Subaru Liberty Exiga 2009 Review
Subaru has put the finishing touches to its Liberty range with the arrival of the Exiga wagon. The...
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In a world obsessed with political correctness and body image, Dodge swims against the tide and without a hint of apology. The latest “love me or loathe me, I don't care” offering from Dodge is the Avenger, a mid-sized family sedan with enough attitude and aggressive demeanour to have less self-assured competitors letting out a whimper.
“There isn't a car in its segment that looks this tough,” Chrysler Group Australia managing director Gerry Jenkins says. “Finally a car the consumer won't feel embarrassed driving.”
With the signature oversized crosshair grille, square headlights styled on the giant Ram truck range and powerful rear quarters borrowed from the performance Charger, the Avenger carries off its street-tough look in a convincing manner.
Even when it comes to pricing, the Avenger is not about to make an apology. The base 2.0-litre five-speed manual SX will start at $28,290 with electronic stability control and two years free comprehensive insurance.
A four-speed auto SX is $30,990. The SXT with the 125kW 2.4L DOHC engine is $34,990 while a 137kW V6 version will top out the range when it arrives early next year. In a segment that not too many years ago was as sparsely populated as a ghost town, the base Avenger is now surrounded by a host of worthy options.
Holden's Epica and Hyundai's Sonata are both available from $25,990, while the Toyota Camry can be had for $28,000 in basic trim. Not too far away, the outgoing Mazda6 is $29,990 (and certain to become even more affordable), Subaru's Liberty is $32,490, while a Honda Accord carries a sticker price of $30,490.
However, as with many who talk tough, the Avenger is more soft-core under the surface than would be good for its street image. There were no 2.0-litre cars available to drive at the Avenger's launch in New Zealand, and that is unlikely to have been an accidental oversight.
The 2.4-litre engine, as already seen in Caliber and Chrysler's own Sebring sedan, is a reasonable unit with dual variable-valve timing, but its 125kW and 220Nm is tempered by being shackled to an ageing four-speed automatic.
Any performance aspirations Avenger has really will have to wait until the arrival of the 2.7-litre model early next year. Not only will that engine bring a reasonable 137kW of power and 256Nm of torque, but will also feature Chrysler's new-generation six-speed automatic gearbox.
Built off the same basic platform as the Sebring with a MacPherson strut front-end and multi-link rear, the Avenger is better than capable as a family sedan. General stability of the car is good with a ride quality that never approaches plush but isolates the passengers well enough from the vagaries of moderately maintained highways. The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is well weighted and suffers neither from vagueness nor kickback under load.
It is not particularly direct but is consistent and linear, giving confidence on challenging roads.
The 2.4-litre engine, the only one available for test at the launch in New Zealand's South Island takes some urging to get the Avenger's 1500kg moving. On flat roads, the 2.4 is happy to swing along but hills take a toll on the performance. Mountains are punitive.
The Avenger's interior packaging is good, with ample space in the front and genuine room for two adults and a child or a smaller adult across the rear. Plastics are hard and there are plenty of them but the colour tones are light and uplifting while control knobs are large, clearly marked (except for the radio controls on the rear of the multi-function steering wheel) and easy to use.
The absence of a foot rest for the driver is a glaring omission and the claim that the steering is both rake and reach is ludicrous, given the tiny telescopic range of the adjustment.
Luggage capacity is impressive, spoiled only slightly by the boot opening, which is not as large as might be expected. Rear seats fold flat, as does the passenger seat, to give huge potential carrying capacity with long-load capability.
And there are clever convenience touches that lift the car above the average. A chilled storage compartment in the top of the dash can store four 500ml cans or bottles while the centre cup holders can cool or heat containers in a range from 2C to 60C. Impressive in both grades of car is the range of active and passive safety gear with stability control, traction control, ABS with brake assist and six airbags including curtain.
The SX models come with 17 inch steel wheels, a single CD sound system with four speakers, airconditioning, cruise control, remote door lock, five three-point belts, non-stain cloth seats, security alarm and power windows.
In the SXT (available only with the 2.4-litre engine) you can add 18 inch alloys, the chilled and heated cup holders, heated front seats, eight-way electronic adjustment for the driver's seat, multi-function steering wheel, six-disc CD with six Boston Acoustic speakers, trip computer and nice leather trim.
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