2008 Dodge Avenger Performance
Under the hood, the 2008 Dodge Avenger provides two different powertrain options that correspond to its trim levels. The base SE and SXT models have a 2.4-liter 173-horsepower inline four-cylinder World Engine with dual variable valve timing. The highest performer, the R/T, boasts a 3.5-liter 235-horsepower V6. Fuel economy is considered a strength for most, but just mediocre by others. The base model is rated by the EPA for 21 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway in front-wheel drive. The R/T all-wheel drive model is rated for 15 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway.
An overwhelming majority find the base engine lacking. Consumer Guide says the "struggles in passing and merging situations, though handles around-town driving adequately." Edmunds notes, "The Avenger is a timid performer. If you're going to pass that semitruck on a two-lane road, you'll want to plan ahead and be prepared for the slightly raucous noise coming from the other side of the firewall. But it'll get the job done."
Car and Driver says the R/T's engine "is thoroughly up to the task of getting the Avenger up to speed," but notes it's "still no match for the gutsy six-cylinder variants of the Nissan Altima or Toyota Camry." But Motor Trend finds the V6 "makes the car spirited and light on its feet" and MSN calls it "fairly potent" before noting, "I expected a faster 65-75 mph passing time and generally more highway punch."
A four-speed automatic transmission is standard for the SE and SXT, while the R/T comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. Reviewers appreciate the six-speed, which Automobile Magazine says "is smooth and fast-reacting, especially in manual mode." The says the clutchless shifting, called Auto Stick, is "responsive." But Consumer Guide finds the six-speed's delayed downshifts "complicate passing efforts."
One bright spot among the criticism is the quiet cabin. Edmunds says, "Dodge has done a good job at quelling road noise, even on this most basic of Avengers." Others still say the base powertrain itself is "slightly-too-noisy," in Road and Track's words. Car and Driver writes the base setup is "noisy and rather lethargic -- no surprise considering the Avenger's 3400-pound base curb weight."
Handling and Braking
Test drivers are more complimentary of the Avenger's handling than its powertrain combinations. MSN says, "The test Avenger with V6 had exemplary road poise for a car in its price range, and I was surprised at how well-managed the body motions and suspension workings were." Car and Driver reports, "The highway is where the Avenger is at its best. The ride is comfortable and the cabin is admirably quiet, thanks in no small part to the stiff structure -- roughly 60 percent stiffer than the outgoing Stratus." The Avenger's structure is identical to the 2007 Chrysler Sebring's and also forms the basis for the Dodge Caliber. It features four-wheel independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and multilink rear suspension, which the Detroit News says "stuck to the road like Spiderman to a wall" in R/X sport suspension trim.
But The Truth About Cars is one of the most vocal critics of the handling. "Push this dreary driving street rod towards the extremes," the review notes, "and the 17" wheels … and chassis loses its composure like a paranoid schizophrenic at a UFO convention." Reviewers are more pleased with the R/T's "reasonably fun" handling, which has "stiffer springs and shocks and, especially, damping, which gives it a kind of Honda Accord feel," according to Motor Trend.
The Avenger's speed-proportional power rack-and-pinion steering is "especially confidence-inspiring with good, on-center feel and no loosey-goosey moments," according to MSN and others. But the disc brakes are less well received. The Truth About Cars notes, "The drum and disk binders are a bit of a nightmare. They're initially resistant to the idea of serious stopping, and lack feel once they get with the program." Car and Driver writes "safety-conscious Avenger shoppers should consider that all but the R/T feature drum brakes in the back, and ABS is standard only on the SXT and R/T."
All Wheel Drive
Though the base Avenger comes in front-wheel drive, the R/T model is also available in all-wheel drive for a higher price -- an option that is unique for a mainstream midsize sedan. Though no reviewers comment on their experiences with the system, Car and Driver doesn't expect AWD "will liven performance too much but nonetheless should make the Avenger more appealing to Snowbelt residents."
SE base model
The base Avenger comes with a 2.4-liter 173-horsepower four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve Dual Variable Valve Timing World Engine. It's paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. Steering is power rack-and-pinion.
The SXT is available as either the L package or the M package. The SXT also comes paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. Steering is power rack-and-pinion. A special touring suspension is optional. The L package makes use of the same engine that is used in the SE. The available M Package utilizes a 2.7-liter V6 and adds anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes and front and rear stabilizer bars.
The R/T packs in the most powerful engine, a 3.5-liter 235-horsepower High Output V6 24-valve MPI Engine. It's paired with a six-speed Autostick automatic transmission that provides clutchless manual shifting. The R/T also upgrades to Firm Feel power steering and sport suspension.