Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

March 23, 2014

Cargazing: Avenger an American value

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 of power.

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