Monday, July 2, 2012

2012 Dodge Avenger: 1100 Miles, Iron Man & One Big Bass

I put more than 1100 miles on the Dodge Avenger SXT Plus I rented two weeks ago. All of those miles were logged in the State of Minnesota with 14 days of driving between Bemidji and Stillwater, with many stops in between. I feel confident that I got to know this Avenger and its ability to handle rain, wind and clouds of bugs. 

Big Trout Lake, Minnesota
(c) Erika Fish
I was skeptical when I first saw this Avenger because in the past I've not liked many Dodge products. Plus, the name is lame, but my 12-year old son liked  Marvel's 'The Avengers' movie and therefore any product that shares this name must also be cool. (He's a logical thinker.) But after the first 50 miles, I knew that this was not a Dodge of my youth. Or even a Dodge of the last decade. 

  • Quiet ride (multiple noise-reducing features standard)
  • Comfortable
  • Good handling
  • Powerful with the Pentastar V6 engine
  • Huge trunk with standard 60/40 split rear seat
  • Good (i.e. Loud) speaker/audio system
  • Easy-to-use Touch Screen for audio system
  • Side-curtain and front airbags; a steering wheel that collapses to 4 inches if air bags are deployed
  • Two LATCH equipped seats (but you have to dig for hooks)

I'm not so pleased with:
  • BIG blind spots due to chunky rear pillars
  • Ever-so-slight delay when engaging accelerator after stopping or coasting and soft brakes
  • 'T' on steering wheel too thick for me to comfortable use when driving; requires that I keep my hands at 10 & 2 all the time
  • Tacky black and bright red metallic interior (but the kids think it's "cool")
  • Back seats are fairly deep buckets making it difficult to see kids in rear view mirror

Honesty is the Best Policy
Meet my son and Big Willy:
Biggest Bass on the Lake.
(c) Jim Fish
I'll start by saying that I'm a fairly honest person. I don't sugar-coat much, and I'm not afraid to share my opinion whether you ask for it or not. (I can see my friends, mom and husband nodding vigorously.) I'm a farm girl at heart, and I've always loved German engineering and fast cars. This makes for an odd combination of do-it-yourself pluckiness and a desire for the finer things in life. One thing I've always been honest about is the fact that I was raised with Fords and that I've never been a fan of Dodge vehicles. However, my experience with the 2012 Avenger this week has caused me to re-think my bias. Last year I was impressed with the Chrysler 200 I drove around Minnesota, and this year it's the Dodge. Sometimes it's good to visit a state where you're hard pressed to find a foreign vehicle at the rental agency. 

And since I'm so honest, I'll share a quote from our dear daughter the first time she got in our rented Avenger: "Cool colors! Mom, if this car gets better mileage than the Prius, can we get one? I like this inside more." Even though I said no because I knew it wouldn't get better mileage, and I don't like the interior colors, the Avenger is not so bad.

A V6 is Better than a 4
I'm most impressed with how the Avenger drives and how easy it is to access the power provided by the 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine. (Of the five Avenger models, only two do NOT have this engine -- usually it's the other way around.) The shifting when accelerating is smooth and barely noticeable. Even at parking-lot speeds, the automatic transmission doesn't overdo the shifting and keeps the engine revving, which means you can access a burst of power easily if a car starts to back into you.

The 2012 Avenger SE (base model) starts at $18,995 and goes up from there with five models from which to choose. I recommend the SE V6 or the SXT Plus which have the 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 under the hood. The most tricked-out model, the R/T, starts at $25,995 and does come with the V6 and "war paint stripes" on the fenders, as well as a more sport-tuned suspension. But that's too much money for stripes -- I'm sure there's a DIY video on YouTube on customizing your fenders. The Avenger SXT Plus that I'm driving starts at $23,995, complete with red-accented interior, rear spoiler, and a "touring" suspension. Seems like a fair price for a great engine and good handling.

Interior Space & Disco Balls
Regardless of model, the 2012 Avenger has a huge trunk and a roomy, comfortable interior. Legroom in the backseat is sufficient for adults and is way more than most kids require. I thought front seat legroom was fine, but I'm only 5'3" tall. We stuffed four carry-on size suitcases and a few Target bags of "stuff for camp" into the trunk, and in the backseat our daughter rode comfortably with two sleeping bags and three backpacks. She even had enough room to put down the arm rest/cup holder and still push on the back of my seat with her feet. We didn't use the 60/40 split back seat, but it's always good to have options when it comes to cargo configurations.
Rear Seat Folded Flat

The driver's seat in the SXT Plus has a power multi-position adjustable seat and a manual lumbar support adjustment. The steering wheel tilts, but doesn't telescope. The audio command center is a touchscreen and is fairly easy to use, even while driving. The temperature controls are knobs that are also very easy to use. There is only one climate "zone" in this model, and I couldn't find the rear-seat vents, but the young one in the backseat didn't complain about the temperature, so I must have done something right. 

I see:
Fishnets Over Red Spandex
The second I saw the red accents on these seats, I thought of The Solid Gold Dancers (one of my childhood favs) and their shimmery metallic polyester outfits. Maybe there is a connection to 'The Avengers' movie. Don't they wear tight-fitting shimmery tights? The red "accents" on the seats are sparkly and almost iridescent. The black cloth over the top of the red looks like fishnet stockings over Iron Man's red legs. Unfortunately, Dodge isn't giving you many options on interior colors: The SXT Plus comes with the red-accented-I'm-at-a-disco-club cloth seats, and the R/T comes with a giant red "R/T" embroidered on the head rests. I'm just not that flashy. I don't even like to wear red nail polish. But I won't judge you if you like these seats or red nail polish. I'm sure red looks great on you.

A Spoiler? Really?
I do think the rear spoiler is a bit much. My husband said it'll help with bump drafting, but I haven't had the opportunity to test that out on the local highways. As for looks, it's not a deal breaker, but I wouldn't seek it out either. Again, Dodge isn't giving us many options here either: the spoiler is called "cool" and is standard on the Avenger's with the V6 engine.

The Avenger gets decent gas mileage, even with that big V6 engine and my tendency towards driving 80 MPH. I'm averaging 29 MPG with a mix of city and highway, but mostly highway. According to the Avenger details on the Dodge website, the 4 cylinder on the SE and SXT models return about 31 MPG. (I suggest taking a hit on the MPG and splurging for the power of the Pentastar V6. Consider the spoiler a gift from Dodge.) 

Ring of Fire Tail Lights (Ouch!)
Side Note on the Avenger website: The copy on the Avenger pages of the Dodge website was written with a much younger, single consumer in mind; certainly not a boring mother of two like myself. I base this on certain phraseology: using the word "date" in reference to "pick up your date" and "run from your date;" calling the rear spoiler "just plain cool;" and referring to the LED tail lights as a "ring of fire."  For someone like me, none of that applies. I don't pick up or run from dates, I pick up dry cleaning and run from my children; the spoiler is just another thing that needs dusting; and the "ring of fire" term brings up memories of childbirth that are forever seared in my memory and have ruined my enjoyment of Johnny Cash.

UConnect, EVIC, and U
Tire Pressure Monitoring
As for your Command Center, the Avenger has several levels of UConnect (R) depending on the model you drive, and a decent Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) that can be customized. I like the EVIC's tire pressure monitor that shows the pressure on all four tires in a graphic display. Controls for the EVIC are on the steering wheel and UConnect controls are on the touch screen and some can be controlled with the steering wheel buttons.

Center Stack
The SXT has Sirius XM satellite radio, CD player (and apparently DVD if I stay in Park and want to watch a movie on the 6.5" screen), two USB ports, an audio jack, and Bluetooth for phone and for streaming audio from my smart phone or iPod. I could also have navigation with Garmin, hands-free calling and texting, and I could get the dealer to install Wi-fi by Mopar and turn the Avenger into a hot spot with a 150 foot radius. A useful feature if you commute, have a chauffeur, or have almost maxed out your data plan on your phone.

Keep Those Improvements Coming
And there you have it: I'm maturing. And I won't be avoiding Dodge vehicles anymore. But more importantly, Dodge seems to have turned a corner and is now offering up sedans that can nearly match the power and driving experience of more expensive European vehicles. (Although, I can't think of any European sedans that come from the factory with war paint stripes on the fenders.) I'm hopeful that this trend will continue for American-made vehicles.

Thanks to Jim at the Saint Cloud, MN Budget/Avis for having this Avenger SXT+ for me; Costco Travel for the great rate; family for letting me crash on various beds and air mattresses for two weeks; and for the seemingly endless hospitality of Minnesotans. 

Photos by Erika Fish, Jim Fish, Chrysler Group LLC and Edmunds.

(c) Copyright 2010-2016. Erika JN Fish. Car Mama. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I’m definitely going to look into it. Really very useful tips are provided here. Thank you so much. Keep up the good works Iron Man Car