It's a rare occasion when I find myself excited about a car before it
hits the showroom floor. Normally, a redesigned vehicle takes months
(or sometimes years) to appeal to me. Not so with the 2008 Dodge
Avenger R/T AWD. From the moment I saw the first spy photos, I was sold
on this car. Would that alone be enough to convince me that this
vehicle is a worthy contender in my battle to find the ideal family car?
At first glance, the Avenger's exterior nearly screams "Baby Dodge Charger." From the aggressive front end to the oversized chrome wheels and menacing stance, the car could easily pass for the Charger R/T's kid brother. The car looks tough, and not many cars can achieve that just sitting still.
I normally clock around 500 miles per each one-week evaluation. However, this test was far from the norm. My schedule included a trip from Ohio to Michigan, and from Michigan to western Pennsylvania. With a good mix of highway driving and extreme elevation, I was confident that at the end of this trip, I'd know with certainty whether or not this car would receive a passing grade.
I got well acquainted with the Avenger on the first leg of our trip.
The leather seats were very firm, yet comfortable. The seating position
makes it seem as though you are sitting higher than you would in a
typical vehicle, but that is merely an illusion. Visibility is
sufficient, save for the blind spot that seemed larger than normal due
to the awkward shape of the quarter windows. The interior is a mix of
sportiness and luxury, with tasteful accents, and every one of the many
controls within easy reach.
Our test model had not only bells and whistles, but also a wide array of toys that I had no idea were available. These are the things people wish someone would invent. A compartment of the dash that holds four cans of soda, with ducts that pump air from the air conditioning to keep them cold. A cupholder that can keep your Caribou coffee steamy hot, or with the switch of a button, can keep your cold drink a constant 35 degrees Fahrenheit. You really have no grasp of how handy such gadgets are until you get accustomed to them. The optional sound system provided concert-quality audio, and a CD player that never skipped once.
The 3.5L V6 engine supplied plenty of horsepower and torque, although the acceleration suffered on the second leg of our trip. This is where AutoStick reigns supreme. With the ability to manually downshift the transmission when we encountered areas of elevation, the V6 was able to prove that it is more than capable of tacking the Pennsylvania mountains. In the area we visited, the true measure of a vehicle's performance is based on how fast the car can scale the "second mountain", which is the steepest in the area. My answer to that question is "fast enough".
The Pennsylvania trip also included more braking than a car should see in six months, let alone four days. The brakes performed flawlessly, with zero fade. The ride of the car is very similar to that of a sports car, with very responsive steering, and a suspension that embraces the corners.
The children were extremely happy with the Avenger, begging to keep the car with the same enthusiasm they would have if asking to keep a puppy. All three girls were quiet and content over the course of 1,032 miles, spending the majority of those either sleeping comfortably, or singing gleefully in the backseat.
At a price of $29,465, our tester seemed pricey at first. However, at the end of the week, the Avenger more than proved its worth, becoming my new favorite 2008 vehicle. If you're looking for the perfect balance of sports car and family sedan, this is one worth checking out. This car is "Road and Track" in every sense of the phrase.