Making its public debut at the LA Auto Show and benefiting from the same kind of wide-ranging upgrade efforts that have been wrought on its other divisional running mates, the 2011 Dodge Avenger will roll into the new year with a bolder look, various powertrain enhancements, a more athletic personality and a significant interior redesign. Collectively, they should help raise the profile of this mid-size sedan in an increasingly competitive, high-volume market segment.

>See more new cars unveiled at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show

2011 Dodge Avenger rear

Although exterior changes on the 2011 Dodge Avenger are relatively modest, the restyled front fascia boasts an edgier character highlighted by a more aggressive take on the signature "gunsight" grille. Beneath the hood, the base Avenger will offer a recalibrated version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder World Gas Engine that can now be teamed with the six-speed automatic transmission in addition to the existing four-speed. The big news is the arrival of the new 3.5-liter Pentastar V6. Paired exclusively with the six-speed autoshifter, it makes 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, bumps of 20 percent and 17 percent respectively, over the outgoing 3.5-liter that it replaces.

To suitably sharpen its reflexes, the 2011 Dodge Avenger also received a thorough suspension tweaking that brought new geometry, a one-inch increase in track dimensions, lower ride height, recalibrated chassis bushings and wider, stickier tires. Dodge says the changes result in dramatic improvements to overall vehicle dynamics, increasing its steering precision and response, trimming body roll, improving overall cabin isolation and generally just making the new Avenger a lot more fun to drive.

The final area to come under scrutiny was the Avenger's interior. Here, the fix-it formula kicks off with new premium trim materials and a healthy dose of additional soft-touch surfaces plus loads more sound deadener. Also on hand are a redesigned dash and a new multifunction steering wheel. On sale later this fall, the 2011 Dodge Avenger will be available in four trim levels: Express, Mainstreet, Heat and Lux. Pricing ranges from $19,995 to $24,495.

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