published Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Test Drive: Dodge Avenger quickens the pulse

This 2014 Dodge Avenger from Moss Motors in South PIttsburg is equppied with the popular "black top" wheel and trim package.
This 2014 Dodge Avenger from Moss Motors in South PIttsburg is equppied with the popular "black top" wheel and trim package.
Photo by Mark Kennedy.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2014 Dodge Avenger

* Exterior color: Redline Red

* Interior color: Black

* Engine: 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder

* Horsepower: (I-4, 173) (V-6, 283)

* Transmission: four-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 30 mpg highway, 21 mpg city

* Dealer: Moss Motor Company, South Pittsburg, Tenn.

* Price (as tested): $22,775

The Dodge Avenger gets my vote for “Best Name” in the four-door sedan segment. You’re tired of your bland life and somebody has to pay, right? So, who you gonna call? The AVENGER!

Dodge does a good job of providing its products with names that evoke a wicked sense of adventure. Viper or Prowler, anyone?

Shawn Henson over at Moss Motor Co. in South Pittsburg, Tenn., provided our test car this week: A Redline Red Avenger with the “Blacktop” package, which includes gloss-black 18-inch wheels, a black grille and a body-colored spoiler in back. The result is a value-packed car with lots of visual presence.

Base four-cylinder Avengers start at $20,890 and the line ranges up to $26,790 for a six-cylinder R/T variant. Our four-cylinder SE test car has an affordable MSRP of $22,775.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The Avenger bristles with muscular sheet metal, flared wheel arches, and a masculine cross-hair grille design. Available black tinted headlights and tail-lights help complete the vibe. The black wheels on our test car draw your eyes with a glossy — not matte-black — finish. The standard Goodyear Eagles look appropriately aggressive on these rims.

Inside, the Avenger gets the black-out treatment, with high-quality materials on most of the touch surfaces. Nice standard features include a driver’s side seat height adjuster, power windows and laminated windshield glass.

Traction control and a security alarm are also standard; as is a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes. A satellite radio with a one-year Sirius subscription is included for a mere $195. The rear seat splits 60-40 to create more cargo space when you need it.

It was easy to find a comfortable driving position in the Avenger, and the driver’s seat can be raised into a commanding position. There is an immense amount of head- and shoulder-room in the Avenger, which is no slave to the tyranny of today’s low roof lines. The Avenger roof bubbles up to provide an airy and comfortable interior. Visibility is also first-rate, an under-appreciated safety feature.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The Avenger comes with two engine choices, a 173-horsepower four-cylinder and a more robust 283-horsepower V-6. Our test car had the smaller engine, and while the I-4 pulls capably, the V-6 will come closer to matching the car’s aggressive appearance.

Steering is on the heavy side, which gives the car secure handling. Four-cylinder SE Avengers get a four-speed automatic, while the higher trim models are mated to six-speed automatic transmissions.

On a short test drive through South Pittsburg, the attractive Avenger got lots of second looks from pedestrians and other drivers. It’s a nice cruising car, projecting muscle without performing like a gas-guzzler. The four-cylinder model is rated at 30 miles per gallon highway and 21 miles per gallon city.

BOTTOM LINE

Sometimes a car buyer needs practicality, but wants a little excitement, too. The Avenger strikes a good balance between the two in a segment known more for its appliance-like best-sellers. Assembled in Sterling Heights, Mich., it’s also a good choice for those who prefer All-American metal.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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