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Comparison review: Ten large sedans (rankings)

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Back-to-back test drives of ten large sedans has produced an overall ranking order running from ponderous, space-inefficient Ford Taurus to the spacious, polished Hyundai Genesis. But that overall ranking doesn't capture the nuances of different automobiles and different buyers' tastes.

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See the summaries and ratings of these ten sedans for particular sets of attributes below, and click through the slideshow for car-by-car "report card" summaries of those rankings.

Unlike the "ratings" article, these rankings factor in all aspects of a car, simply changing how different attributes are weighted in determining a car's score -- that is to say, driving dynamics aren't the top priority in the "bargain hunter" category, but aren't ignored.

More from this comparison:
Rating the large sedans: How do the cars compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance and fuel economy?
Quick take: Key pros and cons of these ten sedans.
Introduction to this comparison
Click on the linked vehicle names for full detailed reviews and photo galleries.

Attainable luxury car
If you're spending your $30,000-plus primarily to get a higher dose of luxury than you'll get from a smaller vehicle, this ranking is for you.

10. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: D+
With the lowest price in this comparison, Charger nails “attainable” – but the “luxury,” not so much. It can be as decadently optioned as the competition, including an excellent in-dash infotainment touchscreen, but it doesn't approach the supreme levels of comfort and polish in its interior or driving dynamics that some competitors achieve.

9. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: C-
For a while, American luxury meant big and cushy with a hearty dose of false-wood interior trim. That's the Taurus. But without the competition's stretch-out space, premium interior trimmings, or polished driving dynamics, this Ford is not a viable alternative to a number of big, cushy sedans that do the same thing better.

8. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: C+
Though it's identical to the Charger in many ways, the 300 is dressed up with a fancier interior and a smoother ride. From a luxury perspective, it's easily worth the $2,900 price premium over the Dodge. But it too lacks the polished luxury and ease of use that many competitors master.

7. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: B-
The Avalon consistently meets expectations but rarely exceeds them. In a class of cars with worse drawbacks, this is enough to be competitive – especially considering that expectations are high at this price point – but shop it carefully.

6. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: B
A hushed ride, cushy seats, and lots of features impress – especially for the price. But the interior isn't as upscale as some competitors, the ride is stiffer, and headroom is wanting for taller occupants.

5. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: B
The Maxima's interior looks dated and never felt especially fancy, and its interior room and safety scores also trail the competition. But it offers a tightness to its zippy driving dynamics that wouldn't be out of place in a premium sports sedan – and it's the only car in this comparison to go after that type of high-end feel.

4. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: B+
Even when it's all dressed up, it doesn't quite feel like a true luxury car – despite relatively high prices. But it is a very nice car with lots of options and few critical weak points.

3. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: B+
The LaCrosse has a good handle on the basics of luxury: smooth, quiet ride; cushy seats; rich interior materials. But sometimes little details here and there leave you wanting more, and its tiny trunk is a drawback. You have to spend a lot more than on the competition to get any truly decadent features, too.

2. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: A-
Based on the Azera, the Cadenza shares that Hyundai's lack of headroom but improves upon its ride and interior quality – albeit for a slightly higher price.

1. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: A
The Genesis was originally designed as a luxury car, and especially thanks to upgrades over the years, it remains a credible one – even as its price now overlaps with more mainstream competitors. Some interior bits are dated and the styling isn't flashy, but the Genesis stands out for its thoroughly rich, solid feel by the standards of this class.

Roomy family car
For buyers stepping up to a full-size car because you want more room, this ranking favors the most spacious, practical large sedans.

10. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: D
The Maxima has its merits, but family-friendliness isn't among them. The rear seat and trunk are actually tighter than even the midsize norm, and weakest-in-class safety scores hurt it further.

9. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: D
It's more useful than the Maxima, but the Charger's versatility and comfort are diminished by its sloped roofline, rear-wheel-drive space inefficiency, and bumpy ride.

8. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: C+
Though it's roomier and smoother than the mechanically identical (and cheaper) Charger, practicality still isn't the 300's forte.

7. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: C+
Though comfortable and decently spacious for passengers, the LaCrosse has a curiously tiny trunk for this class. A road trip with four adults would leave suitcases in someone's lap.

6. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: C+
The Avalon doesn't have an especially roomy interior and it gets expensive. It's pleasant and stylish, but not terribly impressive as a family car.

5. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: B-
Rear-seat legroom is tighter than it should be, and the car is a whale to drive, but the Taurus has a huge trunk and a competitive price tag. It beats a number of its direct competitors as a family car, but some cars a class smaller surpass it for everything but its trunk space in terms of family-friendliness.

4. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: B-
The polished, luxurious Cadenza is a very pleasant vehicle but doesn't have an especially expansive cabin or trunk.

3. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: B-
A bumpy ride and tight headroom hurt the Azera's family-friendly quotient, despite its many strong points and compelling price.

2. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: B+
Despite its higher focus on style than space-efficiency, the Impala is roomy and pleasant to drive by the class's standards.

1. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: A-
The luxurious Genesis avoids the rakish roofline of most competitors, giving it an airy cabin to go along with its high levels of sophistication and competitive pricing. Some families may fault its just-okay trunk, though, or seek a lower price tag.

Driving enthusiast's compromise
Need something big but still want to have a little bit of driving fun? This ranking balances those often conflicting needs.

10. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: D-
Like all of its competitors, the Taurus is decently powerful. But it feels like a barge, ponderous in tight corners and winding roads alike. It's not so great in other ways, either.

9. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: C
The 300's rear-wheel-drive may seem to bring the promise of sportiness, but the car's weight kills any zest from its acceleration or handling.

8. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: C
It has smooth, strong power, but the LaCrosse is not a standout anywhere but a straight line – and it trails many competitors for versatility and value to boot.

7. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: C
It's peppy and easy to drive, but the Cadenza tries to be more luxurious than sporty – and succeeds.

6. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: C+
Hyundai gave the Azera quicker, heftier steering than Kia gave the mechanically identical Cadenza. But the effect only works in relatively gentle driving before starting to feel numb and unnatural.

5. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: C+
It has aggressive looks and fairly high cornering limits, but the Charger has more of a hulking muscle-car demeanor to its handling than any sort of zippy sports sedan. The optional V8 adds to that character; the standard V6 on the tested car does not. A lack of rear seat head room and a bumpy ride hurt it in general, but it's priced to sell.

4. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: B-
The car's lightness helps it feel somewhat agile, but the Avalon doesn't try to be sporty. It's competent but unexceptional throughout – including for its driving dynamics.

3. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: B+
It's the easy choice in this class for the driving enthusiast – but it doesn't exactly strike a compromise with a need for versatility. The Maxima is the big sedan that doesn't feel like a big sedan, for better and for worse.

2. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: B+
Push the Impala and you'll find sharper handling and punchier acceleration than the class norm, and it's roomy and comfortable – but it's not sporty.

1. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: A-
The luxurious Genesis has excellent composure and decently sharp responses. There isn't much steering feel, but this Hyundai still beats the class norm for its driving dynamics while also delivering a posh, spacious interior.

Bargain hunter's choice
Price isn't everything, but it can be a significant factor. This ranking favors cars that offer the most bang for the buck rather than simply the most bang.

10. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: C-
You pay extra for the LaCrosse's impressive level of luxury. But it's neither affordable enough to win value awards or outstanding enough to pry open a thrifty buyer's pocketbook.

9. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: C+
The Avalon is a pleasant, competent large sedan, but it's not exceptional and it's the most expensive car in this comparison. Class-leading fuel economy and free scheduled maintenance help offset this, but this Toyota still isn't made for the budget-conscious.

8. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: C+
Steeply discounted but relatively crude, the 300 is comfortable but not a sterling value.

7. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: C+
It's the cheapest car in this comparison, by a comfortable margin, but there are good reasons for that. Unless you simply want the biggest vehicle for your money, spend extra for higher levels of comfort, space and luxury.

6. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: B-
It's relatively affordable and is sporty to drive, but the Maxima's relatively cramped interior is equivalent to a smaller car's. A premium fuel requirement adds to the operating cost.

5. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: B-
Although the Taurus's value quotient looks good on paper, the car is full of too many reminders of why it has to sell for less than most competitors – clumsy driving dynamics, a lack of space efficiency, and low-grade interior trim.

4. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: B-
The Impala isn't a terribly strong value, but its high degree of competence – if not outright luxury – makes a decent case for being worth the extra money.

3. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: B
Like the Impala, the Genesis is no bargain. But it's practical and luxurious, standing a clear cut above the less-expensive models.

2. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: B
Generally impressive, the Cadenza offers competitive feature content for the money and a high level of polish. But the tall need not apply – there's a disappointing lack of headroom for both front and rear occupants.

1. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: B+
With a low price and generally competitive comfort and driving dynamics, the Azera shares the mechanically related Cadenza's lack of headroom. If you fit inside, and don't mind a slightly bumpy ride and less-than-opulent dashboard trim, this Hyundai is the class's value leader – but sadly, fitting inside isn't guaranteed.

Price is no object
Setting aside the cost, which car is the best?

10. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: D-
If you need a car that looks big and feels big, the Taurus's competitive price gives you reason to pay attention. Take that away, and the Taurus fails for its relative lack of polish and passenger space, its cumbersome controls, and its cumbersome dimensions.

9. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: D-
The Charger has a tempting price advantage, but it's otherwise not competitive – it includes all the downsides associated with a sporty car with only aggressive looks provided in return.

8. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: C-
A twin to the Charger but with more interior space and fancier trim, the 300 is the better of the two but still lacks the modern sophistication of various newer competitors.

7. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: C+
While it's a clear cut above the lower-ranked cars in most ways, the Azera doesn't effectively challenge the rest of the class if price is no object. Its skimpy head space, bumpy ride, inconsistent steering and light-on-luxury dashboard are too much to overcome despite its merits.

6. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: B-
It's the clear choice in this class for driving fun, but the Maxima trails for its interior space and opulence. It's a niche car that is passable, but not brilliant, in its sporty niche – and a poor choice for someone to whom that doesn't sound interesting.

5. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: B
Generally competitive but rarely special, there aren't many compelling reasons not to cross-shop the Avalon, but there aren't too many that make it a standout choice to actually buy.

4. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: B
A better all-around car than the related Azera, the Cadenza suffers from the same lack of headroom, and could use a touch more polish to its driving dynamics to be truly outstanding.

3. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: B
The LaCrosse's highly polished and comfortable overall feel is marred by some interior flaws, a tiny trunk, and mediocre visibility.

2. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: A-
It's not the fanciest car in this class, but the Impala feels consistently high-quality while delivering traditional big-car room and comfort.

1. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: A
A true luxury car among mainstreamers, the Genesis occasionally shows its age but is generally outstanding for its comfort and luxury.

Overall:
All things considered, which cars stand out? (Not a numerical computation based on other scores.)

10. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: D+
The badly aged Taurus helped revitalize the large sedan class, but it is overdue for a revitalization of its own. Bargain pricing and a roomy trunk aren't such unique qualities that you need to endure the car's poor space efficiency, old-school interior trim, and ponderous driving dynamics.

9. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: D+
The Charger's price and styling give it the appearance of a bargain performance car. It's not – it's a sporty-looking big sedan without the sophistication of other big sedans, priced slightly less than superior competition.

8. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: C+
A more luxurious – and more expensive – version of the Charger, the 300 justifies its price premium with a smoother, quieter ride; more comfortable seating; and upgraded cabin trim. But the upgrades don't resolve an underlying sense of relative crudity in the car's operations, in everything from the accelerator to the door handles.

7. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: B-
Smaller and sportier than the competition, the Maxima has a zest that's lacking in other large sedans. It achieves this, though, by sacrificing the roomy cabin you'd expect in this class, relegating it to niche status.

6. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: B-
The powerful, fuel-efficient Avalon is generally average across the board. Regardless of what quality you're seeking, another competitor probably does it better – and some do most things better.

5. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: B-
Though marred by certain flaws and a relatively high price, the LaCrosse's high levels of comfort and luxury will be enough to attract some buyers.

4. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: B
The Azera would benefit tremendously from more headroom, a smoother ride, and an upgraded dashboard. But even so, there's a lot it does a lot well, particularly for the money.

3. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: B
A pricier but more refined version of the Azera, the Cadenza is a competitive all-around car at a competitive price – except for tight headroom.

2. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: A-
Although a higher level of luxury could be expected at the Impala's price point, it delivers an impressive level of space, comfort and quality.

1. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: A
The Genesis excels both for its high levels of luxury and for the user-friendliness of its expansive interior and easy outward visibility. While not perfect, and while not a value leader, the Genesis does a great many things very well and nothing terribly, easily justifying its price tag.

More from this comparison:
Rating the large sedans: How do the cars compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance and fuel economy?
Quick take: Key pros and cons of these ten sedans.
Introduction to this comparison
Click on the linked vehicle names for full detailed reviews and photo galleries.

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