What's New for 2011
The 2011 Dodge Avenger receives a number of updates this year, including updated exterior styling, a revamped interior with higher-quality materials, added safety features and a more powerful 3.6-liter V6.
"New and improved" is a sales pitch that has probably been around as long as the wheel. Its overuse across the ages has given it such a meaningless connotation that it drives away today's consumers. And yet in the case of the 2011 Dodge Avenger, this phrase has some merit, as Chrysler has made a big effort to improve the perceptible niceness of all its vehicles. But does this effort really make this midsize sedan more competitive in a very tough market segment?
One of our biggest complaints about the Avenger in its former life has been the second-rate execution of its interior, a by-product of cheap materials and poor build quality. The 2011 Avenger has made great strides forward in this regard thanks to an upgraded cabin, and now this Dodge is at least competitive with other midsize sedans. The overall look is still pretty generic, but thankfully the Avenger's interior doesn't immediately scream "rental car!" like it used to.
The Avenger's adequate but unrefined 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is still standard equipment for most trim levels, but the new 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 is noticeably more robust than the outgoing model's V6 and indeed is actually the most powerful engine in its class. Completely reworked suspension and steering components make the Avenger much more satisfying to drive as well.
There's still some good value here as well, as the Avenger packs a lot of features for the money. As such, the Avenger has taken on a new standing in the very competitive midsize sedan segment. While the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry represent the most traditional options, we feel the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima have surpassed them in terms of design and innovation.
Compared to these cars, the Avenger comes up a little short in terms of fuel economy and everyday usability, but it does counter with more involving driving dynamics. Along with the Mazda 6, Nissan Altima and Suzuki Kizashi, the Avenger is worth a test-drive if you want a midsize sedan that's not a snooze to drive.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Dodge Avenger is a midsize sedan that is offered in five trim levels: Express, Mainstreet, Heat and Lux.
The Express comes with 17-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, cloth upholstery and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
The Avenger Mainstreet adds alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver seat and a six-speaker stereo with satellite radio. Stepping up to the Heat model will get you a V6 engine, 18-inch wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, remote ignition, heated front seats and an upgraded stereo with a touchscreen and 30GB of digital music storage.
The Lux model is similar to the Heat trim but reverts back to the four-cylinder engine and loses the rear spoiler, while it also includes chrome wheels, leather-upholstered seats and Bluetooth. Most of the features from higher-trimmed Avengers are available on the other versions as options. Additionally, stand-alone options are available on select models and include a sunroof and a navigation system with real-time traffic.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Dodge Avenger is offered with either a four- or six-cylinder engine. The base 2.4-liter inline-4 is the only available choice for the Express and Mainstreet models and is standard on the Lux. This engine produces 173 hp and 166 pound-feet of torque. The Express also comes with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the Mainstreet and Lux receive a six-speed. Fuel economy estimates for the four-cylinder Avenger stand at 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with the four-speed automatic and 20 city/31 highway and 24 combined with the six-speed automatic.
A 3.6-liter V6 that makes 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque is standard on the Heat and is available as an option on the Lux. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission for this engine. In Edmunds testing, an Avenger Lux V6 accelerated to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, a quick time for this class. Fuel economy estimates for the V6 are 19 city/29 highway and 22 combined.
Standard safety features for all 2011 Dodge Avengers include antilock brakes with brake assist, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, hill start assist, stability control and traction control.
Interior Design and Special Features
This year, the Avenger received an interior makeover that remedies virtually all of the ills from which the previous model suffered. A more contoured dash, a new steering wheel, reshaped vents and the generous use of soft-touch materials contribute to a markedly improved impression that's far removed from the previous car's econobox ambience.
The actual dimensions of the passenger cabin haven't changed and it gets good marks for comfort, with supportive seats and decent head- and legroom. That said, buyers who plan on filling the backseat with full-size adults on a regular basis may want to look at some of the Avenger's competitors, which offer roomier backseats. The 13.4-cubic-foot trunk is a little on the small side compared to other midsize sedans.
The mechanical changes made to the 2011 Dodge Avenger have made a noticeable improvement in the car's handling, while the recalibrated hardware makes the steering feel much more precise.
Performance with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is still far from impressive, though we suspect it will be adequate for many buyers' needs, especially when it's mated to the six-speed automatic transmission. With 110 hp more than the four-cylinder, the new 3.6-liter V6 is by far the more entertaining option, delivering strong acceleration with just a minimal sacrifice in fuel economy.