The major features lacking from this tech line-up are iPod integration and a USB port for the audio system. The Avenger has an auxiliary audio jack in the stereo face plate--not the most elegant solution, but there is a convenient cubbyhole at the bottom of the stack where you can keep an MP3 player.
For the six-disc changer and satellite radio, the two-line radio display shows information such as album, artist, song title, and channel. Navigating through the folders on an MP3 CD requires you to go through one at a time. There is no list function.
The audio system in the car is pretty basic, with four speakers in front and two in back. The sound quality is helped by the large diameter door speakers and loud amplification. But don't expect crisp highs or much nuance.
A Premium Convenience package brought in a lot of nice features you don't normally see in cars like the Avenger. LED map lights provide bright and targeted cabin illumination, while automatic headlights and front windows add a note of luxury. And as a surprise feature, one of the front cup holders has cooling and heating elements.
Under the hood
For power, our 2009 Avenger SXT had a newly available 2.7-liter V-6, offered as a compromise between the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6 available in the Avenger R/T. The 2.7-liter V-6 makes 186 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque. That's 13 more horsepower than the four-cylinder engine, which is not a big gain. It does offer 25 more pound-feet of torque, but sacrifices about 3 mpg. A bigger advantage of the smaller engine is that, in states following California Air Resources Board regulations, the Avenger is rated as a PZEV, or Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle, meaning particularly clean emissions. The 2.7-liter V-6 hasn't yet been rated.
The four-speed automatic transmission in the Avenger, standard on all models and engine choices, was the least impressive. The large gap between fourth and third gears leads to big rpm changes when the transmission steps down a gear for passing power, with an attendant cacophony from the engine. Although there is no manual-gear selection, the transmission has two low ranges, plus Drive mode, which effectively lets you choose third and second gear.
Steering-wheel response is good, with the power set to provide enough resistance to easily keep the car in a straight line. Handling displayed the kind of understeer we would expect in a car of this class, but body roll wasn't severe.
The 2009 Dodge Avenger SXT has a base price of $21,500. Our review car was optioned up with the Premium Convenience package for $1,495, electronic stability and traction control for $425, and the 2.7-liter V-6, which also brings in front- and rear-stabilizer bars, for $1,300. A $225 paint job and $740 for the destination charge brought the total price to $25,685. Expect the really good UConnect tech options to add about $2,500 to the price.
Although the Honda Accord and might seem the obvious competitors among midsize sedans, the Ford Fusion makes for a better comparison. Both the Dodge Avenger and Ford Fusion have superior cabin tech to the Honda and Toyota models.
In rating the Avenger, we gave it credit for the available GPS and Bluetooth systems, considering it excellent for cabin tech. For the power train and handling, while we liked the fuel economy and the fact you can get it as a PZEV, we could only call the performance good. The design gets a similar score, as we like the muscle-car touches, but note that it doesn't have enough power to qualify for that classification.