Used 1997 Dodge Avenger Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

Front and rear styling is updated, while ES models lose the standard V6 engine. The V6 is available on base and ES models, and includes 17-inch wheels and tires on the ES. New colors inside and out and two additional speakers with cassette stereos further broaden the appeal of this roomy coupe.

Vehicle overview

Nobody misses the Dodge Daytona. You will recall that the Daytona was a front-wheel drive sports coupe based on the K-Car chassis. After a decade on the market with minimal changes, Chrysler mercifully pulled the plug on the Daytona, replacing it with the Mitsubishi Galant-based Avenger sports coupe in 1995.

Avenger competes with the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Monte Carlo; whereas the Daytona was marketed as an alternative to the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. Smaller, lighter and less powerful than the Bird or the Monte, Dodge has managed to squeeze nearly as much interior space and as much performance ability into the smoothly styled Avenger.

Based on Mitsubishi Galant underpinnings, the Avenger comes in base and ES flavors. The standard engine is the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit found in the Neon, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. The five-speed makes the Avenger quite fun to drive, offering sprightly acceleration. Formerly an option on ES models, for 1997 Dodge makes this powerteam standard on the uplevel ES and drops the price accordingly.

Also new this year is a 17-inch aluminum wheel and tire option for the Avenger ES, but to get these items you've gotta pop for the V6 engine, which is available on base Avenger for the first time. The 2.5-liter V6 is hooked to a four-speed automatic. No manual is available with the V6, and that's a shame. So equipped, the Avenger is slower than the standard model, and is woefully inadequate in comparison to the Thunderbird LX V8 and Monte Carlo Z34. To redeem the Avenger, Dodge prices it between base editions of the Ford and Chevy.

After just two years, Dodge revises the Avenger's front and rear fascias to give the car a more aggressive look. We like the new rear treatment, but the front air intake is simply obnoxious on the 1997 model. Fresh colors inside and out, as well as additional stereo speakers on model equipped with cassette stereos, make the car more appealing.

Overall, the Avenger pleasantly surprises. An accommodating sporty coupe, the Avenger's only shortcoming is weak engine choices, though we've heard rumors about a 200-horsepower plus test mule sporting R/T badging. With prices for the top-of-the-line Avenger ES on par with base editions of competing products, the Avenger is a tempting piece indeed.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.