In 1995, the second-generation Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse debuted, which both were built by Mitsubishi in its Normal, Ill., plant. The Plymouth Laser, which was another Eclipse/Talon clone from 1990 to 1994, wasn’t so lucky and didn’t live on into another generation. Instead, Chrysler’s linkup with Mitsubishi yielded another product: the Dodge Avenger. The coupe arrived for the 1995 model year, replacing the Daytona in the Dodge lineup.

The Avenger’s Diamond Star Motors (DSM) origins were clear in the cabin, with the dashboard borrowed wholesale from the Eclipse and the DSM markings throughout the engine compartment.

ately for the Avenger, all of the Eclipse/Talon drivetrains bits weren’t offered in the Dodge -- most notably the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and available all-wheel drive. Instead, the range-topping Avenger ES packed a Mitsubishi-developed 2.5-liter V6 making 155 hp and 161 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission available with the Avenger’s most potent engine offering was a four-speed automatic.

A double-wishbone suspension was a highlight, as was the sleek styling that turned plenty of heads in the mid-’90s. The rounded front bumper arguably borrowed some design cues from the Viper; the tasteful rear spoiler dressed up the rear nicely, and it had a nice stance to it.

A deep green metallic pearl Dodge Avenger ES ended up being my older brother’s first new car, purchased in 1995.

The Avenger replaced the Daytona in the the Dodge lineup.PHOTO BY DODGE

How does it drive?

My time driving the Avenger would come four years later when my brother’s enthusiasm for the car had worn thin and when I was a newly licensed driver needing wheels to get to high school, where fender benders in a chaotic parking lot were the norm. Like Al Bundy did with his car from “Married with Children,” we by then referred to the Avenger around our house simply as “The Dodge.”

The Dodge’s small V6 sounded rather good at startup and when you revved it with a throaty exhaust note, but its performance left much to be desired. Sure, you could chirp the tires from a stop, but acceleration was leisurely and with quoted 0-60-mph times ranging from the mid- to high-nine-second range. It was definitely disappointing that the Avenger didn’t have some more muscle to back its sporty looks.

Shifting the automatic transmission was immediately followed by a buzz that seemingly all Chrysler products had during the mid-’90s. Shift performance was leisurely.

By my tenure with the car, the stock Goodyear Eagle GA tires were long gone and replaced by some more aggressive Pirelli P6000s at the advice of a Discount Tire salesman. After going out to the car and taking a quick walk around it, he suggested for us to go with the stickier tire instead of a less performance-focused all-season tire. “With a car like this, I suggest going with the Pirelli,” he said, proving that the Avenger’s sporty lines had once again tricked someone into thinking it was more capable than it really was. 

Those Pirellis were pretty good, though, and gave the Dodge respectable turn-in bite with responsive and weighty steering performance. There was a lot of crummy-road chatter transmitted through the steering wheel. The stiffly sprung double-wishbone suspension still exhibited a fair amount of body roll in curves, and the limits of those 205/55 R-16 tires were reached quite easily. Brake performance was acceptable.

The Avenger ES was only offered with a four-speed automatic transmission.PHOTO BY DODGE

Do I want it?

If you don’t mind its all-show and no-go attributes, then a 1995 Dodge Avenger ES may have worked for you. An enthusiast would be terribly let down by its performance and best served trying to find his or her way into a turbo Talon or Eclipse.

Great looks and underwhelming performance works for you? OK, well then a spotty reliability track record may turn you off. The day my brother picked up The Dodge from the dealer, the air conditioning didn’t work, requiring a bunch of new parts be shipped in from all over. It took a week for all the stuff to arrive and to be put in. To its credit, that was one of the coldest car air-conditioning systems I’ve experienced -- when it worked. A slow leak developed in the system later on, requiring a yearly recharge of R-134a refrigerant.

By 70K miles, three wheel bearings had to be replaced. The ABS had stopped working by that time, too.

Maybe our Avenger was just a bad DSM apple? I’ve heard of people who have had Eagle Talons and Mitsubishi Eclipses go for long periods without any problems, and I’ve heard of others who detonate engines every year or so and have a bunch of other problems. I guess we should be happy that The Dodge’s underpowered V6 never blew up. But then again, the fun the boosted four-cylinder would have provided may have made up for its suspect reliability and occasional blow-up.

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