PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — The Dodge Avenger has been around awhile. You may not have noticed it but it has been there! You say you don’t know the Avenger?  Have you rented a car in the last couple of years? If you didn’t specify what kind of car you wanted… just economy class… chances are you were put in an Avenger. Like the kid who can’t play softball and is picked last so does the Avenger come up as the last choice of many renters.

Now that’s not to say it’s not a good car because it is. Borrowing lines from the Charger it actually with some of the upgrades it has gone through over the last couple of years become a good solid buy in it’s class. It’s just that Fusion, Cruze,  Sonata and Optima are newer and more appealing designs to most buyers.

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Outside the front end features the trademark Dodge grille and actually it looks a lot like a smaller version of the Charger with smooth sides and the hunched quarter panels that show a little muscle car pedigree. It’s a design that is attractive but needs updating. Inside the interior is spacious actually feeling bigger than the car looks on the outside. The interior is utilitarian with soft materials and plastics used liberally. Controls are fairly easy to execute while driving. The nav system/entertainment center screen is big and easy to see.  Seats were large and comfortable on a long trip as well as being very stylish with red inserts and stitching. It’s the little things, right? Rear legroom was ample. Rear visibility was less than satisfactory. Backup camera is almost a necessity on this car.

Under the hood the car I drove has the 3.6 litre fuel efficient engine which is one of the smoothest well designed engines out there. Its 6 cylinders crank out the most horsepower in the class, 283 to the front wheels through a  six speed automatic. It produces plenty of power in passing situations and shifts smoothly. There is a smaller 4 cylinder engine…stay away from it.

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Driving wise the Avenger still uses old school hydraulic power steering and it feels it. It does not have that light feel like electric units and the imperfections of the road seem to come through easily. It might be a turn off to some buyers. The Avenger handles like a typical family car. Solid on the highway curves, a little more disconnected through the country roads.

The Avenger SXT Plus I drove had a sticker price of $25,440 including Media Center and Uconnect hands free Bluetooth system. Gas mileage wise it was able to deliver 19 city/29 highway/22 combined MPG. The Avenger gets good scores in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing and is a 2012 Top Safety Pick of that organization.

The Avenger is not a bad car it’s not a great car. It’s not a car that is going to leave much of an impression. That’s why it can be found in rental fleets and corporate fleets. It is solid and it gets the job done. Chrysler packs a lot of standard equipment into it’s three trim levels making it a great buy for a family car if you are looking for V6 power, good bang for your buck and not looking for something exciting. Hey, remember that kid who never got picked? He usually turned out to be somebody cool later in life. Such might be the story with the Dodge Avenger. The plain lookin’ kid who gets the game winning hit after being picked last.

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For more information: http://www.dodge.com/en/2013/avenger/

Reviews, news about cars and the people who drive them, interviews and tips on how to get more out of your driving experience all on Drivetime with Vinnie Richichi and Rob Pratte Saturday mornings 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Newsradio 1020 KDKA. Also listen to Vinnie on The Vinnie and Cook Show Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan.