Dodge has a challenge with its refreshed 2011 Dodge Avenger mid-size sedan: convince American consumers that the car is worth considering at a dealership as well as at the rental car stand. The automaker hopes that the Avenger, a car that has relied on fleet sales, will satisfy a greater percentage of buyers in the popular mid-size four-door segment.
Numerous changes have been made to the Dodge Avenger for the 2011 model year, but you might not realize this simply by glancing at a 2011 model beside last year's car. That's because Dodge has, for the most part, retained the "mini-Charger" look that needs no major stylistic fixing. Upgrades on the 2011 Avenger include a better interior, new available V-6 engine, suspension improvements, and a quieter cabin. If you've always admired the front-wheel-drive Avenger's looks but balked at the thought of owning a car that's dynamically behind class leaders, it could be time for a second look. While the 2011 Avenger hasn't leapt to the front of the mid-size sedan pack, the Dodge is nevertheless more of a contender than it's ever been.
The Avenger is a sedan-only Dodge that is offered with a four- and six-cylinder engine. The four-cylinder engine is a carryover, but Dodge says the engine has been recalibrated. The I-4 is mated to a four- and new six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is 21/30 mpg city/highway with the four-speed and 20/31 mpg with the six-speed that is likely to be the volume model. Power on the 2.4-liter four-cylinder model is rated 173 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 166 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The four-cylinder uses 87 octane while the V-6 recommends 89 octane but will accept 87 octane fuel.
The powertrain that really injects some life into the Avenger is the Pentastar V-6 that Chrysler has been introducing in everything from the Chrysler Town & Country to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. In this Avenger, the 3.6-liter V-6 produces 283 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. EPA-rated efficiency is respectable for this powerful V-6 mated to the six-speed automatic transmission: 19/29 mpg city/highway. In other words, if you can afford the $1795 price of the V-6 over the I-4, go for it. Prices for the Avenger start at $20,000 and top out in the high $20,000 range, like most mid-size sedans. One superficial detail that is in contrast to most midsizers is the Avenger's availability of bright orange paint.
You wouldn't buy a car for its Mango Tango Pearl Coat orange exterior paint, right? Dynamically, the 2011 Avenger now has more precise steering plus a comfortable and communicative ride, according to Motor Trend magazine.
"Chrysler's chassis tweaks produce a very fun sedan," the magazine's editors said.
Of course, this refers to the tested V-6 model, which sprinted from 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds. All models will benefit from the 45 new sound-deadening treatments. The Express, Mainstreet, Heat, and Lux trim levels are already in showrooms, leaving just the R/T performance sedan to roll into dealerships in the spring of 2011. The Avenger R/T - a 2012 model - starts with a regular V-6 model. No, there's no manual transmission, but along with the six-speed automatic unit and mileage that nearly reaches 30 mpg on the highway, the Avenger R/T has a few interior changes and, more importantly, a retuned suspension.
From a safety standpoint, the Avenger is a good bet if you trust crash test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS has deemed the Dodge Avenger a Top Safety Pick for 2011, joining the Chrysler 200 sedan, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Ford Fusion, among others. The NHTSA hasn't yet tested a 2011 Avenger, but a 2010 model has five-star ratings (out of a possible five) in the front driver, front passenger, and side driver categories with four stars in the side passenger and rollover tests.
The Avenger isn't a class-leading car but, for the more adventurous mid-size sedan consumers, this is one Dodge that's finally worthy of consideration.