2008 Dodge Avenger R/T
AutoWeek | Updated: 05/29/07, 3:06 pm et
KOVACH: I like the looks of this car. This Avenger wears a kind of metallic orange color, called sunburst, and looks a bit like its Mopar muscle-car ancestors. What I liked best was the roar of the engine when you put your foot to it. I took it to redline (around 6200 rpm), and it gave a good surge of power. The steering feels well weighted, the interior looks sporty, the seats are cool and comfortable, the stereo offers easy-to-use controls and the chrome wheels are sharp.
BLAHNIK: At first glance, I had a hard time telling this apart from the Charger. I think Chrysler’s cars are all starting to morph into each other too much. From the front, the car could even be a Magnum, and the interior uses the same gray that I’ve seen in every other Chrysler for the past couple of years. I like the two-tone seats; they give the car a bit of a sporty look on the inside. And the interior LED lighting was sweet—it gives off a bit of a cool blue tint.
As for driving it, the Avenger is fast enough, but it didn’t inspire me much. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was the R/T version until after I’d parked the car and looked at the trunk. For an R/T, I just want more: more styling and more fun.
WONG: I agree with Kovach on the car’s looks. This is way better-looking than its Chrysler Sebring counterpart, which is hideous. With the typical Dodge front end and rear quarter-panels that mimic the Charger’s, it looks aggressive for a midsize sedan.
The interior is unmistakably Dodge/Chrysler, which is not an entirely bad thing. I found all the controls simple and easy to navigate, but, like Blahnik, I am tired of the gray plastic trim. I found the seats flat; they don’t offer nearly enough support. The cool box is a neat and handy feature, and the heated/cooled cupholder is nice to see in a car in this class. But the LED interior lights were bright, so much so that a passenger commented they were brighter than the headlights.
My biggest disappointment was with the engine and transmission. While the engine offers enough power, it’s a raspy unit. Worse is the transmission, which is geared weirdly and is constantly hunting—I even thought it was a CVT for a second. At least the ride was smooth and well damped.
PAVIA-RAUCHMAN: I agree that the Avenger looks like a Chrysler, and I think that’s a good thing. This car most definitely shows its heritage, with a little bit of Charger and even some 300 in its exterior.
I found the stand-out color really added to the sporty feel of the Avenger, and I liked its higher-than-usual, almost crossover-height beltline.
The car is a lot roomier inside than it looks from the outside. There’s plenty of legroom, front and back, no matter where the front seats are positioned.
The Avenger has a few nice amenities. The little cooler, placed above the glovebox, held four soft-drink cans. And the rear-seat video game system is very cool. I drove a few 16-year-old boys three blocks to help do some yard work—I know they wished we were embarking on a road trip so they could just play the games and skip the work. And they were all in agreement: They like the Avenger’s looks.
KEEBLER: I had the Avenger for two nights and drove it around town and for my commute to and from work. At home, I parked it where no one could see it. I was embarrassed for it.
I found this car completely atrocious in every area. (I recently was heard in the office saying, “There’s no such thing as a crap car,” but I may take that back.)
First of all, since everyone else who drove it commented on its looks, all I can say is, “ugh.” That orange paint is hideous, especially in combination with the silver-and-black interior. It only highlights the wide and irregular gaps around doors and trunk.
Inside was nearly as bad, very outdated in look and feel. I could refer to K-cars here, I really could. The only thing I liked was the perforated leather on the seats. I didn’t use the cool box. I didn’t use the video system. I barely used the radio. Who cares about the goodies when the real meat of the car is so low in protein?
That meat would be the engine and transmission. Wong describes the engine as raspy, and I totally agree. He also says the transmission hunts and is geared weirdly. Hear, hear. The clunking when shifting into park or reverse or drive or neutral became so predictable, I would wince in anticipation. The awkward action and gating of the shifter made things strangely difficult. At speed, although the ride was fairly smooth and road noise well isolated, I could feel the gear-hunting going on.
The one and only thing that impressed me about the Avenger was the trunk, which is huge and goes back forever.
GRITZINGER: Put me on the side that gives the car high marks for exterior appearance but is left wanting by the overall package. I love the mini-Charger look—I think the proportions are excellent considering they took a big, rear-drive, muscle-car style, sized it down significantly and made it into a front driver.
The interior, especially in the light of day, is a serious shortcoming, however. There’s a toy factory worth of plastic in there—the dashboard alone looks like it was lifted directly from the much larger Jeep Grand Cherokee and plugged in here. The armrests are way too wide and hard, and the exposed seat mount bolts are just not up to today’s interior trim standards. At least it’s all fairly functional—and the cooler box is a good feature. Sadly, it only looks good at night under the dome lights—maybe that’s the intention.
The powertrain is another bummer. There’s so much thrashing coming from under the hood that it sounds like a caged animal. Meanwhile, the transmission does so much hunting I thought I was on safari, and there’s way too much clunking and crashing going on. I also noted that the brakes sometimes grabbed on the driver’s side front, but at least that eventually went away.
Too bad the flaws are there in a $28,000 car with such a stylish wrapper. Wouldn’t it be great to re-do this car as a rear-driver with an SRT Hemi under the hood?
FLORADAY: I’m with Wendy, the sheetmetal doesn’t do it for me. Wong says it looks better than the Sebring, which is good, but if your target is a corporate cousin instead of the competition, there are serious issues in your product-planning department. I don’t like the orange paint, but somehow it looks right on a Dodge. If the same color covered, say, a BMW or Ferrari, I’d probably vomit, but something about it screams Chrysler, and not in a bad way, just in a distinct way.
The interior is a galactic disaster. It may be a touch above a Hyundai or Kia, but it falls way short of anything else from Detroit—excepting the Sebring—or Japan. The two-tone interior and acres of cheap-feeling plastic are a disgrace for the base price, but a travesty at nearly $29k. One nice surprise was the auto-up windows. I’ve been in vehicles that hit the $50k mark that only offer auto-down windows. This is a small thing but one I appreciate. I wish all auto windows worked in both directions.
I did like the radio. It sounds great, is easy to use and doesn’t look bad. It was perfect for drowning out the strange clunking noise coming from the front-right corner and the terrible screeching of tires that occurred every time I had the wheel turned and applied throttle. Seriously, I did enjoy the radio. And I love the wheel-mounted controls. Chrysler may have the best wheel mounted controls in the biz. It’s easy to change the radio frequency, source and volume without looking down from the road, just as it should be.
The engine seemed fine to me. Not terribly powerful, but there was a bit of torque steer and enough squawking of tires that I didn’t want for more power until I had to merge with traffic on the expressway. The six-speed auto is a good idea, but the shifts aren’t exactly class-leading, and the actual shifter felt misadjusted. It takes serious effort to move it, and then it essentially clicks into position.
I experienced some strange clunking in the front-right corner. It almost felt like a bad U-joint or a CV shaft starting to go out. It mostly happened when turning from a stop. There were a few good clunks and then some acceleration. I didn’t notice it at speed, but when slowing from 60 mph to a stop in traffic, the car pulled to the left pretty hard. With only 5000 miles on the clock, something like this shouldn’t be happening.