Dodge's midsize sedan competitor, the 2009 Avenger, has a surprising set of features to recommend it, most notably cabin conveniences you don't expect to find on a model starting in the low $20,000s. A Stone-Age transmission is what really keeps it from being an effective Camry killer, although many will like Dodge's muscle-car design language. Dodge packages its cabin tech options for Bluetooth and navigation under the UConnect name, but our Avenger lacked these extras.
On the road
We used the 2009 Dodge Avenger SXT for a 1,000 mile trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back, and when we first got into the car we couldn't help but think we'd gotten a rental. Fleet sales over the last couple of decades inured us to cars with bland interiors made from hard plastics, of which the Avenger is a prime example.
Lacking a navigation system in our car, we clamped a TomTom to the windshield, programmed in our Los Angeles destination, and started counting down the miles. As the leading, lower edge of the windshield was far forward, using the TomTom's touch screen while underway was not possible. Further, that severely slanted windshield subjected the TomTom to plenty of glare.
Audio for our trip came from an MP3 CD in the six-disc changer, an iPhone tapped into the car's auxiliary input, and Sirius satellite radio. It's not the most advanced audio set-up, but it does provide some options.
Our Avenger SXT was fitted with a 2.7-liter V-6, an upgrade from the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, transversely mounted and powering the front wheels. Although this is a flex-fuel engine, we didn't encounter any E85 at the pumps during this road trip.
While passing big trucks on the Interstate, the V-6's acceleration was less than satisfying, often because it had to wait for the four-speed automatic transmission to step down, which didn't happen promptly. And when the transmission finally realized passing gear, the tach needle would shoot up to 6,000rpm with the power train making a terrible straining whine.
However, during the steep climb up the mountains on the northern border of Los Angeles, we put the shifter in third gear and the Avenger easily maintained power, passing up other cars that were wheezing on the steep grade.
There are more comfortable cars to take over long distances, but the Avenger proved adequate. As a bonus, our total mileage for the trip, which included high-speed freeway driving and Los Angeles traffic, came in at 27.8 mpg, just a little over the EPA highway number of 27 mpg (19 mpg city).
In the cabin
Arrows in Dodge's cabin tech quiver include UConnect GPS, UConnect Phone, and UConnect Tunes, branded terms for a hard drive-based navigation system with live traffic, Bluetooth phone support, and onboard music storage. Although our 2009 Dodge Avenger SXT wasn't equipped with these options, we tested them earlier in the Dodge Challenger, and found they worked very well.