2008 Dodge Avenger First Impressions
by Ian Grasso
My gas gauge was deep in the red.
My Volvo was doing everything in its power to tell me to stop and refill it with (Premium Only) gasoline short of deploying the airbag to knock some sense into me. But just as I was considering the respective merits of Texaco and Shell (Memo to marketing groups pushing the oil company’s high tech fuel additives: this internal debate was 100% dictated by price) the good people at Chrysler called to remind me that it was the day to pick up a 2008 Avenger SXT. The Dodge, as any good high volume midsize car worth its salt, takes regular unleaded. And thankfully the needle is firmly entrenched in safe territory. Saved.
I’m just about done with premium gas. Every time I go to the station with my girlfriend, she excoriates me for getting the good stuff. I explain to her, in my best patronizing kindergarten teacher voice, that my car is a turbo and needs premium gas or the motor will explode into a fine dust of carbon and IKEA particle board (you know they have it in there somewhere, its Swedish).
Nevertheless, wincing at $4.01 a gallon the other day, I did something I haven’t done since I was a broke college student driving an old Audi turbo that also demanded premium. I stopped the pump after paying $10 dollars for a couple gallons of premium, put in my card again, and filled the rest of the tank with mid-grade. Rough calculation: 89.2 octane – good enough. I just couldn’t bear to fill it with regular unleaded, but that time will come soon. Volvo enthusiasts will tell you that it is okay to use mid-grade as long as you fill it up once in a while with premium. Huh? If someone knows the chemistry and mechanical engineering behind that claim please explain it to me. The manual says “Premium only,” and gas stations are pricing a larger differential between regular and premium than ever before. These are grim days to own a turbo, my friends.
What does this have to do with the Dodge Avenger? Nothing really, but as the mid-sized Chrysler LLC product will be my chariot for the next week, the unremarkable MPG figures (19 city/28 highway) from its V6 will be more than offset by a 30 cent difference, per gallon, that I have to pay for fuel in my own car. The Volvo will be sitting idle, the trickle of premium gas left in the tank assuring an embarrassingly slow trip to the nearest gas station using 2nd to 4th shifting patterns and 6th gear or neutral at 40 MPH when I drive it again. You can probably tell I have done this before.
Say what you will about American cars, but they know how to keep things reasonable. There is no sticker shock at the pump with this car, you always get the lowest price. Add to that the Chrysler “Let’s Refuel America” plan, where you are guaranteed to pay only $2.99 a gallon for 3 years upon the purchase of a new car (maximum of 12,000 miles a year). Not bad at all, although I hope this fuel hedging scheme doesn’t turn around and blow up in Chryslers face.
Besides, this Avenger is nicely equipped. It has the aforementioned V6, big 18 inch alloys, and inside the very cool MyGig multimedia system with Sirius Satellite Radio to keep me occupied while I am sitting in the typical, extremely annoying downtown traffic jam.
I wish they wouldn’t have put the cheap, useless spoiler on the back, but otherwise the exterior looks pretty good – the high jutting rear of a Charger with the flat face of a Caliber. Not Porsche looks but not Aztek-like either. The interior is somewhat typical of Chrysler LLC: nice design executed with below-average materials. We will see how it turns out, and I will have a full review after I have a chance to put the Avenger through its paces for a week.