Full 2009 Dodge Avenger Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the all-wheel-drive version of the Dodge Avenger R/T has been dropped. The SXT and R/T trims get a few more standard features including a rear spoiler, foglights, antilock brakes and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The premium convenience package for the SXT now includes heated exterior mirrors, automatic headlamps, heated cloth seats, a heated and cooled cupholder, remote start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic temperature control and a garage door opener. In addition, all trim levels have more sound insulation to promote a quieter ride. Later in the model year, the 2.7-liter V6 becomes a fleet-only engine option, while the R/T trim becomes available with the four cylinder engine.
For those who have an appetite for an all-American muscle car but have needs and a budget better suited to a practical family sedan, the 2009 Dodge Avenger might fill the bill. The aggressively styled Avenger apes the bigger (and more expensive) Dodge Charger with its glaring headlights and beefy rear haunches.
However, the Avenger's mechanical underpinnings -- which are identical to the Avenger's corporate sibling, the Chrysler Sebring -- are far more plebeian. But this midsize Dodge sedan offers three engine choices (including two V6s), a quiet ride and a spacious backseat. And although the options list has been simplified for 2009, the Avenger still boasts a considerable variety of standard and optional features for the segment.
Unfortunately, the Avenger's tough-guy appearance doesn't correlate to driving enjoyment. The base four-cylinder engine is weak and unrefined, and braking is mediocre at best. The V6s are unremarkable as well. The 2.7-liter V6, for example, produces about the same horsepower as the Honda Accord EX's four-cylinder, yet it has less fuel efficiency than the Accord's 268-hp V6. Interior materials quality also suffers, and thus doesn't live up to that of competitors in the class.
Those who prefer sharper performance over muscle-bound styling should definitely consider other midsize sedans. The Mazda 6 is all-new for 2009 and offers truly sporty handling in a modern, more refined package. Other alternatives include the well-regarded Nissan Altima and the stylish Chevrolet Malibu. If you're absolutely in love with the looks of the 2009 Dodge Avenger and can spring for the more powerful R/T, you might be able to overlook the sedan's shortcomings. Otherwise, we recommend you look elsewhere.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Dodge Avenger comes in three trim levels: base SE, well-equipped SXT and sporty R/T. The SE comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a cooled front storage compartment and a four-speaker audio system with a single-CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The Avenger SXT bumps the standard wheel size to 17 inches and adds a rear spoiler, foglights, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, stain-resistant cloth upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, a fold-flat passenger seat and two more speakers and a six-CD changer for the audio system. The top-of-the-line Dodge Avenger R/T comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, automatic headlights, firmer suspension tuning, single-zone automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Options are mostly limited to the SXT and R/T. For the Avenger SXT, the premium convenience package includes many of the standard features on the R/T trim plus a heated and cooled cupholder, heated front seats and remote start. Both trims can be had with a sunroof, Bluetooth and a hard-drive-based navigation system with digital music storage. Leather seating is optional for the R/T only.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2009 Dodge Avenger SE and SXT models is a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 173 hp and 166 pound-feet of torque. A 2.7-liter V6, initially optional on the SXT but later in the year only available for fleet sales, makes 186 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The standard powertrain on the Avenger R/T is a 3.5-liter V6 capable of 235 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque, matched to a more sophisticated six-speed automatic. However, later in the year the performance-themed R/T can also be had with the 2.4-liter four and four-speed automatic powertrain.
All 2009 Dodge Avenger models are front-wheel drive and Dodge claims a respectable 0-60-mph time of 7.7 seconds for the 3.5-liter V6-powered R/T. With the smaller V6, an Avenger SXT takes about a second longer.
Fuel economy for the 2009 Dodge Avenger with the inline-4 rates 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. SXT models equipped with the 2.7-liter V6 achieve an estimated 19/27/22 mpg. The 3.5-liter V6-powered R/T gets an estimated 16/27/20 mpg.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Dodge Avenger includes front-seat side airbags and full-length head-curtain airbags. Antilock brakes are standard on the SXT and R/T models. All four-cylinder Avengers come with front disc and rear drum brakes; SXT models with the V6 and the R/T have four-wheel discs. Stability and traction control are available on the SXT and R/T as part of each trim's respective premium package.
In government crash tests, the Avenger earned a top five-star rating for its safety performance in head-on collisions. Side-impact tests resulted in five stars for front occupants and four stars for those in the rear. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Avenger a score of "Good" (the best possible) in frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Although the Avenger has comfortable seating and a simple control layout, it's hard to get past the mediocre quality of the interior materials. To its credit, the R/T trim features white-faced gauges, chrome trim and a two-tone leather-wrapped steering wheel that give a sporty, slightly more upscale feel. The optional navigation and audio system is pretty easy to use, as it only takes a few moments to enter a destination or play some tunes.
The rear seat is spacious enough for two adults, although the seat-bottom cushion is a bit too low and the outboard head restraints aren't adjustable. The Avenger's trunk capacity is a bit below the segment average at 13.4 cubic feet.
The four-cylinder Avenger offers good fuel economy, but it comes at the expense of performance. Acceleration is sluggish, and gearchanges feel unrefined. The optional V6 on the SXT feels stronger on the highway but is still relatively unimpressive. Brakes on all trim levels are below average. On models with rear drums, the brakes fade quickly with heavy use, and although the full-disc setup on V6-equipped Avengers holds up better, stopping distances remain long for this class. Lower-line 2009 Dodge Avengers ride comfortably but are low on grip during cornering.
The R/T model's bigger V6 still doesn't have the pull off the line that one might expect from such an aggressive-looking sedan, but it's considerably smoother than the smaller engines and offers much better acceleration once it's revved up. Equally important, the six-speed automatic transmission provides quicker response than the four-speed unit. A chief advantage of the R/T is its upgraded suspension tuning, which provides more responsive handling while still maintaining a composed highway ride.