2014 Dodge Avenger SXT Blacktop review: No, it isn’t that bad

2014 Dodge Avenger SXT Blacktop

2014 Dodge Avenger SXT Blacktop

One needn’t look very far on the internet to find the Dodge Avenger on a “worst cars” list or find some other pillorying of Dodge’s midsize sedan. And alas, it’s not all that undeserved.

But compared to where it was a few years ago, the 2014 Dodge Avenger is a diamond. Back then, even a top-on-the-line Avenger was built to the coldest nickel available, and it showed, with an interior that gave cheap plastic a bad name. And that was just for starters.

Not anymore. Our test 2014 Dodge Avenger SXT Blacktop actually has something resembling leather stretched and stitched—with real stitching—across the dash and over the instrument panel hood. The wrap on the steering wheel is real leather, however, as on the shifter, and  maybe that sounds like faint praise, but it’s a symbol, in a way, of where the Avenger is.

2014 Dodge Avenger SXT Blacktop interior

The 2014 Dodge Avenger SXT Blacktop interior has a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. (click to enlarge)

The Avenger had hit rock bottom, and now Dodge calls the Avenger “one of the fastest growing vehicles in the mid-size sedan segment.” It’s easier to come out of the hole when that’s all you’ve got. Yeah, maybe, but when people say the only way is up, they usually forget down for the count.

And that’s why we’re impressed with the 2014 Dodge Avenger. The Avenger is the comeback kid, and not without reason. It’s one of the cars that, when Fiat boss Marchionne, when the Italian company effectively took over Chrysler, went on a 13-month forced march improvement. And improved it was.

We looked at the 2011 Dodge Avenger Lux back when the initial transformation was made, what with the Chrysler Group’s—excuse us—the FCA 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic, the suspension retuned and equipped with new bushings, and most noticeable, the body contours sharpened up to make it less like a scaled-up toy car.

2014 Dodge Avenger's V-6 engine cover

The 2014 Dodge Avenger’s V-6 engine cover is about all there is to be seen when the hood is opened. (click to enlarg)

But in the end, we found ourselves asking whether drivers and passengers would find something to like more in one or another of the Avenger’s competitors.

Well, between the 2011 and 2014 model years, little has changed. When the 2011 Dodge Avenger appeared, the marketing guys got a little cute and tried too hard at naming trim levels, coming up with Express, Mainstreet, Heat, Lux and R/T. Yeah, you figure it out. It didn’t last long. Dodge reverted to a more conventional SE, SXT and the sporty R/T, the too-clever monikers likely leaving too many potential buyers wondering what those silly names meant.

Our test car this time around is a 2014 Dodge Avenger SXT Blacktop. We’ve seen Blacktop in the Dodge Charger, and like there, the Blacktop is a trim package. Specifically, add $495 to the price of a regular SXT and Dodge adds 18-inch gloss black aluminum wheels, a gloss black grille, black headlamp bezels—notice a trend—a body-color trunk spoiler and 225/50R18 all-season touring tires.

2014 Dodge Avenger's V-6 SXT Blacktop

2014 Dodge Avenger’s V-6 SXT Blacktop (click to enlarge)

The change for 2014 is that the Blacktop option is available on the four-cylinder-equipped Avenger SE, but for $100 more than on the SXT. Either SE or SXT, the Blacktop package is available in Black Clear Coat, Bright White Clear Coat, Granite Crystal Metallic, Billet Silver Metallic and as on our test car, Redline 2 Coat Pearl Coat, which is a red about as red as red comes.

As we noted last time we drove the Dodge Avenger, the 283 horsepower V-6 combines with the front drive arrangement for torque steer that will demand a driver’s full attention, though the Avenger is accelerating like it’s out to avenge something. Not driving the 2011 Avenger Lux and 2014 Avenger SXT against each other, our recollection that the SXT was better on the road, at least sportier, that the Lux. Either way the Avenger is a dated design, and there’s likely that nothing will be done—can be done—in this iteration of the model name.

According to the rumor mill, the Avenger was supposed to go away or it’s supposed to be replaced, or maybe… it’s supposed to be a rear-wheel drive model off an Alfa Romeo platform that is also rumored to be used for a SRT Barracuda, or maybe not. And it may be called Avenger, or maybe not. It has been built alongside the Chrysler 200 nee Sebring, but that pairing is ending with the arrival of the new Chrysler 200.