Full 2012 Dodge Avenger Review
What's New for 2012
Other than new trim level names, the 2012 Dodge Avenger is unchanged.
Sometimes you can do a good job but still come up short. The 2012 Dodge Avenger is a case in point. Dodge's major overhaul of its midsize Avenger last year largely rectified the car's prior faults of sloppy driving dynamics, inefficient engines and a low-buck interior. The result is a fully competitive midsize family sedan, but one that nevertheless still comes up short against more impressive rivals.
The Avenger's interior best epitomizes the car's close-but-no-cigar aspect. Greatly improved upon, the Avenger boasts soft-touch materials and tight construction; both are among the best you'll find in a midsize sedan. However, the look is a tad generic, the available in-car electronics are a bit behind the times and there isn't as much space for passengers.
There is a similar situation under the hood. The base four-cylinder is barely adequate (especially with the SE's four-speed automatic) and sounds unrefined. The V6 engine found in the SXT Plus and R/T is very strong, however, boasting the most power in its class as well as strong fuel economy. Handling is also pretty good, although again, not quite up to the class leaders.
In total, the 2012 Dodge Avenger is a solid sedan that could be worth a test-drive, particularly if you're prioritizing a V6 power plant and value. But in general, we think you'd be better served by some other competing models. Those looking for something more fun to drive should consider the Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Mazda 6 and Nissan Altima. And if it's superior comfort and space you want, the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata or even Dodge's own Charger would be better choices. The Avenger is a respectable sedan, but in this case it's just not a podium finisher.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Dodge Avenger is a midsize sedan available in SE, SXT, SXT Plus and R/T trim levels.
The base SE comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. Optional are satellite radio and a package containing heated front seats and an eight-way power driver seat.
The SXT adds to the SE's standard equipment with 17-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded transmission, heated folding mirrors, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio. A touchscreen stereo interface that includes digital music storage is optional.
The SXT Plus includes that touchscreen interface along with a V6 engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps and foglamps. Both SXT models can be equipped with the Cold Weather Group, which adds heated front seats and remote ignition.
The R/T adds different 18-inch wheels, upgraded steering, a sport-tuned suspension, the Cold Weather Group, cloth/leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system with an iPod/USB audio interface.
The SE, SXT and SXT Plus can be equipped with Bluetooth phone connectivity. A sunroof is optional on all but the SE, and all Avengers can be equipped with a fold-flat front passenger seat. Optional on the SXT Plus and R/T is a navigation system that includes real-time traffic, Bluetooth audio and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Dodge Avenger SE and SXT are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard on every Avenger. The SE gets a four-speed automatic transmission and the SXT has a six-speed automatic. EPA estimated fuel economy is average for a midsize sedan, with 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with the four-speed and 21/31/24 with the six-speed.
The Avenger SXT Plus and R/T get a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, an Avenger with this engine went from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds -- a quick time for a midsize sedan. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19/29/22.
Every 2012 Avenger comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, active head restraints, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, an Avenger with 18-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in an acceptable 127 feet.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Avenger received the top rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Dodge Avenger's design team did a remarkable job last year of transforming the old, low-rent interior into something that's now fully competitive for the midsize sedan segment. The general dash design and control layout are pretty much the same as before, but because the materials are substantially better, the overall ambience is greatly improved. Rear visibility can be a bit tricky due to the Avenger's thick rear pillars, however, and neither a back-up camera nor parking sensors are offered.
The Avenger also lags behind its competitors (and even some of its Chrysler/Dodge cousins) in terms of in-car electronics. The older Chrysler touchscreen interface was unintuitive when it was new and hasn't grown better with age. The standard stereo faceplate, however, is a model of simplicity and user-friendliness.
The Avenger's principal demerit, however, is that it's a bit smaller than its competition. This is noticeable in the backseat as well as in the front, which features a slightly odd, elevated seating position to create more legroom. The 13.4-cubic-foot trunk is also a little on the small side.
The 2012 Dodge Avenger drives down the road with poise. The suspension provides a supple, yet well-controlled ride, and handling is better than that of many other midsize sedans. The steering provides decent feedback, but isn't as responsive as the Accord's or the Fusion's. Performance with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is unremarkable, but it should be adequate for most buyers when it's mated to the six-speed automatic transmission found in the SXT. The 3.6-liter V6 is quite energetic and is one of the most robust engines in the segment, delivering strong acceleration without a tremendous sacrifice in fuel economy.