2008 Dodge Avenger SXT – Rental Return

I’m clocking across the face of L.A. in rush hour traffic on a fools errand. A late flight, then later still picking up the Dodge Avenger SXT has the voice on the other end of the phone saying there’s no way I’ll get from LAX to appointment on the far side of Brea by closing.

Matting the accelerator off the green I’ve a Google Maps printout in one hand telling me I need to be two lanes over. The SXT’s optional 190-horsepower 2.7-liter V6 musters acceptable punt putting me ahead of unsuspecting traffic. The four-speed automatic is relatively smooth, but the ratios are short. The box feels like it’s constantly shifting and hunting as we move onto the freeways.

The V6 is, to its credit, quiet, smooth and “fairly” efficient, sipping gas at the rate of 26-mpg on the highway – when it’s not being pushed. Needing to make time, the Avenger climbs to 85mph [136kph], leaving me thinking the R/T badge’s 3.5-litre V6 (235hp claimed) is the choice for sporting aspirations. Not that the Avenger has any beyond its looks.

The new Avenger’s strong muscle car looks and relatively frugal price point could lure in male buyers. I will admit to be taken with it’s handsome features, but driving the Avenger is a bit like finding out you’re on a date with someone who’s had lipo-sculpture. Take off the shirt and you’ll be disappointed to find a flabby Chrysler Sebring physique.

I throw the Avenger across a lane and into a cloverleaf exit, the feel though the wheel is numb and nearly without feedback – so it’s had Botox too. The Avenger is lolling through the corner – until the front wheel drive torque steers leaving you with the iron taste of adrenaline and doom on your tongue. The brakes aren’t much help either, seeming resistant to the idea of serious stopping and Novocain numb like the steering… if only this dissociative personality extended to the ride.

American cars don’t really have much to do, most drivers in the US are content to plod along undemanding freeways rather than seek out any of the spectacular roads available that actually challenge handling (think most of California’s good bits). So you’d expect that the Dodge Avenger would be suited to this freeway environment… it’s not. The SXT is requiring constant care and attention simply to hold a straight line on LA’s freeways. The suspension, which seems overly soft in corners, manages the incongruous trick of ensuring small bumps and the super slabs rhythmic oscillations are amplified to a harsh rhythmic jostling.

No wonder the fold-flat front passenger seat and the rest of the interior is offered with optional stain and bacteria resistant fabrics, not that it would make and aesthetic difference. If the fumes from imprecisely fit hard grey plastic interior or it’s dazzle-camouflage mess of angles don’t overcome you, you’ll see it’s not all bait and switch for this Stratus replacement.

Interior room is plentiful. At six-foot two the driving positions is comfortable and the rear seat equally so save for reduced headroom and claustrophobia created high rear door sills – families be warned if you child needs to see out to avoid motion sickness this is not the car for you. From the firm and supportive driver’s seat the sound system and environmental dials are large, easy to reach, backlit and easy to operate after a few initial “what the deuce?” moments.

All models come with six airbags and ABS standard on SXT and R/T, those opting for the SE will find it a $600 premium. The Dodge further cuts some corners by tacking $500.00 onto the SXT and R/T for electronic stability control, which is completely unavailable for the base model.

There’s another Avenger driver ahead; I can see him in a frantic craning shoulder check and searching the rear views as he tries to work around the massive blind spots. Feeling his pain I back off. His car has a Budget Rental Car sticker on it, evidence that there is a niche for the 2008 Dodge Avenger in the world after all.

Starting at $24,095
Model as Tested: $28,170.00 CDN
More Info: http://dodge.ca/en/avenger/

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