Thus far, Dodge has used the name "Avenger" on two wholly different cars from different time periods. The first Avenger was a midsize, two-door coupe born in the mid-1990s. Noted mostly for its stealthy good looks, the original Dodge Avenger also featured a reasonably roomy cabin and an appealing blend of handling and comfort. It enjoyed some success both with critics and consumers, though at decade's end it faded away with little notice. After a long hiatus, the Avenger name resurfaced in 2008 when Dodge deemed it fitting for the successor to the Stratus sedan.
Unfortunately, the second-generation Avenger has not enjoyed the positive reaction of its two-door predecessor. Despite a midlife overhaul that corrected many of its initial glaring faults, the Avenger has always been one of the least competitive midsize sedans. Consumers will find that most competitors, both import and domestic, offer more space, superior interior designs and a higher level of overall refinement.
Current Dodge Avenger
The Dodge Avenger shares much of its engineering with the previous-generation Chrysler 200 sedan. The differences between the two come down to styling, as the Avenger's more aggressive shape is aimed at a younger audience. There is a choice of two engines: a 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder or a 3.5-liter V6 good for 283 hp. The four-cylinder sends its power to the front wheels through either a four- or six-speed automatic transmission, depending on trim level. The V6 gets a six-speed auto with a manual-shift mode.
The Avenger's trim lines are SE, SXT and R/T. The SE is reasonably well equipped, while moving up to the SXT will get you features like an upgraded transmission, automatic climate control, a power driver seat and a six- (rather than four-) speaker sound system with satellite radio. The sporty R/T comes with the V6 engine as standard, plus 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, remote start, heated front sport seats, leather and cloth upholstery, Bluetooth and an upgraded audio system.
The Avenger's interior boasts soft-touch materials and tight construction, but the look is a tad generic, the available in-car electronics are behind the times and there isn't as much space for passengers. As for the Avenger's engines, the base four-cylinder is barely adequate (especially with the four-speed automatic) and sounds unrefined. The V6 engine is very strong, however, and also returns commendable fuel economy. Handling is also pretty good, although again, not quite up to the class leaders.
In total, the Dodge Avenger is a solid sedan if you're prioritizing a V6 power plant and value. But in general, we think you'd be better served by most other competing models.
Used Dodge Avenger Models
The second-generation Dodge Avenger debuted for 2008 and is represented by the current model. However, the Avenger was so poorly received that it underwent a major overhaul for 2011, which included updated styling, a revamped interior with higher-quality materials, added safety features and a more powerful 3.6-liter V6. It has been essentially unchanged since then, other than a renaming of trim levels for 2012 (originally Express, Mainstreet, Heat, R/T and an additional fully loaded Lux trim).
From 2008 through '10, there were three engine options: the current four-cylinder, a 2.7-liter, 189-hp V6 and a 3.5-liter, 235-hp V6. There were also three trim levels -- SE, SXT and R/T. The base four-cylinder-only SE came with air-conditioning, a CD stereo, full power accessories and cruise control. All-wheel drive was optional in that first year on models equipped with the 3.5-liter V6. For 2009, all trim levels received more sound insulation, the 2.7-liter V6 became a fleet-only engine option later in the year and the R/T trim was newly available with the four-cylinder engine. For 2010, the SE trim level was deleted and the Express trim added.
These early model year Avenger sedans suffered from a variety of ailments. Neither the four-cylinder nor the V6 engines were particularly good in regards to performance, refinement or efficiency. The interior was also far below that of the competition, with designs and materials that were best described as rental-car quality. If that wasn't enough to drive buyers away, the Avenger was also stuck with lifeless steering, excessive body roll and underachieving brakes. We highly recommend that you look at different used family sedans.
The first Dodge Avenger was sold from 1995-2000. Employing a platform derived from the Mitsubishi Galant and similar to the one used in the contemporaneous Mitsubishi Eclipse, the Avenger had the Chrysler Sebring coupe as its twin and debuted with two powertrains. The first was a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 140 hp mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic -- all borrowed from the Dodge Neon. The step-up engine was a 2.5-liter, Mitsubishi-built V6 with 155 hp, mated to a four-speed automatic. The Avenger's trim lines were base and ES.
Initially, the base model opened with the four-cylinder engine, 14-inch wheels, a radio and dual airbags. The V6-powered ES model came with an upgraded suspension, antilock all-disc brakes, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, air-conditioning, a cassette deck and cruise control. Base models could add most of the ES's items, while ES models could add leather seats and a sunroof.
The Avenger's biggest changes came in 1997, when meaner styling adorned the body and new 17-inch wheels were made available to ES models. More significantly, both the base and ES now had the four-cylinder standard, with the V6 optional. For the Avenger's final year in 2000, Dodge made the V6 standard on both, and also loaded up the ES with a power driver seat, leather and keyless entry.
The Dodge Avenger was a fairly appealing coupe in its day as long as the V6 was specified. The front seats were comfortable, and unlike in most cars sporting two doors, the Avenger's rear seat actually offered some semblance of comfort for adults. The Avenger also held the advantage of actually looking like a coupe instead of a bland sedan with two fewer doors. However, the Avenger's record for reliability is notably poor. As such, we wouldn't recommend it as a used-car purchase.