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I had a Dodge Avenger this weekend for a one way rental from Jacksonville to Fort Lauderdale (mostly highway). Base model, no options. Typical rental car stripper model.

The base engine is a 2.4L 4 cyl making 174hp, paired with a dinosaur of a 4-speed slushbox. To say this powertrain combo is underwhelming is being kind. Sure, it gets the car around just fine. But roll into the throttle expecting to accelerate, and you need to be patient. A fully executed downshift feels like it takes an eternity, although it's probably closer to 2 full seconds.

The cloth seats are pretty firm, not the most comfortable, but good enough. The dash seems to project quite a bit into the cabin, meaning your seats are far enough back that the B pillars don't really line up with your seat back, making ingress/egress a little more awkward than it should be. The oddest design decision is the "aggressive" styled rear doors and side windows. Part of what should be window is covered with a black plastic panel from the outside, and the door panel swoops up to cover the inside. Combined with the big C pillar, this creates a gigantic blind spot looking out the rear corners. It does have pretty big side mirrors to help mitigate this.

The car sits really high. The driving position felt almost like being in a crossover, and that's with the driver's seat in the lowest position. Fuel mileage was nothing to write home about. We bought the tank (16g), added just over 2 gallons to finish the trip home, and returned it on E. My back of the napkin puts that at around 25mpg - pretty poor by today's standards. And that's nearly all highway miles traveling 70-75mph.

But here's where it gets interesting. The above comments aside, the car is a testament to just how good cars have become today. The steering felt well connected. The brakes were direct and linear, with surprisingly good feel. The car was reasonably quiet and had a smooth ride, even over rough pavement. All this is an entry level car you could pick up for under $20k.

Yes, it would be much better with the optional 6 speed transmission. Yes, the V6 would probably do worlds of good. This was a cheap, but decent car.
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