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2011 Dodge Avenger
A top-to-bottom makeover breathes new life into Dodge's mid-size family sedan
By Malcolm Gunn
Newly preened, prepped and refreshed, the Dodge Avenger is now ready to step back into the mid-size sedan spotlight.
It has been tough road for the Avenger. The current version that was introduced for the 2008 model year never really caught on with sedan shoppers and was clearly outclassed by higher-quality offerings from Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, Honda and others. Given that North American sales in this segment are expected top two million units this year, it's vital that the Avenger, along with the similarly sized Chrysler 200, get better, and fast.
Certainly the future appears brighter now that the automaker's Fiat-controlled management has updated the Avenger as well as most of the automaker's other offerings with new style, improved cabins and up-to-date powertrains.
Although most of the Avenger's sheetmetal still looks the same and mimics the full size Charger sedan, it now displays a new cross-hair grille set against a honeycomb background. In back there's a new rear fascia and a pair of sharp-looking light-emitting-diode (LED) taillamps.
More noticeable and meaningful changes can be seen inside. The previous Avenger's hard plastic dash and door panels have been replaced with soft-touch materials. In fact, the dash plus the gauge pod, vent openings steering wheel are now borderline sumptuous. And that also goes for the new seats that come with added bolster support in front. The 60:40 split-folding rear bench continues to fold nearly flat as before, and also includes a pass-through opening for transporting longer items such as skis, lumber and gardening tools.
The changes should make the Avenger way more appealing to showroom shoppers where interior appearances can often make or break a sale.
Much effort has also gone into creating a quieter passenger environment with added sound-absorbing material, sound-deadening windshield and thicker side glass.
Dodge has concentrated on turning the Avenger into a better driving car by retuning the suspension for improved ride comfort and reduced body lean while cornering. Additionally, the ride height has been slightly lowered (more at the front than at the rear), steering precision has been improved and the distance separating the left and right wheels (track) has been widened by about an inch.
Pop open the hood and the 173-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder base powerplant returns, but is now attached to the sub-frame using improved engine mounts to reduce vibration.
The newly optional 283-horsepower 3.6-litre V6 can now be had in nearly every Chrysler and Dodge model. Along with delivering close to 50 more horsepower than the previous 235-horse 3.5-litre V6, the 3.6 is also much more fuel efficient in city driving.
A four-speed automatic transmission is standard on the four-cylinder Avenger SE (Canada Value Package and SXT, while a six-speed automatic is optional, but comes standard on the SXT V6 and SXT Plus. These trims will be joined by a new R/T model for the 2012 model year, featuring unique interior/exterior trim, sport-tuned suspension and unique gauge-cluster design.
All Avengers arrive with air conditioning, remote keyless entry and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, while the SXT adds climate control, upgraded audio system, eight-way power driver's seat and 18-inch chrome wheels (17-inch steel rims are standard)
Along with the V6, the SXT Plus improves on the content list with leather-covered seats (heated in front), remote start and Bluetooth short-range wireless connectivity?
Touch-screen audio controls that are included along with a navigation system are optional on the SXT and SXT Plus.
At $21,500, the base Avenger now sells for about $2,900 less than the previous comparable model, something that Chrysler likely felt it had to do to gain some much-needed traction with potential buyers.
With all of the across-the-board improvements, the Avenger's styling still might take some getting used to, but the rest of the package is right on the money.
What you should know: 2011 Dodge Avenger
Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive mid-size sedan
Engines (hp): 2.4-litre DOHC I4 (173); 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (283)
Transmissions: Four-speed automatic; six-speed automatic (opt. on I4, std. on V6).
Market position: Mid-size sedans are the backbone of the auto industry, which makes the category one of the most highly competitive. Chrysler appears committed to improving its sedan sales performance with its upgraded Avenger.
Points: Redesign front and rear styling is a modest improvement; Base four-cylinder engine lags behind competition in fuel economy, but V6 rating is far more impressive; Upgraded interior now one of the best in class; Suspension improvements should also make Avenger more competitive; Avenger and similar Chrysler 200 should become more appealing.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control (opt.).
L/100 km (city/hwy): 9.9/6.7 (2.4, 4 AT)
Base price (incl. destination): $21,500
Base price: $21,550
Popular four-door offered with manual gearbox, plus fuel-sipping hybrid version.
Base price: $26,350
Easy on gas plus excellent road manners makes this a fun-to-drive sedan.
Base price: $25,450
Smooth-running I4 and V6 engines have helped Malibu's popularity.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted June 14, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM