retails for $27,955.
If you just so happen to be the world’s biggest fan of roundy round racing and want to park the official car of NASCAR in your driveway then by all means go buy an Avenger. It’s a fairly attractive economy car and if you can match up the Deep Water Blue Pearl with the 18 inch rims like ours, then you may not regret the purchase quite so much, besides you can spill as much soda on the stain resistant seats as you want without having to worry.
Why Not to Buy
If you are looking for an economy car then our Avenger SXT is nowhere near a best buy. The power plant is impractical, the interior is abhorring and the assortment of options push the asking price for the entry level four door into too high a range. Instead we recommend that you opt for a base Charger SXT with a bigger V6 and a more spacious interior, you know you want to anyways.
Top Speed Final Verdict
After spending some time with the Dodge Avenger SXT we found that the small car tries too hard to be too much, instead Chrysler would be much better off uncluttering their lineup by ditching the entry level four door and putting the money they would be spending into creating an even more fuel efficient Charger. A car they have proven they can sell by the boatload.
"Styling and roominess are reasons to consider the 2009 Dodge Avenger, but otherwise it simply doesn’t stack up."-Yahoo
"The Dodge Avenger SXT is the mainstream version of the car that, for all intents and purposes, looks as though it is a growth-stunted version of the Dodge Charger, even if it doesn’t quite move like one."-Left Lane News
"My vehicle has some defects, both in design and manufacturing. I place a baseball cap over the shifter to prevent sunlight reflections, bad design. The upper front door seals leak air at highway speeds, attempted to have this corrected at the dealership, they said there is nothing to do about it. I find that if I press the seal with my finger about 4 inches below the top of the window the sound of the leak goes away. I recommend not leaving cans of soda in the ChillZone compartment, I have had a few failures of the cans which are likely due to overheating of the cans. The avg. fuel economy indicator shows 1 mpg greater than actual, calculated on long trips."-Edmunds