Dodge, Road Test Reviews

2008 Dodge Avenger SXT – Road Test

Dodge has been making a lot of noise about the new Avenger. It’s the first mid-sized passenger car in eight years from this marque, and they’ve added plenty of unique Chrysler touches to make it stand apart from the competition.

If you’re comparing the Avenger to the Neon or the Sundance, DON’T. It’s hard to imagine this car comes from the same manufacturer that gave us the dog they called Omni – remember them? The 2008 Avenger incorporates quality plastics and panels that fit with close tolerances. The seats are comfortable and the fabric covering them is top-notch. The driving position is just like any other new vehicle, as opposed the way you always felt like a stage-coach driver behind the wheel of the Omni.

First Impressions
I love the look of the Avenger – it’s just like a smaller version of the Charger, and more than a few people take a second glance at it. I picked up the bright blue (Dodge calls it: “Marathon Blue Pearl Coat”) Avenger XST on a warm spring day, and when the sun hits this colour it really pops!

The seats are firm and nicely contoured with a fabric called “YES Essentials” that are stain and odor resistant, anti-static and also spill-resistant to help with easy cleaning. When I sat on the seats I thought “hmm very sporty – this looks promising – I hope the car matches the seats.” Alas, this was not the case – but we’ll have more on that later. Firing up the engine and heading off to the city streets, the Avenger felt very responsive and I even squawked the tires unintentionally when leaving the lights. The engine sounded a little louder than I’d expected at less than full-throttle, but once the transmission had shifted into top gear the interior noise levels became eerily quiet.

Jumping onto the freeway, I floored the throttle and got a very raspy-sounding noise from under the hood. My wife later described it as a 4-cylinder trying to sound like a Hemi. Maybe that’s the best way to describe the sound, but once up to a cruising speed it became extremely quiet and subdued. Because it was so quiet it really stood out – even the wind noise was hushed at speeds over 80 mph. The 4-cylinder VVT World Engine was developed through a joint venture between DaimlerChrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai, with each company contributing equally. The Avenger doesn’t feel as powerful as the 173 horsepower would suggest, but it’s no slouch in the giddy-up-and-go department either. Overtaking maneuvers on two-lane roads is completely effortless, as is getting up to freeway speed on the on-ramps.

The leather wrapped steering wheel is a perfect size and both tilts and telescopes. As per usual with Chrysler vehicles lately, audio controls are located on the reverse side of the steering wheel. The instrument panel dials are white and glow a very muted white at night. The steering is perfectly weighted, but the suspension on the other hand didn’t live up to its sporty pretensions and “Sport Appearance Package” on the test vehicle. Driving down back roads with tight bends and twists, I was forever scrubbing off speed going into corners that I wouldn’t normally slow down for. The suspension is definitely set up for those that take a more leisurely approach to driving – the blue-rinse crowd. According to the Dodge press materials – and I quote: “Fear no twist or turn. Avenger deftly balances fluid ride and taut handling with MacPherson Strut Front Suspension and Independent Multi-link Rear Suspension. An isolated front cradle enhances ride quality for a comfortable and quiet ride, while an isolated rear cross member is tuned to provide an optimum balance of ride, handling and noise isolation.” In reality I think it should say: Fear MOST twist and turns! I was caught out a few times when the car didn’t turn as sharply as expected, or it leaned just a bit too much in corners. The SXT gets a touring suspension, while the R/T gets a sport suspension. If it were up to me I’d spend the extra bucks for the R/T – the touring version is way too soft.

Much to my surprise and shock the automatic climate control system was very user-friendly. With 3 large round dials it’s very easy to modulate the temperature and do so without having to take your eyes off the road. The audio system was just as practical, and with the optional Boston Acoustic speakers the sound was terrific. The single-CD/AM/FM/MP3unit comes standard with 6 speakers, an auxiliary powerpoint and a jack for an MP3 player that can be used through the audio system.

There are plenty of storage areas spread throughout the cabin for small items, and there’s a reasonably sized glove box with a separate Chill Zone beverage storage bin on the upper part of the dash which can store up to four cans or bottles in an upright position, and chill to 45 degrees F (7 Celsius). Between the front seats there are also heated and cooled cup holders that can heat up to 140 degrees F (60 Celsius), or cool down to 35 degrees F (2 Celsius). Dodge made a big deal of the “Driver Sunglass Holder” in the brochure and on the spec sheet, however I couldn’t find it anywhere!

Rear seat accommodation is very generous for a car of this size. With a flat floor, there’s plenty of room for three pairs of feet, and the outboard passengers have an abundance of foot space under the front seats. The seat folds 60/40 for additional cargo capacity and the front passenger seat has a hard back which can be folded flat to allow longer items to be transported with ease. Knee and hip room is very generous, with headroom being more than adequate. The 13 cu/ft. trunk is reasonably large for a mid-size car and very square making it extremely useful.

The Avenger comes standard with plenty of safety features such as side curtain airbags, seat-mounted airbags, auto-reverse windows, knee bolsters for front occupants, engine immobilizer, keyless entry and seat belt pre-tensioners.
For more details, pricing and options go to: or

The Conclusion
As a mid-sized 4-door sedan the Avenger is a very good deal considering the standard features and unique available features like the heated/cooled cup holders and the cool box. The seats are very comfortable and supportive, but the chassis and suspension lets the Avenger down terribly. I’d like to try the R/T version to see if that suspension is more to my liking and hopefully it’s just that the SXT is tuned for the less adventurous driver. Passenger comfort is excellent and the trunk space is huge considering the Avenger’s size.

Bumper To Bumper and powertrain warranty for 3 years/36,000-miles. In Canada it’s 3 years/60,000 kms Bumper To Bumper, plus a 5-year/100,000 kms powertrain. Roadside assistance is also included for 3 years 60,000 miles [100,000 kms].
Towing capacity: 1,000 lbs.

Pricing for the 2008 Dodge Avenger SXT
As tested: $21,445 [$27,395 Cdn]
Base price for the Avenger SXT starts at: $20,730 [$23,960 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: U.S. – $675 / Canada – $1,200

Fuel Consumption: [Fuel: Regular]
The 2.4 Litre automatic is rated at 21 mpg City [9.7 L/100 kms] and 30 mpg Highway [6.6 L/100 kms]
I averaged 24 mpg [9.8 L/100km] during 90% highway driving and a much better 27 mpg [8.7 L/100km] during 100% highway.

Looks like a 7/8ths Charger
Extremely quiet at all speeds
Very comfortable seats
Looks great even standing still
Heated/Cooled cup holders
Glove box Cooler

Suspension from an old Cadillac

Would I Spend My Money On It?: 
Nope, but I’ll try the R/T version and see if it’s any better

Back Seat Driver Test: 10 out of 10
“I’m surprised how much room there is back here!” “Plenty of leg room and foot space too.” “The seat back is perfectly angled.”

Immediate Competition:
Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer, Saturn Aura, Toyota Corolla, VW Jetta.

By The Numbers:
Powertrain:       2.4 Litre 4-cylinder VVT engine, 4-speed manual transmission; FWD
Horsepower:    173 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque:             165 @ 4,400 rpm
0-60 mph:        9.3seconds.

10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
8 – Special Features (SatNav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof, etc)

10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls

10 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
5 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
9 – Bang for the $$
9 – Fuel Economy

Total 141 / 150

Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland

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