Automotive

2014 Dodge Avenger SXT

Updated: 2014-02-07T21:12:22Z

By TOM STRONGMAN

The midsize Dodge Avenger’s sloping roofline makes it look a bit like a smaller version of the Charger, especially with the Blacktop package that includes black wheels, a black grille and black headlight bezels. Throw in the optional 283-horsepower V-6 and you’ve got a bargain version of its larger sibling.

The flip side is that the Avenger feels a bit dated. The interior that was updated in 2011 is not on par with the current offerings found in the Chrysler 300, Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee. It does not have the terrific infotainment system and the 8.4-inch touchscreen used in those vehicles.

The Avenger comes in three trim levels – SE, SXT and R/T. Base prices start at $21,590 for the SE and top out at $26,790 for the R/T. The test car, from Chrysler’s press fleet, was an SXT equipped with the Blacktop package and the 3.6-liter V-6.

The Blacktop package includes black wheels, black grille and black headlight bezels and makes the Avenger look like a performance car. You need the optional V-6 and its excellent low-speed throttle response if you want good punch for merging onto the freeway.

Ride and handling got a major improvement in 2011. Engineers redesigned nearly every part of the suspension. The track is one inch wider, the tires are wider and the car has been lowered slightly. The steering feels tighter, the ride is compliant and there is less body lean in turns although the Avenger is not a true sports sedan.

Settling into the cabin is now more comfortable, thanks to upgraded seats and better padding. The heated leather-trimmed seats are worth the extra $400.

The addition of 45 sound-deadening items, including an acoustic glass windshield, laminated side glass, added sound absorbing material throughout the passenger compartment and a new engine mounting system, helped to reduce the interior noise level and make it almost as quiet as the 300.

New ambient lighting enhances the cabin at night, and the steering wheel has fingertip controls for radio, cruise control and a hands-free phone. The UConnect option, fitted to the test car, has voice commands, Bluetooth streaming audio, a remote USB port and a 30-gigabyte hard drive for storing music.

The sloping roofline makes getting into the back seat a challenge for taller folks.

The V-6 drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The six-speed functions well and contributes to good fuel economy but it can’t match the eight- and nine-speed automatics found in other Chrysler products such as the Chrysler 300, Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Avenger scored a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

At the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Chrysler debuted the 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan and while there has been no official indication of whether the Avenger will also be redesigned, it makes sense that a major change is in the offing. How that will occur is open to speculation.

Fiat’s purchase of Chrysler is complete, and the new company is now called Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Price

The base price of the test car was $23,295. Options included leather-trimmed bucket seats, Blacktop package (black wheels, grille and headlamp bezels), 3.6-liter V-6 and navigation system. The sticker price was $26,480.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Tom Strongman’s email address is tom@tomstrongman.com

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