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TASTES GREAT, LESS FILLING

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Sep 8, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

TASTES GREAT, LESS FILING By Harvey Schwartz

The all-new 2008 Dodge Avenger R/T has been unleashed into the midsize sedan mix, the industry's largest selling segment. This new car comes with Dodge's signature aggressive styling, a 235-horsepower V6 engine mated to a six-speed transmission and is underpinned with a sport-tuned independent suspension riding on 18-inch wheels that are wrapped with high-performance tires. The roomy, comfortable and safety-conscious cabin has innovative features not found in any other sedan in its class. The Avenger is also Dodge's first midsize car to offer all-wheel-drive capability, combined with a sport-tuned suspension, performance steering and Electronic Stability Program and Traction Control - all of which combine to give the car an on-road performance attitude. The Avenger builds on the bold, aggressive styling, performance and excitement of the Dodge Charger, just in a smaller package.

From the front, there's no mistaking Dodge's heritage in Avenger's aggressive exterior lines. The brand's signature crosshair grille and large, modern quad headlamps housed in black add to Avenger's menacing glare. The chrome grille with black texture accentuates the vehicle's serious, almost sinister appearance. A stamped formation carries the vertical lines of the crosshair grille over the hood. All air-intakes up front are backed with plastic lattice to keep road debris out of the engine bay. The Avenger's side profile shares more family traits with the Charger. A steeply raked windshield, muscular rear shoulders, flared fenders and a sleek rear spoiler embody the Dodge brand of power and aggressive styling. From the rear, large, expressive taillamp modules placed at the corner frame the deck lid, which includes a sleekly integrated, finely tuned body-color spoiler. This spoiler and the dual, chrome-tipped exhaust tips communicate the performance capability of the Avenger R/T's 3.5-liter V6 engine. Three engine choices power the new car. The base SE model comes with a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder with dual VVT making 173 horsepower, and is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The SXT model features a Flexible Fuel 2.7-liter V6 making 189 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to the same four-speed automatic transmission and can operate effectively on any blend of gasoline and fuel-grade ethanol up to E-85.

The Avenger R/T and R/T all-wheel-drive come standard with the high-output 3.5-liter V6 that produces 235 horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque coupled with a new six-speed automatic transmission that comes standard with AutoStick for more excitement when needed. The Avenger R/T's six-speed automatic transmission provides quicker standing-start acceleration than a four-or five-speed transmission because of its lower first gear ratio. A more robust differential with increased torque capacity enhances launch performance by requiring less torque management, electronically limiting the torque that is available during the initial stages of standing-start acceleration. Smaller steps between ratios also make for a smoother, quieter ride, as the engine speed doesn't change as often with each shift. In addition, more ratio choices, more appropriate ratios for quicker acceleration and lower overall top gear ratio provide a quiet ride and improved fuel economy at highway speeds. The strong unitized steel frame and body provides a smooth and robust ride with no indication of noise, vibration or harshness. I was impressed with the difference from the model that it replaced.

The Avenger R/T's fully independent sport-tuned suspension smoothes out the rough roads, and sticks firmly to the pavement during spirited driving. Up front are MacPherson struts with coil springs over gas-charged shocks, and a stabilizer bar with an isolated suspension cradle. The multi-link rear features coil springs, a link-type stabilizer bar, gas-charged shocks and an isolated rear suspension cradle. You'll only find front and rear isolated suspension cradles in more expensive sport sedans. The Avenger's use of structural adhesives is world-class. Components joined with new structural adhesives improve stiffness as opposed to using spot welding and laser welding. Tougher, more elastic adhesives add strength to Avenger's joints during impact. Avenger's stronger joints create a more rigid structure with minimum noise, vibration and harshness. This gives Avenger more overall torsion and bending stiffness comparable to more expensive luxury sedans, thus giving you excellent on-road performance and a solid fee and ride comfort. Twist or torsional stiffness is rated at 32.2Hz and bending stiffness is rated at 26.3Hz. The speed-proportional, power rack & pinion steering system allow a lower performance steering gear to provide more feedback from the road and spot-on, on-center feel. Quickly slowing the Avenger R/T down from speed are large, four-wheel disc brakes.

Up front are 11.5-inch vented discs and 10.3-inch solid discs in the rear. Front and rear discs are clamped with single-piston calipers. Standard ABS keeps you in control during severe braking maneuvers. The Avenger R/T rides on large, 18 x 7-inch chrome-clad cast aluminum wheels wrapped with Bridgestone Pontenza 215/55R18 RE92A high-performance tires. During spirited driving times, the standard traction control, ABS and electronic stability program help to keep you on your chosen path when challenging steep, curving roads. The Avenger R/T is every inch a Dodge R/T high-performance sedan. I was impressed. The vehicle's cabin is roomy, quiet and very comfortable with all the latest high-tech features and two features not found on any other midsize sedan on the market. The quiet interior benefits from extensive application of pumpable and moldable sealers in the upper body to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). Seam sealing is applied both inside and outside the body, instead of just inside the body. The Avenger's doors are triple sealed to reduce wind noise. A continuous, one-piece channel-type weather strip mounted in a three-piece roll-formed channel in the upper door frames seals both sides of the windows to prevent wind noise and water leaks.

Other NVH inhibitors include acoustic engine covers, powertrain and body mounts tuned to minimize shake, as well as improve instrument panel stiffness, steering column-to-instrument panel stiffness and instrument panel-to-body stiffness, the air induction system, accessory drive mounting and exhaust system tuned to reduce powertrain noise and improve sound quality. The A-pillar and exterior mirrors were aerodynamically developed in the wind tunnel to reduce wind noise. Multiple rib-like indentations in the floor pan and applied mastic sound-deadening material reduce boom and add to Avenger's extremely quiet ride. Expandable polyurethane foam is injected into cavities in the body structure to prevent noise from being transmitted to the passenger compartment. Every hole and cavity is covered with a plug or patch, bituminous mastic pads are bonded to the floor pan to dampen vibration and act as a noise barrier, and dampers on the dash and rear wheel houses consisting of a layer of mastic between two layers of metal are adhesive bonded to flat surfaces that might otherwise resonate. All of these extra features truly make for a very quiet ride. The front bucket seas are comfortable and supportive with extra side bolstering to keep you firmly in place in the turns or on long road trips. Visibility is excellent up front but there is a bad blind spot just after the rear doors, so be careful when backing up. Carefully matched grains and low gloss levels contribute to Avenger's rich-looking interior surfaces. The instrument panel top pad and center stack feature a Franklin grain with low-gloss finish to match the defroster grille, driver cubby and Dodge logo on passenger side surrounds. From the cluster bezel to climate control knobs, circles are a primary graphic element repeated throughout the interior. I would have liked to have seen some soft-touch materials used as all of the surfaces are hard and not very inviting to the touch.

The center stack features a V-like ram's horn shape that surrounds the gated shifter bezel and serves as a design focal point. A large opening below the vents provides room for the standard AM/FM/CD radio or the optional, cutting-edge MyGIG Multimedia Navigaiton/Audio/Entertainment/Communication system. On Avengers equipped with the UConnect Hands-free Communication system, phone buttons are packaged in the radio control head for easy access and a clean, streamlined appearance. Unique to the Dodge Avenger in the midsize segment is the Chill Zone, a chilled beverage storage bin that is standard and is housed in the passenger-side upper dashboard, just above the glovebox and can hold four 12oz. beverage cans. The Avenger also features the only heated/cooled cupholder up front. Just push a button on the front of the center console to heat your beverage up to 140-degrees or to cool it down to 35-degrees. The all-new Avenger's interior is a spacious 100.9 cubic feet of room for four passengers plus driver, and the 13.35 cubic feet trunk can be enlarged with the rear seats folded flat. The standard LED lights give the interior a very special brightness in pure white light. My fully-loaded Avenger R/T came with leather seating but you get the standard YES Essentials Fabric which is an easy-care, soil-repellent and anti-microbial textile that protects seats from stains, odors and discoloration. I really liked Dodge moving the ignition to the dashboard for easier engagement.

Standard features found inside my Avenger R/T include air conditioning with auto temperature control, power windows and door locks with front express up-down controls, AM/FM/six-CD/DVD/MP3 player, eight-way driver-side seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated/power-remote/fold-away side mirrors, leather-wrapped/tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, leather-wrapped shift knob, outside temperature display/compass heading display in odometer, tire pressure monitor and warning signal, center console with fore/aft sliding armrest, fog lamps, map lights, thick-pile carpeting with custom floor mats, cruise-control, intermittent wipers/washers, keyless entry, illuminated entry, rear window defroster, power trunklid release, and power accessory delay. Options include a power sunroof, leather trimmed seating, two-tone leather steering wheel, premium headliner with LED lighting and grab handles, instrument cluster with display screen, air filtration, heated front seats, trip computer, remote start system, heated/cooled front cupholder, electronic stability program, traction control, MyGIG multimedia infotainment radio with navigation, auto-dim rearview mirror with microphone and U-Connect Hands-Free Communications, SIRIUS satellite radio, 18 x 7-inch aluminum/chrome wheels, and rear seat DVD system. Safety features include Avenger's safety cage constructed with dual-phase, high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel components designed to protect occupants in all driving situations, front/rear crumple zones, steel beams in each door, three-point safety belts for all five seating position with front pretensioners/load limiters, advanced multi-stage front airbags, side airbags, side-curtain airbags, LATCH system, and child-proof rear door locks.

After one week behind the wheel of the all-new Avenger R/T, I came away very impressed with the total package of styling, performance, comfort, innovation, luxury and safety. When I wanted to have fun it was just a pedal push away, and when I wanted a nice, relaxing drive with the stereo system on loud, it was all there. SUMMARY JUDGMENT Dodge creates a pretty decent Charger Lite. For more information on Dodge products, go to www.dodge.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com © Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2008 Dodge Avenger R/T Price: $22,870.00 base, $30,060.00 as tested including destination Engine type: 3.5 liter, SOHC, 24-valve, V6 Horsepower: 235 at 5,400 rpm Torque: 232 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm EPA mileage: 19mpg/city, 86mpg/highway with FWD 19mpg/city, 26mpg/highway AWD Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive, AWD available Transmission type: 62TE automatic six-speed overdrive transaxle Front suspension: Independent MacPherson strut, coil springs over gas-charged shocks, stabilizer bar with isolated suspension cradle Rear suspension: Independent multi-link with coil springs, link-type stabilizer bar, gas-charged shocks, and isolated suspension cradle Wheels/tires: 18X8 cast aluminum wheels/215/55R18 all-season Bridgestone RE92A Potenza tires Brakes: Front: 11.5 in. vented discs with single-piston, floating caliper Rear: 11.5 in. vented discs with single-piston floating caliper Overall length: 190.9 in. Overall width: 71.8 in. Overall height: 58.9 in. Curb weight:: 3,568 pounds (FWD) 3,738 pounds (AWD)

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