2009 Dodge Avenger R/T Review and Specs


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2009 Dodge Avenger R/T

MORE: Dodge Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Dodge Buyers Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2009 Dodge Avenger R/T Review and Specs

There's still plenty of life in Chrysler if the 2009 Dodge Avenger is any indication. If the name seems familiar from the mid-90s, only the name is the same. The old Avenger was a joint venture with Mitsubishi, built on the Mitsubishi Eclipse platform. It was replaced by the Dodge Stratus Coupe in 2001, and the new Avenger replaces the Stratus Coupe. But where the old Avenger and the Stratus Coupe were two-door coupes; the current Avenger is a four-door sedan. If that sounds boring and unstylish, it isn't - Avenger II is very much a junior edition of the Dodge Charger in looks, so bland looks are not part of the program.

An early introduction for model year 2008, the Avenger line has been simplified for 2009. Models and options that didn't sell well have been cut for production efficiency - meaning that trim levels have been cut to SXT and R/T; the base-model SE and the SXT with the flex-fuel 2.7-liter V6 are gone. The 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower twincam four-cylinder "World Engine" is now the standard powerplant in both the SXT and R/T models, matched to a four-speed automatic. The 235-hp 3.5-liter V6 is available in the R/T, with a six-speed automatic and AutoStick manual shift mode.

I spent the past week driving a new Avenger R/T with the four-cylinder engine and a few key options, the ESP stability control system and the "Premium Convenience Group" option package of interior upgrades. So-equipped, it was a comfortable and conveniently-sized car, with some unique features including the "Chill Zone"(tm) cooled compartment above the glove box found in all Avengers, a heated or cooled cupholder, functional interior lighting, and a usefully-configurable interior with not merely the expected split-folding rear seat and trunk pass-through but a fold-flat front passenger seat for those times when you may need to carry something long and unwieldy. And as a family sedan, and likely only car for a young, growing family, that need will happen.

But useful features are meaningless if they are not built on a solid base, and it is in the chassis where the Avenger most impressed me. American suspension calibrations have been, to put it as diplomatically as I can, behind the Europeans and Asians for a while. Not here -- in the Avenger, Dodge has a fine combination of ride comfort and handling ability that puts it near the head of its class. The overly-soft and poorly-damped calibration once endemic to Detroit is history, and won't be missed. The Avenger's constriction methods and materials also reduce interior noise levels, for a more pleasant driving experience. And the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is not at all anemic, as its 173 horsepower is a significant increase over the 150 of earlier Chrysler engines of that same capacity. Fuel economy is quite good, too, as I got 26 mpg in mixed city and highway driving.

Don't count Chrysler out.

APPEARANCE: Charger, Junior. What else would you expect? It's not an exact downsized copy, but the Avenger is close enough to its big brother in looks, especially in side view where the muscular shoulder line and wheel arches suggest power and performance beyond the family car norm. Blacked-out B-pillars de-emphasize its four doors, as does the long, semi-fastback roofline. The crosshair grille and the front could only be Dodge, and the quad headlights under plastic fairings give a classic look. Sculpting on the hood is kept to a tasteful minimum. The angular wraparound taillights and chiseled rear styling are also pure contemporary Dodge, and readily identifiable. A small spoiler is standard fare on the R/T.

COMFORT: Inside of the Avenger, you'll find a good amount of space combined with comfortable seats and plenty of useful storage spaces and multiple configuration possibilities, especially in the R/T. Styling is cohesive with the outside, with modern shapes and design cues. In the R/T, leather is standard, with stain-resistant fabric a no-cost option -- which was the case in my test car. Regardless of material, R/T spec means front seat heaters, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and a fold-flat front passenger seat. The steering wheel adjusts for both tilt and reach, an unusual and welcome feature in the Avenger's class. The Chill Zone cooled compartment on the passenger's side of the dash can hold a few drink cans, or keep your lunch cool during the commute. The R/T's movable LED reading lights are useful, as are the automatic temperature control, heated/cooled front cupholder that can be varied between 35 or 140 degrees for cold or hot drinks, and one-touch front windows that are part of the Premium Convenience Group. The R/T's standard audio system handles every modern medium, with AM,FM, and Sirius satellite radio, a 6CD changer that can play MP3 and WMA discs, and an auxiliary jack for an MP3 player. A convenient power point in the tray at the front of the console, under the jack, allows charging of player batteries. The rear seat features very good legroom, with bottle holders in the door pockets -- which front passengers don't get. External struts help preserve luggage in the trunk, although it'll take plenty of luggage to fill it.

SAFETY: The Dodge Avenger surrounds its passengers with a strong central structure made primarily of high-strength steel. Further protection comes from front and rear crumple zones, multi-stage front, front seat-mounted side, and full-length side curtain air bags. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard in the R/T, with the ESP stability control system available.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The high-strength and dual-phase steel unibody structural pieces that add to the Avenger's safety also contribute to its road manners by increasing rigidity and reducing weight. Bonded joints increase strength and crashworthiness, and careful attention to soundproofing materials and techniques results in a quiet interior, a benefit for fatigue reduction on long trips. The fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink suspension is noteworthy for its European tuning, combining great ride comfort with fine maneuverability for a good driving experience. The R/T's four-wheel antilock disc brakes ensure quick and safe stopping.

PERFORMANCE: If, by a cursory examination of specs, the Avenger's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine seems too small for the job, don't believe everything you read. Its 173 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 166 lb-ft of torque (at 4400 rpm) compare favorably with some 3.0-liter V6 engines, and fuel economy, at EPA 21/30 and 26 overall during my week, is better. It's a contemporary twincam, 16-valve aluminum alloy with variable cam phasing on both camshafts for maximum efficiency. Here, it's matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. The torque spread is broad enough that the combination works well, with no problem merging into traffic or accelerating up grades. If more power is needed, the 3.5-liter, 235-hp V6 should take care of that need.

CONCLUSIONS: The Dodge Avenger gives Chrysler a unique presence in the heart of the mid-size family sedan class.

SPECIFICATIONS
2009 Dodge Avenger R/T

Base Price			$ 23,190
Price As Tested 		$ 25,025
Engine Type			DOHC aluminum alloy 16-valve inline
				 4-cylinder with variable cam phasing
				 on both camshafts
Engine Size			2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower			173 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			166 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission			4-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		108.9 in. / 190.9 in.
Curb Weight			3405 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		19.7
Fuel Capacity			16.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires				P215/60R17 95T Bridgestone Turanza
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		21 / 30 / 26
0 to 60 mph				9.0  sec


OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Electronic Stability Program			$  425
Premium Convenience Group - includes:
  140-ampere alternator, air conditioning with
  automatic temperature control, automatic
  headlamps, heated & cooled front console
  cupholder, instrument cluster with display
  screen, one-touch up/down front windows,
  rear cargo organizer, auto-dimming rear-view
  mirror, remote start system, temperature and
  compass gauge, tire-pressure monitoring
  system, mini trip computer, universal
  garage door opener				$ 1,185
  
Destination Charge				$   740

MORE: Dodge Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Dodge Buyers Guide

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