Car review: 2011 Dodge Avenger

By Ian Merritt/

*14.5 for SE, XLE trim levels

Dodge has been busy remaking the interiors of many of its 2011 models. The effort has met with mixed results, with models like the Durango SUV and Grand Caravan minivan now fitted with upscale, refined cabins, while others, like the Avenger and Journey crossover, gain interiors that are more stopgap than superlative.

To a large degree, the Avenger's new interior is the automotive equivalent of an old house getting some new siding. The dashboard and door panels have been skinned in nice materials, and the instrument cluster has a new design, but you don't have to look too closely to notice things that weren't addressed -- things like cheapo adjustable map lights, wobbly steering-column stalks and a gear selector that moves sloppily through its gates. The shortcomings are even more glaring when you compare the Avenger with a car like the redesigned Optima, which has one of the nicest interiors in the segment.


The 2011 Avenger was awarded Top Safety Pick status by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety thanks to its performance in front, side and rear crash tests, plus a roof-strength test (the Avenger received Good scores -- the best possible -- in all four tests). It also has a standard electronic stability system.

Other standard features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags and active head restraints for the front seats.

Avenger in the market

Despite numerous improvements to the 2011 Avenger, they don't go far enough to make this sedan more appealing than any number of competitors, like the Camry, Fusion and Optima. When you compartmentalize the Avenger's attributes, you can praise various aspects, like its composed ride and quiet interior, but in the end you have to weigh the car as a whole. When you do that, there's a lot left to be desired.


Starting MSRP $19,245 -- $23,745

EPA Fuel Economy:
City: 19 -- 21
Highway: 29 -- 31

Available Engines:
173-hp, 2.4-liter I-4 (regular gas)
283-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 (flexible; E85)

Available Transmissions:
4-speed automatic w/OD
6-speed multi-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual

New or Notable
* Exterior and interior updates for 2011
* Optional 283-hp V-6
* Optional navigation system
* IIHS Top Safety Pick

What We Like
* Quiet cabin
* Suspension refinement
* Interior improvements
* Brake-pedal feel

What We Don't
* Torque steer when accelerating hard (V-6)
* Six-speed transmission's hesitancy
* Snug cabin
* Small trunk

© 2011,