The Dodge Avenger shores up DaimlerChrysler's midsize sedan lineup. Introduced for 2008, the Avenger succeeds the Stratus, and like the Stratus it plays a sportier second fiddle to Chrysler's Sebring sedan. The Sebring was redesigned for 2007, and it shares underpinnings with the Avenger. Both cars compete against best-sellers like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Trim levels include the SE, midlevel SXT and sporty R/T. Unadorned Avengers will use Chrysler's World Engine, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that's used in a range of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles. Other engines include a 2.7-liter V-6 and a 3.5-liter V-6. Front-wheel drive is standard, while the R/T has optional all-wheel drive.
The Avenger trades the Sebring's sleeper styling for a bolder grille with Dodge's iconic crosshairs. The rear end looks much like the one on the full-size Charger, while the side profile draws elements from the compact Caliber hatchback. Up front, the Avenger SE includes a black grille, while the SXT and R/T have chrome grilles. The R/T also includes fog lights.
Wheel choices range from 16-inch steel wheels on the SE to 18-inch alloy rims on the R/T. At 190.9 inches long, the Avenger is about even with the Accord and 1.7 inches longer than the Camry.
Inside, the cabin trades the Sebring's metallic textures for varied shades of plastic. Dodge's Chill Zone, a feature introduced in the Caliber, allows drinks to be cooled by air-conditioning vents in a covered storage box atop the glove compartment. It's standard on all Avengers. Other standard features include air conditioning, cruise control, and power windows and door locks.
The SXT adds a power driver's seat and stain-resistant upholstery, among other things, while the R/T includes automatic climate control, steering-wheel audio controls and more. A heated and cooled cupholder — an unusual feature in today's car biz — is optional, as are heated leather seats. Several luxury features offered elsewhere in the segment, like a power passenger seat and dual-zone climate control, are missing.
A CD stereo is standard, but buyers can upgrade to Chrysler's MyGig system, which allows storage of up to 20GB of music, pictures and voice messages that can be played through the Avenger's navigation system. A rear-seat DVD system is also optional.
A 60/40-split folding rear seat accommodates longer items from the trunk. For even more oversized cargo, a fold-flat passenger seat is optional in the Avenger SE and standard elsewhere. With 100.9 cubic feet of cabin volume, the Avenger slightly trails the Accord (102.7) and Camry (101.4).
The Avenger SE and SXT include a 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Optional on the SXT is a 2.7-liter V-6 that makes 189 hp and can run on gasoline or ethanol-based E85. Both the four-cylinder and 2.7-liter V-6 use a four-speed automatic transmission.
The R/T has a 235-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. It teams with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows are standard. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, however, are optional — something many competitors include standard. An electronic stability system is also optional.