July 17, 2008
Dodge Avenger Rental Car
By Rob Einaudi
I just got back from a little vacation down in California. After Mike Musto’s experience on Bullrun, I was hoping to get a Ford Fusion rental car, but I ended up with a Dodge Avenger instead. Now, the Avenger and the Sebring have been brutalized by the automotive press, so I was a bit apprehensive at first. Plus, our car was a nasty gold color, and had recently been detailed with a product that made the whole thing smell like urinal cake. The car had 17,000 miles on it, which is quite a bit for a rental car. And the front bumper had been hit fairly hard at one point, causing it to separate slightly from the grill and lights (I made sure that was noted by the rental car folks before leaving). I could have made a stink and switched cars, but I had a hot, tired family and we just wanted to get on with it. Continue reading…
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. The four banger was a bit noisy and underpowered. The tire and suspension package seemed pretty crummy. And the rear view mirrors were too small, especially considering the blind spot caused by the massive C pillar. Finally, I don’t get the front seats in these Chrysler products (and I’m including the Chargers and 300Cs that I’ve driven). They just seem really narrow. I’m a pretty skinny dude, so they work for me, but I’m not sure that bigger folks would find them comfortable.
Ok, so how about the positives? I was impressed with the gas mileage. The thrashy little four banger achieves 30 mpg on the highway–not bad for a car that weighs 3400 pounds. And I just checked the IIHS crash test and the car is safe as hell (it felt really safe and solid, too). The car has good ergonomics, a roomy back seat, and a decent-sized trunk. I cranked my Replacements Pleased To Meet Me CD pretty loud and the sound system handled it just fine. And the dash-mounted beverage cooler was hilarious.
The automotive press seemed to hate the styling (subjective) and criticized the interior materials (maybe they are not up to par with Honda, but honestly, they seemed fine to me). Yes, the base tire and suspension package is weak, but I’m sure the SXT or R/T versions are a lot nicer. You can also option this car with the smooth and powerful 3.5 liter V6, which comes mated to a six speed automatic. Heck, it even comes in an AWD version. Who knew? Now, I know you’ll get killed on the resale value if you buy one of these cars. But if you’re the kind of person who drives the wheels off a car and wants a safe, solid family hauler, the Avenger seems like a pretty decent option. Plus you can keep your beer cold in the dash. What other car does that for you?
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