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Click to view road test review picture gallery“Dodge goes gunning
  for sales with its new
  family-sized saloon,
  the Avenger.
  Aggressively styled
  and well loaded with
  kit, does it have what
  it takes to steal sales
  from the Toyota
  Avensis, Mazda 6,
  Skoda Superb and
  Kia Magentis?”


THE ALL-AMERICAN BRAND OF DODGE, which sits in the same stable as Chrysler and Jeep, aims to rustle up a few more sales with the family-sized Avenger saloon — on sale in the UK in September '07.

Prices start at 14,995 and range up to 17,995. The Avenger is a
re-badged version of the more expensive Chrysler Sebring — which went on sale recently — and is available with 2.0 and 2.4-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines with SE and SXT levels of specification. The 2.4-litre petrol SXT model can only be had with an automatic trans-mission, and both 2.0-litre models (petrol and diesel) come with manual gearboxes — although next year an automatic transmission
will be available for the diesel model.

Chrysler Group UK is shy when it comes to talking about sales forecasts for any of their models. However, it is thought that in a full year the UK market might attract around 2,000 customers for the Avenger. There are no plans for an Avenger estate version.

The Avenger is now the fourth model range in Dodge's UK line-up. The others are the SRT-10 supercar that we know as the Viper, the Caliber and the Nitro. In 2008 a mid-sized, seven-seat MPV will be added to the range but the giant Dodge RAM pick-up has been dropped from the line-up. Year-to-date Dodge sales in the UK total 1,650 vehicles.

Gareth Hession, product and planning manager for Chrysler Group UK, speaking at the recent media launch of the Avenger, predicted that 85 per cent of Avenger sales would be for SXT models and 65 per cent of customers (and probably increasing to 75 per cent once the automatic transmission becomes available) will choose the diesel engine option.

Hession also said the Avenger is primarily a 'retail' car. Yes, he expects some fleet and user-chooser customers to be attracted to the new family-sized saloon, but primarily it is private buyers who will like the distinctive American styling and high levels of value-for-money equip-ment fitted as standard.

Dodge sees the Avenger selling against competitor D-segment models such as the Toyota Avensis, Mazda 6, Skoda Superb and Kia Magentis. And they claim the Avenger prices to be, on average, 10 per cent lower than the competition.

Hession added: "The key features of the Avenger are the aggressive design, the eye-catching 18-inch alloy wheels for the SXT versions
and the electronic stability programme with traction control fitted as standard on all models. As are anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, six airbags and tyre pressure monitoring, and the choice of engine options. The expected best selling SXT models also have leather upholstery, heated front seats, power-adjustable driver's seat, six speakers and remote controls for the sound system, a boot spoiler and fog lamps.
All the extra equipment for SXT models adds up to 2,400 but we are only charging 2,000 more for an SXT model over an SE."

Extra cost options include an impressive MyGIG Infotainment System which adds 1,500 to the price of either specification level. The sun-roof option costs 600.

The three engine choices are: 2.0-litre petrol unit with Variable Valve Timing producing 154bhp and 140lb ft of torque with a combined cycle fuel consumption of 36.2mpg and 185g/km CO2, which puts it in Band
E of Vehicle Excise Duty at 165 per annum. This powerplant is used
in conjunction with a five-speed manual gearbox.

The second petrol engine option is a 2.4-litre Variable Valve Timing
unit with 167bhp, 162lb ft of torque, 31.7mpg with 211g/km CO2
(VED Band F: 205 per year). This engine is only available with auto-matic transmission.

The anticipated best-selling unit will be the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine with its Volkswagen origins. Power output is 138bhp with 229lb ft of torque and a fuel economy of 45.6mpg. CO2 emissions are 170g/km — VED Band E: 165. This unit is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.

But will aggressive and distinctive styling together with high levels of equipment be enough to attract UK buyers to a big family car, at a time when this sector of the market is in decline?

A very small number of customers will be attracted for sure, because there are always people who prefer to drive something different. In today's financially hard-pressed environment, I'm not so sure that there will be that many willing to take the risk. Certainly it will make a great buy once the car is in its second period of ownership and once the initial depreciation has taken its toll. I'm sure taxi, private-hire and minicab operators will love it to bits.

It may be packed with equipment, but the best selling model — the
2.0 CRD SXT — costs 17,995. Even more if you add the excellent satellite navigation and MyGIG option. However, for that price you are very close to buying a new diesel-powered (albeit slightly less well 'specced') Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra, Honda Accord or VW Passat saloon. And all of these have 'known' residual values.

The Avenger may well have the edge on the competition — thanks to its aggressive all-American styling, which for some will be appreciated more than the general blandness offered by mainstream D-segment saloons. High equipment levels and interior space will be other sound reasons to buy, although those reasons alone do not in necessarily make it a sensible purchase.

The VW-sourced engine is proven. But installed in the Avenger it is noisy, although it provides a capable and responsive drive. The road-holding is vague, the ride is bouncy and the suspension doesn't
absorb potholes and bumps very well.

Avenger customers will enjoy excellent interior space and a large boot, with 60:40 split-folding rear seats to maximise on the usefulness of
the saloon. Rear legroom is especially good. The interior may be fully equipped — but the quality and fit of the plastic trim is not, I have to say, up to European, Japanese or even Korean standards.

For the Avenger to make an impression on sales in this sector the published price is, I feel, too high — and there is the matter of un-known residual values. If a lower price can be negotiated with the dealer then it is worth considering. As already mentioned, the fit and finish of interior plastic trim panels is indifferent and I would rate its driving qualities as 'average'. On the plus side the Avenger offers distinctive styling, interior space for five and high levels of kit. And that alone will be enough to hook a fair share of buyers. — David Miles

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Dodge Avenger 2.0 CRD SXT | 17,995
Maximum speed: 126mph | 0-62mph: 12 seconds
Overall test MPG: 43.2mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 229lb ft

CO2 170g/km | Insurance group 9E
Visit Dodge's website Click to go there now

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