In the world of the American sedans, there are many different levels of quality. These levels are clearly defined, as some are terrible, some are bad, and a few are decent. There are a couple that are good, but not many, and that’s something that we hate to say because the midsize sedans from Japan have gotten a bit dull over the years.
In the good category, we have the Ford Fusion. It looks good, drives well, but it suffers from a bad transmission. The Chevrolet Malibu is decent. It’s a start in the right direction, but not quite there yet. Then we come to the Dodge Avenger. For many years, this car was just appalling, a word that we don’t often use to describe a car, but in this situation it works quite well.
For 2011, Dodge has redone the Avenger in the hopes that it can climb out of the cellar and compete with the Fusion and the many other Japanese sedans.
Hit the jump to read on.
The overall look of the Avenger hasn’t changed much, but it never looked that bad to begin with. Very minor adjustments have been made to car. The lower front fascia has been redone and it looks far better than it ever has. The chrome grille stands out, especially in the sunlight and the headlights are just normal, nothing wraparound or anything special like that.
Around back, the taillights have been reworked with new LED lights. Overall, the rear of the car is classic Dodge. It has a little bit of Sebring in it with the crease across the top of the rear fascia. Dual exhausts top off the aggressive look of the car, as does the rear spoiler. Thankfully the Avenger ditched the chunky design elements of the current model.
The interior has been drastically redone and it looks much better than it ever has. The seats appear to be soft and supportive, but by no means are they sporty. Dodge ordered new cloth and leather material for the seats, which are now appointed with more cushioning and retuned base springs.
The dash is basic, with silver bits surrounding the air vents and the gauge cluster. The navigation and entertainment system look to be the same uConnect system that we got with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Further features include ambient lighting, voice command, a USB port, navigation, Bluetooth, and a hard drive with Gracenote music identification.
Everything about the interior has a quality look to it, but pictures only do so much. We need to touch and feel our way around before we can give a final answer.
The engine options in the old Avenger provided as much power as a scooter with as much noise as a Harley Davidson. For the 2011 year, Dodge has reworked the base model and added their hyped V6.
The base Avenger will get Dodge’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder motor that will develop 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. That engine will be connected to a six-speed automatic transmission, no more four-speed from the eightieth century.
If you crank it up a bit, you’ll get the highly praised Pentastar V6. This 3.6-liter motor will put out 283 horsepower with 260 pound-feet of torque that is sure to make your kids in the back sick under hard acceleration. This motor will be connected to a six-speed auto as well.
We expect fuel economy to improve slightly for the respective four- and six-cylinder engines for the new model year.
Engineers took the opportunity to give the suspension an overhaul, adding new components and revising the overall geometry, and thank goodness they did. The old Avenger had massive amounts of road noise and was very hard, yet soft in the corners at the same time.
The front and rear track grows an inch to 62.8 inches, while ride height drops 0.47 inch in the front and 0.24 inch out back. The standard tire width expands from 215 millimeters to 225 millimeters, giving the Avenger more rubber to put to the ground, not to mention more grip when using that V6 motor.
Dodge claims that 26 of the Avenger’s 30 different suspension bushings have been overhauled. This should result in less body roll, an enhanced steering feel, and a more involved drive. Let’s just hope it works.
There are so many cars that will compete with the Avenger that it’s hard to name them all. You got the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Suzuki Kizashi, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, and the Subaru Impreza.
Out of all those, we would take the Sonata and the Kizashi and we doubt if the Avenger will be able to come close in terms of looks, driving experience, and reliability, but one never knows. What we do know is that the Dodge will have some serious straight-line performance with that new V6 under the hood.
The Accord and Camry have grown fat over the years and the Dodge will surely be able to outperform them, but in terms of practicability and reliability, the Japanese remain the leaders.
The real question is will the Avenger be able match their American counterparts. Well, by the sound of things it might overtake the Malibu, but the Fusion sure is good. We’ll have to wait and see how those two compare to each other when the Dodge goes on sale.
The improved Dodge is set to arrive at Dodge dealers later this year at a starting price of $19,245, about $1,000 lower than last year’s model.