By on November 27, 2012

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!

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

52 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2012 Dodge Avenger...”

  • avatar

    “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!”

    Boy, doesn’t that say it all.

  • avatar

    Sorry but what does DLO mean?

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe I should just have this at the bottom of every posting? Yes or no?

      • 0 avatar

        What you need is a diagram/picture, not some wordy, bookish defintion. Also, you need to show what is a “DLO fail” compared to a “DLO win,” because without seeing a direct comparison, talking about them is pointless.

      • 0 avatar

        No. Instead I’d suggest spelling out the Three Letter Acronym (TLA) the first time you use it.

      • 0 avatar

        redav: there is a hyperlink to the Chevy Cruze article, which is full of DLO fail.

        Sunnyvale: I did, in many of the earlier VV articles. But I get tired of repeating myself. But now I gotta find a better way…maybe spell it out the first time in every article and leave it at that.

      • 0 avatar

        How about a Vellum Venom Hall of Fame and Shame, with prime examples of things like DLO, and then a link to it from each VV episode?

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting idea, th009.

      • 0 avatar

        Here’s your problem, this is an open website which means that you have new people coming all the time.

        Using acronyms such as DLO Fail and to expect everyone to know what it is discourages new people from becoming regular readers.

        It’s elitist behavior, aka I know this and you don’t type thing. And while you Sajeev I’m sure don’t mean to come across as elitist, many commenters will be that way.

        Every time you have an acronym the general rule is to explain it the first time in an article. It opens the article up to new people and frankly Daylight opening isn’t that much more difficult to type than DLO.

        Also most people will google “DLO” or “acronym DLO” which if you look brings up a medical center, some pro-wrestler and some music band. None of which is related to your meaning.

        Basically, you can’t be lazy about this, not if you want to expand your readership. Otherwise you’ll be shrinking your readership as people who know what you are talking about become bored/life changes, or whatever else and they stop reading. And with no new readers coming in, it’s an inevitable decline.

        As much as I sympathize with having to explain acronyms every time, I’ve also learned the value of doing so. It allows people to engage on a higher level and both you and your audience comes away more satisfied.

        All the other suggestions where you don’t explain the acronym are band-aids not solutions. They can help if people want to explore further but they do not engage the reader from the beginning.

        So while I think the best of and worst of DLO is a good idea, and other ideas here are also, in the end you are doing yourself, this website and your readers a disservice if you don’t explain the acronyms once every single article.

      • 0 avatar

        I checked that Cruze link, and for the life of me, I have no ****ing idea what the difference is between a DLO fail & win.

        You say something looks bad–fine, I’m okay with that. However, I won’t get anything out of it if it’s just esoteric scoffing, just like you won’t get anything out of critic saying “Your writing sucks. Stop it.”

        If you are writing articles so your audience understands & appreciates the finer points of car design, what you are really doing is teaching–write it that way.

    • 0 avatar

      Daylight Opening.

      No need for an encyclopedia.

      • 0 avatar

        The Glossary of Automotive Design’s dictionary entry on DLO is a dictionary fail in my opinion:

        “Daylight Opening (DLO)
        US DOT Term: For openings on the side of the vehicle, other than a door opening, the locus of all points where a horizontal line, perpendicular to the vehicle longitudinal centerline, is tangent to the periphery of the opening.
        US DOT Term: For openings on the front and rear of the vehicle, other than a door opening, daylight opening means the locus of all points where a horizontal line, parallel to the vehicle longitudinal centerline is tangent to the periphery of the opening.”

        That was a wasted 2 minutes looking that up.

      • 0 avatar


      • 0 avatar

        Never would have guessed that.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree. that whole DLO article in Wikipedia is a big FAIL. Did not explain clearly just what DLO really is. Just a waste of so many fancy words. Someone definitely need to explain the concept better. Maybe that’s an idea for the next article, Sajeev? Not all of us went to design school, you know.

    • 0 avatar

      dave: very well said, the blog format makes this challenging. I will explain once per article like (Daylight Opening, then DLO) and maybe a quick comment at the end to ask for help in the comments section. And maybe to redav’s point.

      redav: DLO FAIL on the Cruze are the photos of those black triangles adjacent to the side windows. They artificially make a car look sleeker, which is FAIL.

      Okay, that wasn’t so hard. I will lather rinse and repeat from now on. Thank you all.

  • avatar

    The Avenger (and it’s Chrysler twin) is something I avoid like the plague at rental car lots. But it’s still a worthy subject for Vellum Venom, and I have to admit that some of the details are actually not so bad!

    • 0 avatar

      My family rented one last week. It was full of meh.

      • 0 avatar

        And just think, compared to the originals from 5+ years ago the current generation of these cars have improved astoundingly to get to the point of being merely full of meh. The originals were more sucktastik than a container ship load of vacuum cleaners.

        You really had to rent one of those original washboard hood Sebrings to believe how crappy a car could truly be, inside and out.

      • 0 avatar

        Give it ten years, then it’ll be full of meth.

      • 0 avatar

        krhodes1, I got a rental Sebring a few years ago after my car had been in an accident. It sucked so hard I took it back and got a micro-compact Korean shoebox instead.

        And the sad part: that shoebox was the better car.

      • 0 avatar

        After my car had to go to the body shop on two different occasions I got stuck with the same Dodge Caliber both times. (The insurance company told me they considered it the equivalent to my car — it’s NOT.) The car was so rough riding and smelled so badly of cheap plastics I asked Enterprise for anything else the next time I went in. My only other choice was a PT Cruiser so I sucked it up and suffered through several more days with the Caliber.

        That said, Chrysler has managed to make some drastic improvements to some of their models in just the last 2 or 3 years.

      • 0 avatar

        I think that renting the 2008-2009 Sebring/Avenger was one of the best gas savings I ever had while out on the road. I didn’t want to drive it. I’d sit in the hotel and ponder that I was enjoying basic cable more than driving that turd with the barcode in the window.

  • avatar

    I’ve been waiting for an article on these…
    Hey! That’s OUR rental!

    That Avenger is exactly like the one we had in Florida last month – in white, too.

    Wifey and I tried VERY hard to find SOMETHING to like about this car, but no. Not a thing to recommend it. Our Kia Forte rentals in the past had more to recommend than this.

    Fisher-Price could take a lesson from the exterior door handles, too. Almost as bad as a Nissan Titan.

    I wonder if Chrysler vehicles have improved reliability in recent years. If not, I’ll be expecting these any month now to begin showing up broken down alongside the highway, as 90% of the cars you see just happen to be Chryslers.

  • avatar

    Very relieved that they didn’t throw you the keys to a Caliber, Sajeev. No one deserves to rent a Caliber.

  • avatar

    How come these unfortunate twins (this and the Sebring/200) weren’t replaced already? It’s been a while since Chrysler’s bankruptcy, it’s almost old news now. Weren’t these in a popular, plump class/category of vehicles? Just wondering why Chrysler keep them around for so long when they’re a failure from day one. These automotive ogres just don’t deserve such a long life. At all.

    • 0 avatar

      An all new D segment car is in the works. Since the benchmark has been raised a few times very recently, they’ve gone back to the drawing borad a couple times. Should be pretty good.

  • avatar

    That finger divot is so emblematic of the classic Detroit “good enough” design ethos. It’s always paired with a creaky gooseneck hinge, too. God forbid they mount a bracket inset from the edge so the fuel door can pivot on a couple screws and clear the bodywork.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to hate gooseneck hinges, until I tried modern strut assists on today’s buffalo butt (tall height and short length) decklids on a dirty car in foul weather. I always wound up with a dirty hand just to close the damn thing.

      Gooseneck/Dog Leg hinges FTW.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not against a nicely finished, well-dampened gooseneck (I don’t buy the struts=quality argument either, when a first-gen Focus has them and a W124 Merc doesn’t), but its execution on domestic gas flaps often gives a brittle, cheap-feeling operation that would irritate me every time I used it.

      • 0 avatar

        The gas door on my Altima, even with a release, is pretty damn cheap as well…so I’d say that this is one area where the beancounters run deep, just like the rear glass with no trim and the lame trunk hinges. This car just looks cheap, especially in white. White always makes the panel gaps look bigger.

    • 0 avatar

      If the “finger divot” is the biggest problem this car has, I’ll take two. They did pretty well with the time and resources that they had. Hope when they replace it, they realize great isn’t good enough.

  • avatar

    Agree with you on the rear end of this turd. It looks like Dodge designers simply got tired of designing that day and just filled in the lines with a big bustle and hoped to make up for it with sweet tail-lamps. The way-too-big bumper is to hide this mistake as well.

  • avatar

    I had an Avenger with the Pentastar V6 and I thought it was actually ok. I wouldn’t own one but as a rental it’s definitely acceptable. Good acceleration, easy to use nav, and the seats felt pretty comfortable. That said, most car seats would feel good after 4 hours in coach.

  • avatar

    I owned an 09 Avenger SXT with the 2.7L V6 and I thought it was pretty great. Never had any problems with it. I actually liked the big headlights, not the design, but the light output was great, I did alot of hwy drining when I had it. The newer redesigned version isn’t as nice looking as the older model IMO. The only reason I don’t have it anymore is that I traded up to a RAM last christmas.

  • avatar

    I owned an 09 Avenger SXT with the 2.7L V6 and I thought it was pretty great. Never had any problems with it. I actually liked the big headlights, not the design, but the light output was great, I did alot of hwy driving when I had it. The newer redesigned version isn’t as nice looking as the older model IMO. The only reason I don’t have it anymore is that I traded up to a RAM last christmas.

  • avatar

    The password for Dodge’s Avenger is encrypted with elements from big brother

    Love this. Great article.

    (Also it’s called a “salt” in cryptography

  • avatar

    You missed something in the interior.

    That inane sliding console cover. 3″ of travel, give or take a little.

    I depend on the console for forearm support from time to time while driving,so I expect it to stay in one place.

    Who in their right mind would want it to move? Did Chrysler have 100,000 drawer slides laying around?

    Oh, another thing. When you operate the A/C controls, the switchgear deflects almost 1/8″ with even a light touch.

  • avatar

    I look at this car and I miss the simplicity of the Cirrus/Stratus. This car strikes me as clumsy and overstyled. Dodge had a knack for offering simple, (usually) solid cars. This one just fails, possibly by style alone.

  • avatar

    The midsize replacements for both Dodge and Chrysler can’t come soon enough. Let’s hope the rumors of RWD and sporty come true.

  • avatar

    Almost all of the pluses are due to the post-bankruptcy restyled front end, and all of the minuses were built into the original 2007 model, the first midsize model designed with Daimler interference (notice I didn’t call it “collaboration”?). When this car was in development, the Chrysler/AMC teams that designed the cloud cars and LHs were leaving in droves. Lee Iacocca’s biggest blunder was choosing Bob Eaton, who took the money and ran, over Bob Lutz, who probably would have kept Chrysler independent.

  • avatar

    I currently own a 2011 3.6 Pentastar’ed Avenger with leather, roof, NAV, and the more stylish 18″ rims.

    I was not a fan of the 07-10 Avengers but the changes in this refresh really jumped at me. I got mine for $13k Canadian with only 20,000 kms (~12,000 miles) on it a few months ago at auction (family owns a dealership). I am really surprised with the negative comments shown. The tire width changes, suspension changes, lowered ride height, etc. have really transformed it.

    I really enjoy the car. The power is great, it’s a comfortable ride, it was very inexpensive and I think it looks great inside and out. I also added a Mopar (read: Corsa) exhaust and a Mopar CAI. I haven’t dyno’ed it but you can truly feel the power increase and I would say it’s up to near 300 HP. The $2000 i spent on the exhaust, CAI and window tint takes it to $14k for a comfortable, low milage mid-size that has roughly 300 HP. I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. It’s sort of become my ‘sleeper’ since I’ve dusted some much more expensive cars.

    On the rental lot, you’ll get a bare bones interior with a 2.4 I4, which should not be in the same sentence as the V6 model.

    I agree Sajeev, some of the parts are a bit cheesy, but find me a <1.5 year old mid-size car with leather, roof, nice wheels, NAV, nearly 300 HP (stock) for less. I don't think there is one.

    If you're on a budget (or want to pay cash like I did) and looking for seating for 5 and some power with upgrade potential (CAI and exhaust are GREAT on this powertrain), this could be a great choice.


  • avatar

    Sajeev, are you suggesting gun slit windows?

    “Like mentioned before, this greenhouse would look so good with more wheelbase and MUCH less height.”

    I’m so sick of cars that look like bath tubs on wheels. I’m 6’4″, but cant comfortably rest my elbow on a window sill in most modern cars. My elbow ends up on a shoulder level!

  • avatar

    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!

  • avatar

    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 !

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • Jeff S: @Master Baiter–Ohio charges about $200 per year for EVs and $100 for hybrids with other states like...
  • FreedMike: Body by Line-X. Classic. Probably durable, though.
  • FreedMike: Congrats, Jeff! Just saw one of those in that neat metallic orange today.
  • Jeff S: @Dave M.–It is the HOA that will not allow the solar panels but that could change. I am downsizing from...
  • ToolGuy: “The W123 diesel was peak Mercedes.” I sincerely hope you are right, because the only Mercedes...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber