It’s a rare road trip that you get to take with your best girls, and this February, I got to go away with mine: my two daughters, ages 10 and 13. With a week off from school, waist high snow on the ground and nothing anchoring us to Connecticut, we decided to hit the road for Virginia, North Carolina and two visits to the Great Wolf Lodge. Our chariot for this trip was the 2013 Dodge Avenger R/T, the middle sibling between the cute little Dart and the full-sized Charger, the Avenger is a muscle car that is a bit more grown up and demure in style than its very buff cousin, the Challenger. An adult sedan, the Avenger is not designed to cater to the needs of kids in the back seat--which is what my girls are used to on road trips--but rather, accommodating the driver and passenger in a more sophisticated manner. Now that my daughters are a bit older and have the curiosity and patience to explore the offerings of a car, the Avenger was fun. The driver experience was great--a little bit of Fast andFurious in a family sedan. But while you're gunning it from the pole position, whats the experience like for passengers? Not harrowing, hopefully, and that was the Avenger: smooth and comfortable, passengers nicely ensconced in comfy bucket seats, even in the back. The back seat, like most sedans, takes the three seat belt approach, and with a pull down console from the middle of the seat back, makes a very comfortable setup for two passengers: plenty of room for drinks, snacks and electronics. Also, a pass-thru from the seat back behind the pull-down console (surely planned for fishing gear or skis) allowed a bit of access to things in the trunk while we were driving: drinks in a cooler? More snacks? Easy to reach. The trunk’s 13.5 cubic feet, which might not sound like a lot compared to the huge cargo spaces we’re used to in our SUVs, was more than ample for our suitcases, backpacks and pool bags. And, there was still space for the requisite outlet shopping we would do along the way.
Bluetooth streaming rocks a road trip: we could sync all our devices and take turns with our playlistsFrom the back seat or the passenger's seat the girls could do what they do best: play with electronics. But this time, it was the Chrysler UConnect media console that provided hours of fun: before we began our trip they'd synced our phones and devices, and discovered something very cool: all our devices could stream via the car's Bluetooth: so the Kindle, iPhone and iPad, each with their own music, could be discovered and played through the very nice Boston Acoustics speakers. No wires. Sweet. The UConnect system on the Avenger enhances navigation with information, like the closest gas stations and recently reported gas pricesBut there were plenty of ports if needed, including two USB ports that both stream audio from a device and charge it, two cigarette-style charge ports, and an audio jack for streaming audio. No matter your system, there’s a way to play your music in the Avenger. And for news and entertainment, the UConnect’s SiriusXM satellite was also handy; the car comes with a complimentary 1-year subscription. But if you really wand to go old school, there’s a CD port, too. The Avenger's instrument panel reminds you that this is a driver's car; though passengers will be comfortable, tooAs accommodating as the Avenger is to passengers, it was designed for the driver: its 283 horsepower engine means it's responsive when you hit the gas, it easily gets up to speed, and even has a bit of a throaty sound to the engine. The Avenger's automatic transmission comes also has a clutchless manual option: just past the 'Drive' mode on the gear shifter is a '-/+" option that lets you shift manually through its six gears. So if you want to tease out a bit better gas mileage than the 19 city/29 highway (we averaged about 26) you can shift to higher gears quicker than the automatic transmission would. Or you can use the manual transmission option to get greater performance out of the car, too. While shifting --as I was taught-- is something you learn to do by listening to the engine (when it starts to roar you shift to a higher gear) the Avenger has the tachometer front and center on the instrument panel (the speedometer is to the right). So you are always reminded of the purpose of this car: to enjoy the drive experience. And enjoy it, I did, but the Avenger might be better suited as a second family car, primarily driven by someone who is not toting kids and kid gear around all day. Someone like my husband, or if you have one, a son who wants something of a muscle car. And with a base price of $25,495, it’s a great option. Before we began our journey, I had my husband spend some time with the Avenger, and here’s what he thought. The Avenger's front cabin, like the car's overall design, is simple and modernAt the end of a long drive, and after enjoying some very fun shifting to power over hills and hug the curves of the road as tightly as possible, we eased into bumper to bumper traffic as we approached New York's Tappan Zee Bridge. With the speed of traffic ebbing and flowing, it was a welcome relief to pop the shifter back into automatic and cruise on home, enjoying the Avenge's cradling ride and cozy cabin. What we Loved: Bluetooth streaming: iPod, Pandora and more with no wires, from my phone, Kindle or tablet. We all LOVED this feature Comfortable cabin, quiet, smooth ride Heated seats Two USB ports in front--great for charging devices Travel Link that shows closest gas stations and fuel prices Utility shelf under the center console--great for phone, change, or other small objects Leather trimmed seats Sporty, agile drive Automatic transmission with clutchless manual option 283 horsepower -- ample power Takes regular gas, including flex fuel Roomy trunk--plenty of space for three suitcases and extras The Price: $27,930 for the model we tested What You Need to Know 19 MPG city/29 highway MSRP $25,495 base price; $27,930 for the model we drove Most comfortable for 4 passengers 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty 5 year/100,000 power train warranty 5 year/100,000 mile roadside assistance
Disclosure: Dodge provided the Avenger for our review; opinions here are all our own.