Full-Size Sedan Comparison
Full-size sedans used to the best-selling cars in the land. For decades, they defined the American family car. But, as fuel prices rose, and mid-size cars got roomier, full-size popularity shifted to the fleet and rental markets. But, that’s changing again as carmakers now seek to elevate big four-doors back to flagship status. So, with several new full-size sedans having just arrived, it’s a good time to judge which ones show off their brands the best.
Once again we’ve teamed up with Cars.com and USATODAY for this full-size automotive challenge. And if nothing else, these sedans are proof that most carmakers are back to making money again and putting that money to good use; taking their brands in new directions, offering more features than ever before, and putting more emphasis on comfort and style.
Among this group of 5-adult sized four-doors are some front drivers and some rear-wheel drivers; but all feature competitive V6 power, have automatic transmissions, and respect our price cap of $38,000.
We staged our comparison in the Chicago area, where we were joined by Bill Wegner, a mid-westerner with a discerning eye for big, comfortable cars. So, let’s meet our contestants and get to it.
…Starting with the newest design of the bunch, the 2014 Chevrolet Impala…
…next up, the bold and beautiful 2013 Chrysler 300…
…and its platform mate the 2013 Dodge Charger…
…the 2014 Ford Taurus got a refresh just last year…
…while the 2013 Hyundai Azera is one year removed from a complete redesign…
…by far the oldest design in the group comes from Nissan, the 2013 Maxima…
…and that leaves the always comfortable, but now much more dynamic looking 2013 Toyota Avalon.
For a full breakdown of scoring and specs, head to Cars.com; but for now let’s take a look at our top-4 finishers.
With its ultra-aggressive appearance, thanks to the “Blacktop Package” that adds a blacked-out treatment to the exterior, sporty elements to the interior, and a few more ponies to the 3.6-liter V6 8-speed combo thanks to a freer flowing the exhaust, the Dodge Charger SXT Plus charged its way to fourth. At $37,910 it was the second most expensive car in our test, but at 23 miles-per-gallon Combined, fuel economy was mid pack. In addition to the tough look, our testers loved this rear-driver’s on road performance.
BILL WEGNER: The Dodge Charger surprised me. I’m really not much of a racer or a hot rod kind of guy, but I loved steppin’ on the gas and hearin’ the 300-horses comin’ out of the exhaust, makes a nice sound and the 20-inch tires and wheels seemed to make a difference.
FRED MEIER: The Charger was the brashest looking car in this group. It had the most aggressive looks outside, the blacked out wheels, has a very sporty cockpit.
JOHN DAVIS: The Hyundai Azera used the typical Hyundai formula of high content, low price to garner third place. Despite being powered by a 3.3-liter V6; the smallest engine here, horsepower is comparable at 293 and 23-Combined fuel economy is the same as the Charger, despite have two less gears in its 6-speed transmission. But where Hyundai is really shaking up the segment is with design.
BRIAN ROBINSON: Both the exterior and the interior design of the Azera might be a little out there for the segment, but when it comes to bringing in that elusive younger buyer this is probably the one to do it.
KRISTIN VARELA: Just like certain brands of shoes fit certain people better, the Hyundai Azera, for me, was a really good fit. It had that right blend of comfortable ride quality along with responsive driving. I actually found myself making up excuses to stay in it a little bit longer.
JOHN DAVIS: The Chrysler 300 played a big part in bringing American full-size cars back into style when its rear-wheel-drive chassis arrived for 2005. Our second-place finishing 300S featured 3.6-liter V6 power and an 8-speed automatic transmission that provided 23 miles-per-gallon Combined. Price came in just under our ceiling at $37,925, making it the priciest car of the bunch. But that money buys a lot of comfort and luxury.
FRED MEIER: The 300 has a great boulevard ride and it’s very quiet; it is the epitome of a large rear drive sedan in all ways.
BRIAN ROBINSON: The Chrysler 300 still looks good inside and out; and the recent redesign has helped it look less gangster and more classy.
JOHN DAVIS: That leaves our winner, the Chevrolet Impala. More than any other vehicle in this comparison it has seen a dramatic transformation, from basic fleet car to high-styled cruiser. Its 3.6-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic provided good power to the front wheels, but combined fuel economy is the lowest of the final four at 22. Price came in at $35,770, and that’s the second lowest in the competition.
JENNIFER NEWMAN: The Impala’s 3.6-liter V6 engine is the most powerful of the group and it shows, especially in highway driving where merging is a breeze.
KELSEY MAYS: The Impala marries ride and handling very very well, it’s a happy marriage in this case. The car rides excellently, possible the best in class… overall a pretty good package.
JOHN DAVIS: These full-bodied beauties may not be for the average family anymore, but they are all tops for their brands in comfort and room to spread out. And while they each bring a unique take to the segment, in this competition where substance mattered just as much as style, it really wasn’t even close. The Chevrolet Impala was our runaway winner.
2014 Chevrolet Impala
2013 Chrysler 300
2013 Dodge Charger
2014 Ford Taurus
2013 Hyundai Azera
2013 Nissan Maxima
2013 Toyota Avalon