In keeping with Dodge philosophy the Avenger has sharp styling that is both bold and muscular. Whatever else you may think of the car it will be noticed by virtue of its aggressive exterior lines, signature cross hair grille and large quad headlights.
According to Kevin Tourneur, Dodge's senior manager of international projects, the Avenger started with a traditional Ram look, which evolved into a lower and sleeker beast with protruding wheel arches, bigger wheels and muscular rear shoulder development, while maintaining a strong front end. A 'menacing view' was created with aggressive headlight treatment and side hues that borrowed from the American Charger muscle car.
The result is a vehicle with outstanding looks that promises much.
The Avenger competes in the high volume medium sized segment - an arena that Dodge has not contested before. The Avenger is based on the Chrysler Sebring and will challenge the Toyota Camry, Mazda 6, Honda Accord Euro and according to Chrysler Australia chief Gerry Jenkins, may even appeal to potential Commodore and Falcon buyers.
Avenger goes on sale with sharp pricing and a strong arsenal of equipment, full complement of safety aids plus Dodge/Chrysler's exclusive two years of free comprehensive insurance.
What it lacks at this time is a decent engine. At launch Avenger was available with a 2.0-litre VVT petrol engine that promises good economy, although power is a modest 115kW and torque 190Nm. Only the 2.4-litre VVT petrol engine was available at the New Zealand launch drive and while responsive enough around town and in undulating hills, its lack of grunt in steep hills was soon revealed as we climbed steep ranges around Queenstown. Power is 125kW and torque is up to 220Nm for the 2.4-litre but clearly the vehicle struggles to haul a load. The 4-speed auto transmission features in Dodge talk Autostick, which is a sequential mode that allows the driver to manually select gears. Even with this excellent unit, it was necessary to select low gears to climb steep hills. Luckily the engine redeemed itself somewhat on flatter terrain where it motored along nicely and even provided some joy for the driver, handling corners well, with a suspension tuned for local conditions. The modesty of the 2.0-litre and the 2.4-litre petrol engines may deliver economy, but lacklustre performance does no credit to the menacing style of the Avenger that on appearance alone promises lively performance.
The good news is that a 2.7-litre V6 petrol unit is waiting in the wings, and will be offered in January. It will be worth waiting for. A diesel powered version may also be on the cards. The 2.7-litre V6 will be mated to a 6-speed transmission and produces 137kW of power and 256Nm of torque.
Power is delivered via the front wheels and suspension is traditional MacPherson struts at the front and multi-link configuration at the rear arrangement.
Inside the interior is strong on plastics that while unappealing to the eye are probably practical and functional for a young family.
Avenger is available in two trim levels - SX and SXT - although there are a host of optional features available.
Both models however have a full complement of safety features, with ESP, ABS and brake assist, traction control and front, full length side and seat mounted airbags.
Seating is supportive and comfortable with plenty of room for larger adults, even in the 60/40 split rear seat. SX models have Dodge's YES Essentials seat fabric treatment for easy care and maintenance, while leather trimmed SXT model seats (front only) are heated. The Avenger also has a number of innovative features that will appeal to many, and include cup holders that can heat or chill, plus a Chill Zone compartment located above the glovebox that can hold four 500ml cans of drink.
An optional $3,500 multi-media information system MyGig is also available. If features a 16.5cm touch screen, 20GB hard drive and audio/navigation/DVD system that can hold up to about 100 hours of music or 1600 songs. It even allows you to store photos and to choose your own screen saver. Our test car was equipped with MyGig and the clarity and touch screen function were certainly impressive. The SXT specification adds $4,000 over the SX model and adds a 6-disc audio system, upgraded instruments, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, boot lid spoiler, leather seat trim, multi-function steering wheel and of course heating on the two front seats. Generally speaking it is money well spent.
The Avenger will appeal to many buyers and if economy isn't your top priority, I'd wait until the 2.7-litre V6 arrives in January. It rides and handles well and is a well priced package that in 2.4-litre mode just lacks power to accompany its great looks.
Dodge Avenger Specifications
Engine: 2.4-litre 16 valve VVT I-4 petrol engine. (also available 2.0-litre with 115kW /190Nm and, in January 2008, a 2.7-litre V6 with 137kW/256Nm will be available)
Max. power: 125kW @ 6000rpm
Max. torque: 220Nm @ 4500rpm
Performance: 0-100km/h 11 sec
Max. speed 200 km/h
Transmission: Four-speed automatic 'Autostick'
Drivetrain: Front wheel drive
Suspension: 4-wheel independent suspension, MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear
Safety: Electronic stability control; traction control; Brake Assist; front and curtain airbags & front seat side mounted air bags
Steering: Speed proportional, power rack and pinion
Turning circle: 11.1 metres
Brakes: Discs front and rear
Wheels/tyres: Standard SX 17-inch; SXT 18-inch; tyres - SX - 215/60R17 BSW, optional SXT 215/55R18 BSW
Spare wheel: space saver
Dimensions and capacities
LxWxH: 2765 x 4850 x 1843mm
Track: front/rear -1570mm
Overhang: front/rear - 1022/1063mm
Fuel tank: 64 litres
Towing: Petrol 1000kg braked/100kg unbraked
Warranty: 3 years/100,000 kms/ 24 hour Assist
Pricing: SX 2.0-Litre 5-spd manual - $28,290
SX 2.4-litre 4-speed auto - $30,990
SXT 2.4-litre 4-speed auto - $33,990 SXT 2.7-litre V6 - $TBA