Mrs. Peel, Your Ride has Arrived
By Joe Tralongo
Not since Diana Rigg debuted on American television wearing a black leather fighting suit has the Avenger name generated so much excitement. For those born after 1970, The Avengers was a popular British spy drama and Diana Rigg was, well….go ask your father. The name Avenger is still igniting sparks, only now instead of referencing a seductively sexy brunette it’s affixed to the trunk of the newest mid-size Dodge sedan. Before you go screaming from the computer with visions of your last rental car (probably a well-worn Dodge Stratus), let me assure you the Avenger is a strong competitor worthy of the gay dollar. It’s got looks, muscle and manners and it arrives in Dodge dealerships some $1,500 less than the car it replaces and stocked with nearly $1,000 worth of additional content.
To its credit, the Avenger holds strong visual appeal, delivers reasonably frugal fuel economy and with a starting MSRP of just $18,895, is priced well within most consumer budgets. Offered in SE, SXT and R/T trims, the Avenger stacks up well when placed next to the Ford Fusion and Pontiac G6, but seems to lack the overall refinement found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Still, there is much to like here. Are you into muscle? Check out the R/T’s 235-horsepower V6 engine. You like flashy good looks? Just look at the blacked out headlight surrounds and the ¾ scale Dodge Charger rear end. Have to have your no-fat, half caff soy latte piping hot and your mineral water frigid cold? The Avenger’s optional heated and cooling front cup holders have you covered. Can’t live without your music? The MyGIG harman/kardon audio system will blow you away. It features a built-in 20 gigabyte hard drive that allows you to download music or photos from a CD or flash drive. The unit also includes a rear seat entertainment system, GPS navigation, an auxiliary audio input jack and Bluetooth hands-free communication capabilities. Other niceties include a fold-flat front passenger seat, optional heated cloth seating and YES Essentials stain and bacteria resistant fabrics.
While its plethora of cool interior gadgets blows most competitors out of the water, the Avenger’s interior color palate needs a serious fashion 911. Blanketed in the same hard grey plastics that seem to thrive only in DaimlerChrysler products, the Avenger’s interior reminded me of a dreary east coast winter day. One needs only look to the interior of the Mazda6 or Saturn Aura to see how the job should be done. On a side note, the Chill-Zone cooling compartment positioned above the glove box seems like a good idea, but without the air conditioning running my sodas never cooled much below room temperature. Just as well, since we all know if you put any type of functional refrigeration unit around gay men, they’re going to stock it like a rolling minibar.
My six-foot three frame felt right at home behind the wheel and rear seat accommodations proved equally comfortable, albeit with bit less headroom and a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere created by the rear door’s sizeable plastic filler panels. Props must be given for the Avenger’s long list of safety features, which include standard side-curtain airbags and optional electronic stability control.
Front-wheel-drive Avengers can be equipped with a 2.4-liter four cylinder, a 2.7-liter flex-fuel V6 or a 3.5-liter high-output V6. All-wheel drive is available, but only on the R/T trim. I spent a good deal of time in the four-cylinder SXT and found the 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter four to be surprisingly spirited. It’s quiet, smooth and sips gas to the sum of 30-mpg highway. Driving enthusiasts will prefer the 235-horsepower R/T, which offers impressive acceleration, a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and a sport-tuned suspension. To date I still don’t know many people who are dying to use E85 ethanol, which costs as much or more than unleaded and results in a noticeable loss of fuel efficiency, but Dodge offers the 2.7-liter flex-fuel V6 for those who do.
So what’s my take? After spending eight hours behind the wheel, I can report with confidence the Dodge Avenger is far and away a better car than the old Stratus. Its edgy styling, comfortable interior and long list of unique features make it a tempting choice for individualist tired of generic sedans and lackluster performance. Now if only we could get a five-speed manual and the Queer Eye guys to give the interior color scheme a big gay makeover. Ah well, maybe next year.
SE base price $18,895
SXT base price $19,795
R/T base price $23,545
R/T AWD base price $25,545
Dodge is a gay-friendly company.
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