Vellum Venom: 2012 Dodge Avenger

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom 2012 dodge avenger

A sports car. A luxury car. A truck. A car for third-world nations. And yet CCS never gave me a project that said, “lower your standards and design a great rental car” for a week of studio work. Does anyone design anything with unloved dispensability in mind? But I see it that way: leaving the design world to (eventually) to flash my MBA with an occasional corporate trip…with the obligatory rental car. But how pretty is the Queen?

The fleet queen that is.

Bland and chubby. The password for Dodge’s Avenger is encrypted with elements from big brother Charger, slapped on a horribly chubby and bland body. But check out the cute little negative area for the license plate. This car has some, uh, charming elements to it.

But I can’t stand the de-Ram’d grille and logos of the post-Bankruptcy Dodge. And the Corvette Grand Sport-esque twin red hashes by the Dodge emblem. It’s sad to see how Dodge and Ram are split up for some sort of impending fiscal cliff for the MOPAR folk.

Bear with me, because some of the subtle detailing on the headlights are quite significant, and maybe even worthy of duplication on superior vehicles. Note how the lower element is comprised entirely of signal/parking lights. This could almost be a German vehicle from this angle. Almost!

There is very little pointless flash on these assemblies, just a little eyebrow of “beveled irrelevance” compared to so many other foolish wastes of space…I’m looking at you, Cadillac ATS.

The bumper’s lower half has a little speed bump, giving a bit of flash for no reason. You know, like a tunerboi body kit for damn near any import. I’m not hatin’ because it actually looks cool.

Back up to the lights. Note how slender and sleek the Avenger looks from here, with a gentle power dome in the hood starting from a logical place in the grille. The sunken-in headlights are clean and beautiful. I’d eliminate the hard bend in the fender to accentuate the domed hood and minimize the cut line between the hood and fender, but that’s no deal breaker. Rental car and all that.

The shadow of the stamped-in racing stripe doesn’t work for me. Perhaps if they ended near the two dots (windshield washer nozzles), but certainly not as it stands.

And here is why you will never like the Avenger: the headlights are HUGE! Only from a few angles do these things squint like the glare of an angry woman. If the front clip was the size of a Dodge Stratus, everything falls naturally into a cereal bowl of nicely proportioned Rental Car Granola. Too bad about that.

And these not-quite-split 5 spoke wheels are so vanilla that I long for the days of generic rental car hub caps. Here are plenty of hard edges with no soft contours to add excitement. The spokes’ overzealous negative area in the rim is too much, but luckily the wheel weight covers one of the offending lines. And why the chrome center cap?

Whoa dude. NO DLO FAIL. I’m starting to like this machine more than most of its competitors.

Seriously, how frickin’ hard is it to make shit like this on EVERY CAR? Logical, clean and lacking idiotic plastic filler panels to give the illusion of speed and pretension.

The cowl is both clean, skinny and minimal on bends and baubles, too. I suspect this is another positive byproduct of not having a roof so fast as to encourage DLO fail.

The side-view mirror is recessed in a trick sheet metal stamping around the windows. This is a logical, cheap and beautiful way to make a greenhouse with…once more…NO DLO FAIL.

Too bad about the floating, trim-less glass and the black rain gutter that ends so cheaply at the top of the windscreen. While the Avenger is perfectly quiet and comfortable at speed, this looks like a magnet for wind noise.

From the bottom cut line of the doors, you can see a little taper at the bottom of the body. It looks interesting, if not exciting. The blocky door handles don’t try to be wispy, frou-frou and flashy…and it works.

Black trim on the B-pillars when Chrysler coulda easily left them body color and saved a few pennies. Very nice. With tinted windows, the Avenger’s greenhouse looks almost pretty.

Okay, so maybe this black b-pillar decal isn’t the highest quality of trim. On many other sedans, this area sports black plastic covers instead of tape. Bummer.

Oh man, that’s a fat, fat hunk of rear door. Things aren’t looking good for the Avenger.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the intended greenhouse design, if this was applied to the Dodge Charger instead. And while the Charger is far from a sleek and sexy C-pillar on a slender body, it isn’t nearly this horrifying. The hard points needed for the C-pillar/Quarter Panel/Rear Door means a ridiculously vertical cut line for the door. Add the flowing glass, round gas cap and the door’s line doesn’t flow…and it doesn’t work.

Those unbelievably timid wheels don’t help, either.

If the vanishing point for the door cut line ended about a 1/2 inch forward, there’d be some rake from this angle. And the Avenger would look better.

And while the Avenger’s rear greenhouse doesn’t have DLO fail like that of a Chevy Cruze, they had to have this big plastic filler panel…probably so the glass was the right size to roll down the door. Visualize this design with a fixed vent window instead and things don’t get much better…a solid piece of glass is necessary to give that Charger-esque look. I feel the designers didn’t have a choice here.

The little black plastic triangle of DLO fail outside turns into some hideous thing you always see when backing out of the airport parking lot. Very sad.

Then again, you can make this look beautiful. And the Avenger has some rather flowing lines. Note the gentle crease on the C-pillar near the rear window, and the strong shoulder-line from the base of the rear window that extends into the rear door. On a shorter car with a little more wheelbase, this would be absolutely stunning.

There’s a reasonable amount of tumblehome too, accentuated by the strong shoulder line mentioned above. Very cool. Everything looks even “faster” when adding the divot-and-dip of the decklid. Provided you don’t step back a foot, and remember this is a tall and dorky rental car.

That floating glass and poorly integrated rain gutter are back again on the Avenger’s hindquarters.

The tip of the decklid tapers in a bit, making for a larger gap at the end. Not cool.

There she is, in all her rental car beauty. Like mentioned before, this greenhouse would look so good with more wheelbase and MUCH less height. Again, superimpose the silhouette of the Dodge Stratus, force that on the Avenger’s design elements and you’ll find the silver lining here.

Wait, can such a silver lining exist?

A very tall and stubby back end. But there’s something hunky and chunky about the taper of the lights, slope of the decklid and chisels in the bumper. It’s a Dodge, not a Toyota!

Too tall and too much bumper! I also wish the tail lights had two bright circular elements per corner, to emulate the front end’s headlights. Yes, the brake lights are a happy quartet, but there’s only one pair of white pimples.

I know that computer assisted design and awesome modern plastic casting techniques make seriously complicated stuff, but the Gatling gun look in automotive lighting pods must die a painful death…perhaps with Gatling guns?

But every car needs disco ball back up lights! DISCO BALL BACKIN’ THAT AZZ UP!

Unlike the last gen Toyota Camry, these emblems look rather fantastic up close: providing contrast to the corners/edges/bends in the white paint, but they are otherwise lost on a gigantic ass when you step back. Too bad about that.

The modest black trim on the rear bumper is actually quite appealing, if the painted bumper above didn’t completely drown it out. Someone please take 2-3 inches out of the Avenger’s mid section!

Something about the manual release gas cap finger divot is both cheap and cheerful at the same time. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done for not much cash. Kind of like IKEA, but without the insane assembly time and those carts that won’t go all the way to your vehicle’s butt in the loading zone.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a fantastic week!

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2 of 52 comments
  • Drksd4848 Drksd4848 on Nov 28, 2012

    I love how the first half of these posts critique the article, then once that's out of the way it's "GAME ON!! LET'S ALL BASH THE SHIT OUT OF CHRYSLER AGAIN!!" WOOHOO!! Good times are here at TTAC!! I guess folks here haven't had a "Bash the shit out of Chrysler" posting in a while. Good to see you all back on the boards again mates! Have at it. Who needs Michael Karesh and all his Chrysler hatred. Outstanding job Sajee! Keep up the great work!

  • CanadianMechanic CanadianMechanic on Nov 29, 2012

    I worked as a Dealer Tech for Honda then Toyota and now just got to Chrysler last June.The warranty work for Chrysler products is far less then Toyota cars or Honda vehicles I have worked at.Mostly a Chrysler product would have some minor part going,doesnt leave you stranded and not like Honda I was replacing transmissions everyday on 4000 mile Acura's and Accords,Ridgelines,Minivans and their timing belts always go as does their waterpumps leak and housing cracks.As for Toyota,I have replaced low mile engines,transmissions,steering racks (just look at the serious Honda/Toyota recalls omg !)So far the worst Chrysler product I did was 1 x -rental 2008 Dodge Avenger with 75,000 k it needed a transmission and the car was very well used ! Most warranty work I get from Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge vehicles have been for warped brake rotors,and thats nothing compared to the major leave you on the side of the road stranded work needed for the Toyota and Honda brand vehicles.19.5 years combined at 17 at Honda-2 years at Toyota.6 months at a very busy Chrysler dealership ,high sales volume and so far just routine maint usually,the odd wheel bearing at 180,000k on 8 year old cars..Definately not troubleprone like the imports. Furthermore,I have driven the Avenger and it isnt bad,definately not as bad as many say.My 2010 Lexus IS250 is traded in on a new Challenger R/T as soon as it gets in.And to get the better deal I already traded in my Lexus to keep the mileage under 50k(49,670k) and they gave me a loaner ,a new Avenger,and it isnt bad 2 weeks in and I actually dont mind the car,smooth ride,handles good,room enough for myself (6'2)sure it isnt a top end car,its not suposed to be..but for a mid size with the price range it competes in it pretty good.Has top safety rating,good gas mileage,unfortunately its not the 3.6 but the 2.4 four but hey,its a loaner and it isnt bad,you could blind fold someone and say its a Honda or Toyota and go for a ride they would praise how good the car is,then when they see its an Avenger I am sure they would be shocked and buy one. You can take any Honda/Toyota and take pictures of certain angles of the car and it will look odd,or cheap..My old Accord was a cheap feeling turd ,all I can say is glad I am a mechanic !

  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys for that money, it had better be built by people listening to ABBA
  • Abrar Very easy and understanding explanation about brake paint
  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.
  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?