New Car Review

1996 DODGE AVENGER ES

Dodge Avenger ES

SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide

by Tom/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 18,121
     Price As Tested                                    $ 20,403
     Engine Type                             2.0 Liter I4 w/MPI*
     Engine Size                                 122 cid/1996 cc
     Horsepower                                   140 @ 6000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               130 @ 4800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  103.7"/68.5"/187.2"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2879 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/55R16
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/disc-ABS
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                 72 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.36

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            22/31/27
     0-60 MPH                                        9.7 seconds
     1/4 mile (E.T.)                       16.9 seconds @ 83 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                        N/A
     * Multiport fuel injection

(The Dodge Avenger coupe gives the impression of being a road-storming performance vehicle. In reality, however, top-notch performance takes a back seat to modern styling, interior roominess, handling and low price. Tom and Bob Hagin both agree that most new car buyers don't make every stop light a drag race challenge.)

TOM - The Avenger we drove was sort of an oddball - it came outfitted with the upscale ES trim pieces, but used the low-end four cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. I suppose this is because Dodge only offers the more powerful V6 engine with a four-speed automatic, which isn't as much fun to drive.

BOB - This time I agree, Tom. When we tested the V6 model a year ago, I liked its smooth, seamless power delivery, but without a stick- shift, it left a lot to be desired. The four-banger was loud though, and not very powerful, but I enjoyed winding it up and rowing through the gears. Stoplight drag racing isn't supposed to be its forte, but the Avenger was a real kick to scream through sweeping turns up in the foothills. However, if I was going to buy a passenger hauler, I'd get a four-door sedan like the Dodge Stratus or Intrepid.

TOM - Coupes are for me, Dad. Avenger shares a lot of components with the Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse so Chrysler engineers could pick and choose from the corporate parts bin. The dashboard, instruments and controls are the same, as are the doors and windshield.

BOB - But the Avenger is able to carry four adults in relative comfort, while the Talon's back seat is cramped. And access to the Avenger's back seat is made easy since the front passenger seat slides forward when the seatback is folded. The ES models are well-equipped, too. Niceties such as air conditioning, cruise control, variable speed intermittent wipers and an AM/FM cassette stereo are standard equipment, and power windows, door locks, and outside mirrors are optional. Our car came with a $2,309 package that included all that power stuff, plus an alarm, a power driver's seat, lighted vanity mirrors, an upscale stereo,sunroof and keyless entry. The package also includes a universal transmitter that'll open your garage door and turn on lights around your house, just in case you house is equipped that way. Our test rig had an optional CD player that added $292 to the total price of the car but I never could figure out how to use it.

TOM - Mechanical stuff is more your style, Dad, so you'll be interested in the engine's dual overhead cams and 16 valves. It pushes 140 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque, which isn't bad for a four cylinder of only two liters. It's a good choice for the performance enthusiast who wants an Avenger with a stick-shift.

BOB - That's right, Tom. Compared to the V6/automatic model we drove last year, this model blows it away to 60 mph. ES model Avengers get beefy P205/55R16 performance tires, along with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and I was amazed to fined that ES rear discs are almost double the size of the rear drums on the standard model. It also gets a rear stabilizer bar whereas the "stock" Avenger doesn't have one at all.

TOM - The Avenger's body hardly leans during hard cornering, and there was very little tire scrub when I whipped it around in the parking lot of our local mall. The steering is quick, too. It uses a power rack-and-pinion type that's speed-sensitive. That means it's easier to turn the steering wheel when the car is at slow speeds, such as while parking, and it gives more road feel at highway speeds.

BOB - The buff magazine guys lament the fact that the Avenger carries pretty much a main-stream profile and doesn't have in-your-face styling like the Viper or some of the other cars in the Chrysler family. I think that most drivers - even those labeled "enthusiasts" - don't feel the need to have a car that begs for attention.

TOM - So how come when we had the Chrysler LeBaron convertible last year, you kept the top down even when the weather was cold and the sky was overcast?

BOB - Tom, that was strictly your mom's idea.

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