- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

The 2008 Avenger from Dodge comes off as an affordable, modern era, mini-muscle car — think of it as a smaller version of the Charger, from which it seems to have picked up more than a few design cues. The Avenger nameplate might however, be more at home as a character in a sci-fi action comic book. In an overall first impression, the Avenger in any of its forms, tends to appear highly aggressive and hence is more appealing to the performance crowd.

I find it more likable than the new Sebring, which, in its execution, tries to blend too many elements from a host of other Mopar sources, while failing to win me over from the Magnum.

Avenger will be available in three trim levels: The base SE, followed by the SXT, both of which are powered by a standard 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, 173 horsepower motor with Variable Valve Timing (VVT), mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. An optional Flex-fuel (E85) 2.7 liter V-6 is available in SXT models and is capable of delivering 189 horsepower.

Top billing in the Avenger stable though, goes to the R/T, which gets its motive force from a 235 horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 that connects to a six-speed automatic gearbox with manual shift capability. Front-wheel drive is standard.

The Avenger is based on the same D-segment platform as the Sebring and Sebring Convertible. It’s a little longer and wider than Saturn’s Aura, and stands 1.2-inches taller. Pronounced wheel well arches draw attention to the attractive multi-spoke alloy wheels, while the long, domed hood and familial “cross-hair” grille, extended front air dam with lower, sculpted air ducts and integrated fog lights, reverse sloping roof line and short deck preceded by an exaggerated, kicked up haunch which raises the belt line aft, and gives the car a “poised -for-action” stance even when it’s parked. The nose is suggestive of, but not as blunt as that of the Nitro, and is thereby more visually pleasing.

During a national press launch in Arizona, I was able to sample all trim examples, beginning with the R/T. This was probably a mistake, because there was nowhere to go but down in the mix. My more recent, longer term test unit turned out to be an SXT model with the 2.7-liter V-6 E-85 E-flex-fuel capable engine joined with a four-speed automatic transmission. The base price of my Inferno Red Crystal Pearl coat finished test car was set at $19,120.

The interior was done in two-tone grey with a combination of satin silver and bright chrome trim accents.

The special paint, customer preferred package and 2.7-liter engine, along with the destination charge elevated the final price to $22,295.

The Avenger is a good looking ride in any of its trim levels, while the unique-but-subtle differences offered up by the R/T version is by far the best.

The Avenger shares some of the same cool (literally) features provided by the Sebring, such as the “Chill Zone” beverage cooler mounted in the glove box and “My Gig” — an available offering that combines audio, navigation and entertainment system, enabling one to download their favorite tunes and photos to a special hard drive.

The SE and SXT models ride reasonably well, but are not as planted as the R/T, with its firmer underpinnings. The R/T is the way to go for performance junkies, while those concerned with environmental issues may want to stick with the flex-fuel motor (though E-85 isn’t available everywhere), or even the smaller four-banger.

An SRT example is sure to be worth holding out for in the circle of driving enthusiasts. The test SXT Avenger was rated by the EPA as a midsize vehicle with 19 miles per gallon city and 27 mpg highway averages.

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