Car reviews - Dodge - Avenger - sedan range
Bold, confident styling, great value for money, full suite of safety gear, comfortable ride and competent handling
Room for improvement
Dozy performance of 2.4 doesn’t match expectations, hard to read instrument cluster, non-supportive seats
17 Aug 2007
FOR those who don’t know, The Avengers is a team of Marvel comic super heroes including Hulk, Wasp and Captain America.
The group of sketched characters now has to share its name with a Dodge car that is bravely taking on mighty Japanese enemies that have ruled the mid-sized sedan segment for some time.
The Dodge Avenger may not wear its underpants on the outside, but it is on an important mission to snatch some sales from opponents which have the special power of being able to sell themselves in large numbers.
Its biggest weapon is its testosterone-fuelled exterior styling, which consists of pumped-out guards, muscular shoulder lines and that brutal square nose.
The Avenger looks so tough that if it was involved in any type of sport it would constantly be tested for steroids.
That’s great, because although Toyota's hip new Camry and the Mazda6 stand out more than their forebears, the bland mid-sized sedan segment is not currently overloaded with testosterone.
Some people will be happy with the muscle-bound exterior, especially when the starter car costs less than $30,000, but others will expect the styling to be matched by performance.
Whoever makes that assumption will be disappointed, at least for now.
We were only able to drive the larger 125kW/220Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder at the launch and while it is able to get the job done most of the time, it certainly isn’t a lively drive.
Coupled with the four-speed automatic, it really laboured up steeper hills and simply didn’t have enough punch.
It's a fairly drowsy engine in this car and has to be worked hard if you want to get anywhere in a hurry.
That’s not to say it is a dog. If you don’t expect the engine to match the exterior styling then the engine will probably be adequate for most conditions.
We are not quite sure if that will be the case with the 110kW/190Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder that we were not able to sample on the launch.
Dodge said its supply of the less powerful Avengers had not been prepared in time.
We can’t say for sure without having driven the engine, but the figures suggest it will be even more pedestrian than the 2.4-litre.
While we can predict the 2.0-litre will be slower than a wet week, it is also right to assume the 2.7-litre V6 Avenger will be a lot more fun when it arrives next January with 137kW and 256Nm.
The 2.4-litre’s four-speed automatic is adequate rather than astounding.
It has a tiptronic mode, which means you can at least stop it from changing up when you are trying to push hard to overtake or make it up a hill.
This tester would much prefer this automatic over the continuously variable transmission that is the only automatic gearbox option on other Chrysler Group models to use the 2.4-litre World Engine.
Our test drive on the outskirts of Queenstown in New Zealand not only revealed that the 2.4-litre engine is a bit disappointing when it comes to performance, but also that Avenger could indeed handle a much more potent engine.
This is a very confident car with an excellent ride and very good handling.
Dodge fitted the Australian Avenger with the Euro suspension setting, which is quite comfortable, without giving up body control.
The Avenger sits fairly flat in the turns and responds quite well, yet its suspension is quite compliant and absorbs some rather nasty bumps with ease.
Customers who have to drive on poorly maintained country roads, or pot-holed city streets for that matter, are likely to appreciate this tuning.
The steering has been given a firm feel and there is a reasonable amount of feedback.
It all makes you wonder how well this car would perform with a spicy engine under the bonnet.
The brakes are pretty good, although the anchors in one of the test cars started to fade at the bottom of a very long and arduous descent, but to be fair the hill was so steep that there were signs suggesting motorists test their brakes.
Interior space is good, with ample legroom and headroom for front and rear passengers.
The boot is on par for this size of vehicle and it has split/folding rear seats so you can carry longer items.
Neither the SX or SXT seats are the most comfortable. You tend to sit on both the leather trimmed SXT seats and also the fabric seats in the SX, but at least you tend not to slide around on the SX seats, which are made from a durable stain-resistant material.
That said, there is something nice about heated seats in winter.
Four adults can sit comfortably, but the middle rear seat back is so hard that it is almost unusable except for short journeys. This is largely because of the fold-down armrest that flips back into the seatback. At least it features two cup-holders.
The interior quality is not the greatest in the Avenger and some of the plastic surfaces don’t quite match those found in its Honda and Toyota rivals.
Another poor design feature is the gloss white-backed instrument cluster, which may look cool with a sort of iPod plastic look, but is actually pretty hard to read, especially when you are trying to stick bang on 100km/h.
There are some nice interior features that should please buyers including the chilled bin to keep drinks cool and the map lights in the roof that can swivel around, much like the reading lights in an aeroplane.
Unfortunately there were also some squeaks and rattles in some of the test cars.
Overall, the Avenger is a competent mid-sized sedan that offers good value for money.
It might have the exterior styling of a super hero and pin-sharp pricing togo with it, but under its suit of steel the Avenger is more like its cardigan-wearing rivals than you think.
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