If you’re someone who appreciates the golden age of domestic sedans — those big, comfortable, heavy-feeling cars with a uniquely American sense of style — this one ought to pique your interest.
It’s the Dodge Avenger, and it’s part of a disappearing breed of domestic family cars that actually feel American. While most four-door cars seem to be following the longstanding Japanese model of lightweight construction, firm suspensions and jellybean bodies, this one just doesn’t.
It feels more iron-like than most cars being sold today, with a softer suspension, smoother ride and portlier handling than its competitors.
After you open the wide, weighty front doors, you plop down into the driver’s seat and are greeted by a thick, meaty steering wheel. From the oversized air vents to the wide seats and big honkin’ gear selector, the Avenger is a car that actually seems like it’s built with the American market in mind rather than a globalized, homogenized platform that would make people in Finland or Thailand equally happy.
In some ways, it’s the counterbalance to Dodge’s very Italian-feeling Dart. That also means it’s not a good fit for people who are looking for a super-duper fuel sipper.
At its best, the Avenger is rated for 31 mpg on the highway, which isn’t impressive when mid-size cars are routinely available in special eco-friendly versions that achieve 40+ mpg ratings these days.
On the flip side, none of the tree-hugger cars offer as much torquey, pavement-crushing power as this one. The 3.6-liter V6 in my test car makes 283 horsepower, enough to make it accelerate with nearly the same gusto as a muscle car. And it’s rated for 29 mpg on the highway, which isn’t bad at all for that level
Not surprisingly, the Avenger aims to exert some of that muscle-car influence through its sheetmetal, too. Oversized fender flares and wide back pillars are throwbacks to 1960s Detroit, although I can’t help but wish Dodge’s designers would go even farther — either more blatantly retro, like the Challenger, or more refreshingly modern, like the Dart.
What I like best about the Avenger isn’t the overarching Americanism coursing through its veins but something much more practical: attractive pricing.
While the base price is a hair under $20,000, the version you actually want, the one with V6 power, goes for $20,895. It’s a true bargain for that many horses packed under the hood and doesn’t burn much more fuel than the four-cylinder engine, making it the no-brainer pick.
Even on my test car, which came with leather seats, a navigation system and the trendy Blacktop appearance package, the total price rang up at $26,480. For a comfortable car with a healthy level of luxury amenities, that’s an impressive price indeed.