Of all the vehicles you’d expect to see on Bring A Trailer, a pristine 2008 Dodge Avenger SE with just 17,000 miles on the clock definitely isn’t one of them. Alas, here it is, in all its rental-spec faux machismo. Unsurprisingly, this is the first road-legal second-generation Avenger on Bring A Trailer, and there’s a chance it could be the last for quite some time.
A low-mileage, rental-spec, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and four-speed automatic-powered Avenger SE being auctioned on a premier online platform is especially puzzling because most of my colleagues agree that the second-generation Avenger was, to use a technical term, butt-terrible. Oh, and it’s not just some of us that think this way — just read what Car And Driver had to say about the car when it was new.
…it’s generally agreed in our camp that the “Chargerette” is way better-looking than the Sebring. Faint praise, perhaps, as it nevertheless fails to be either menacing or inviting. In a field that includes more elegant sedans such as the Toyota Camry and Saturn Aura, the Avenger looks rather overwrought. Inside, the story doesn’t get much better. Hard shiny plastics create windshield glare that would make polarized sunglasses a lifesaving investment. Dreary gray tones abound, and although the dashboard is completely different in design from its Chrysler cousin, it conveys the same discombobulated, rental-grade feel.
Oof. Alright, well, Car And Driver is usually harsher on domestic vehicles than many other publications, so perhaps Motor Trend will offer a more glowing opinion.
So what gives? Why is the Dodge so lackluster? Well its 2.4L four-cylinder is a bit crude and, at 173 hp, doesn’t exactly humble other four-bangers, some of which produce 200 hp. While most of its rivals use five- or six-speed automatics, the Dodge stays true to its trusty ol’ four-speed, which pushes it off the line with about as much vigor as a maimed turtle. Rear disc brakes? Nah, let’s stick with less-effective drums.
Never mind. Look, the Avenger was an absolute pile when it was new, so it’s absolutely baffling that someone would take great pains to preserve one in absolute bottom-of-the-barrel spec. Beyond the shiny Inferno Red paint, this Avenger SE seems like a great way to simulate being laid off while traveling for work circa the Great Recession. Just look at that brain matter-grey urethane steering wheel, that cheap-looking instrument binnacle, and those nearly style-free hubcaps. If this thing doesn’t make you want to cry in the shower at a Motel 6, I don’t know what car would.
Nowadays, there’s nothing wrong with a high-mileage dirt-cheap Avenger if that’s all you can afford, but a concours-grade Dodge Avenger is about as useful as a submarine with speed holes in it. You can’t drive it anywhere because that would affect the value, you can’t really show it anywhere, it’s not a sure investment vehicle, and even the S&P 500 on a bearish streak is nicer to look at on a daily basis.
The high bid on this slice of recession-era sadness currently sits at $3,500, and I’d be surprised if it goes much higher than that. Will the Dodge Avenger eventually get its day in the sun? Perhaps, although it feels like it’s in a different camp from most endearingly terrible classics today. The Trabant 601 was objectively crap, but it’s also a fascinating machine due to the circumstances that birthed it. The Ford Pinto had a poorly-constructed fuel filler, but this Achilles heel was so monumental that it canonized the Pinto in American pop culture. The Edsel’s only sin was ugliness. There is no bright side to a Dodge Avenger, nor a fascinating twist. It’s just thoroughly underwhelming in every possible regard.
If you feel the inclination to bid on a mint condition rental-spec Dodge Avenger, feel free to do so. After all, there should be some sort of physical reference library for every car ever built, lest one be forgotten. However, we definitely won’t be bidding on this one. We’re definitely pro-car, but some vehicles are just a bridge too far for auctions. In the past, this was the sort of car that would be sold on church and nursing home bulletin boards, or in the classifieds section of an actual printed newspaper. Ain’t it funny how things have changed?
(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer)
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