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Comparison review: Ten large sedans (ratings)

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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 ratings.

Unlike the "rankings" article, these ratings isolate individual aspects of a car (except for "overall") -- that is to say, for instance, that a car's rating in the "price" category states simply what it costs, not whether it represents a good value for the money, all things considered.

More from this comparison:
Ranking the large sedans: How do these cars stack up for different types of buyers, such as those who prefer performance or who prefer value?
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.

A smooth and quiet ride; a comfortable and high-quality interior; and other qualities that make a car pleasant to be in.

10. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: C-
It's not cheap or unpleasant, but the Charger lacks the feel of a big, expensive sedan. It has a small driver's seat and stiff ride, generally lacks interior pizazz, and often feels unnatural or clunky in its operations.

9. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: C
It strives to be cushy and quiet, but the Taurus excels at neither by the high standards of the class – it's okay but not outstanding. Furthermore, drivers lack stretch-out space, interior materials and assembly don't impress, and the engine doesn't have a very rich sound.

8. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: B-
Though mechanically related to the Charger, the 300 is more comfortable, quiet and upscale. Some interior materials could still be better, and there's still something disconnected and unnatural in the car's driving experience that feels especially wrong at this price point.

7. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: B
An unexpectedly stiff ride and odd lack of front-seat head room mar an otherwise polished, hushed, cushy and upscale-feeling vehicle. Aspects of the interior could be fancier, too, though.

6. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: B
The Maxima has polished driving dynamics that lend it an upscale feel, but the car should have a spiffier interior at this price point. Some will demand a cushier ride than the sport-oriented Nissan and would favor higher, softer front seats.

5. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: B
Decent all-around, the Avalon makes it to the top half of the class more by avoiding major mistakes than by dazzlingly impressive luxury or comfort levels.

4. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: A-
Impressively comfortable, quiet and well-engineered, the Impala nonetheless tends to feel more like a “very nice” car than a luxury car.

3. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: A-
Very comfortable and quiet, and with excellent interior quality, the Azera-based Cadenza needs only more headroom and a touch more ride control and isolation to be truly outstanding.

2. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: A-
Smooth, comfortable, quiet and mostly well-finished, the LaCrosse would still benefit from wider front seats, some more ride control, and a bit more care to interior quality.

1. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: A
A few details can be nitpicked. The Genesis doesn't have a perfect ride, and some interior details betray the car's age. But it nails the basics of comfort while adding a very genuine sense of quality and solidity.

Driving experience:
The connection between the car and the driver – mainly handling and acceleration, and other notes from behind the wheel.

10. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: D+
The Taurus feels big, bulky, heavy, and cumbersome overall. It demands a wide, straight road, and it's not even best-in-class there. It's not wretched, but it clearly trails the competition.

9. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: B-
Despite the promise of its aggressive looks and sport-tuned suspension, the Charger is far short of brilliant to drive. It has fairly high handling limits, but numb steering and a big-car feel. It feels designed for straight-line acceleration rather than curvy roads – and exceptional thrust comes only from the optional V8, not the standard V6.

8. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: B
The heavy 300 doesn't love changing direction, but it cruises solidly in a straight line and rides better than the Charger.

7. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: B
Firm, responsive steering makes the Azera feel capable and sporty in gentle driving. But that feeling diminishes when the car is pushed harder – unnatural and ride quality suffers at all speeds. On the plus side, the engine is punchy and the Azera has a reassuring smoothness to its overall operation that's missing from the Chrysler twins.

6. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: B
The Cadenza's steering is lighter than the Azera's, but the Kia feels a bit more natural to drive – if never sporty – and has a more pleasant ride.

5. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: B
Smooth, strong power and decent steering and handling responses make the Avalon much sportier than it had been, even if it's still not brilliant. It's no longer a class standout as a highway cruiser, though.

4. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: B
The LaCrosse has smooth, strong power, and cruises comfortably. The very light steering isn't terribly responsive, though, when you need to go around a curve.

3. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: A-
There's nothing special to the Impala at low speeds, with a somewhat lazy throttle and super-light steering. But things pick up in a hurry when you push it, and it goes purposefully down the interstate.

2. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: A
Smooth, solid and supremely confident, the Genesis isn't sporty but impresses with its high levels of capability and powertrain performance, and makes for an excellent long-distance cruiser.

1. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: A
This Nissan feels a size smaller than the others in this comparison – in no small part because compared to many, it is. The Maxima makes fine use of its inherent advantage to provide a truly superior level of acceleration and handling. It's not an outright sports sedan, but it certainly comes close, and it's still a solid road-trip car.

How much stuff and how many people can fit inside, and how is the car's general ease of use?

10. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: D+
The Maxima is sized closer to a midsize sedan than a full-size one, and despite roomy front seating, the rear seat and trunk are tighter than in the average midsize.

9. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: C-
Rear-wheel-drive architecture always hurts interior space efficiency, and the Charger's sporty styling cuts further into rear-seat headroom, leaving taller passengers with their heads against the windshield glass. The center hump makes it hard to fit a fifth occupant. The trunk is decently sized.

8. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: C
The LaCrosse is roomy for passengers except for tall adults in the rear, who have plenty of legroom but little head space despite a low cushion. A bigger knock is from the oddly shaped economy-car-tiny trunk. Some front-seat passengers will also find the front seats too narrow.

7. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: B-
The 300's rear seat is a bit more adult-friendly than the related Charger's thanks to better headroom, though it's otherwise similar – still not stretch-out roomy for a car of this size.

6. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: B-
Five short adults will fit in decent comfort; five tall adults won't. The Cadenza has a shortage of headroom for both the front and rear seats, especially for the center-rear position. In another knock, the rear seat doesn't fold to expand trunk space.

5. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: B
The rear seat does fold, giving the Azera a slight practicality edge over the related Cadenza. But it shares the headroom shortage; if you're under 6 feet, though, you're probably fine.

4. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: B
The Avalon used to have a vast interior; it now feels more like a midsize sedan than a full-size one. That is to say, there's usable passenger space but not true airiness.

3. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: B+
The huge Taurus is unexpectedly tight on the inside – usable, sure, but the front seats are narrow and the wide rear seat lacks legroom. The trunk at least is best-in-class vast.

2. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: A-
An expansive cabin is marred only by the tall (but narrow) center-rear hump. The trunk is decently roomy but the rear seat doesn't fold.

1. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: A
A roomy front seat, rear seat and trunk, should be a given in this class of huge cars – but it's not. The Impala is the only one to thoroughly meet this standard, and even it could do a little better.

This category represents a virtual tie: Every model crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earned top scores except for the Nissan Maxima. (Several models have not yet been crash-tested at all.)

Fuel economy
What are the cars' EPA fuel economy ratings?

10. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: C
Overall mileage is decent at an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon, but the Maxima's 26-mpg highway rating trails the competition by a margin of 2 to 5 mpg. It's also the only car in this class to require premium fuel.

9. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: B-
The LaCrosse's EPA fuel economy rating of 21 mpg in mixed driving – from 18 mpg city / 28 mpg highway – is the lowest in this comparison. It at least uses regular fuel instead of premium, and it's just three miles per gallon behind the best-in-class competitor.

8. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: B
The Genesis only matches the LaCrosse's city and highway figures, but its overall EPA rating is 1 mpg higher at 22.

7. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: B
The Cadenza is rated at 22 mpg in mixed driving, but beats the Genesis by 1 mpg in the city while matching is 28-mpg highway rating.

6. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: B+
The Impala is rated for 19 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway, and 22 mpg overall.

5. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: A-
The Taurus matches the Impala's city and highway ratings but is rated for 23 mpg in mixed driving.

4. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: A
The Azera is rated for 23 mpg in mixed driving, with 20 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway.

2. 2014 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger [tie]: A
The Chrysler twins tie with the Toyota Avalon for a best-in-class highway rating of 31 miles per gallon, but a 19-mpg city rating keeps the overall estimate at 23 mpg.

1. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: A+
The Avalon has excellent fuel economy for a big powerful sedan, at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 24 mpg.

The estimated transaction prices of roughly comparably equipped vehicles that include – at a minimum – leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, a premium audio system, and heated front seats.

10. 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather: C
The LaCrosse isn't quite the priciest car in this comparison, with an estimated transaction price of $36,871, but it doesn't have as many features as similarly lofty-priced competitors. Discounts aren't yet generous on this newly redesigned sedan.

9. 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited: C
Toyota leaves some fairly common features exclusive to the pricey Limited model, whose sticker price surpasses $40,000 and which costs a projected $37,006 out the door. Pass on some of those items, though, and the Avalon is more of a bargain.

8. 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: C
The Impala's sticker price is in line with the competition, but at least for now, the others have steeper discounts that make this Chevrolet more expensive to buy – an estimated $36,870 out the door. It has more features than a similarly priced LaCrosse.

7. 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8: C
Expect to spend $36,512 out the door for a Genesis comparable to the other sedans in this comparison. Note that you can get more additional option than on most of these models, which do push the price higher. Widely available 2013 models have deeper discounts than the 2014s.

6. 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium: B
The Kia name doesn't mean the Cadenza is a smashing value. Expect to spend $34,471 out the door, which is competitive but not exactly a steal – and nearly $2,500 more than the related Hyundai Azera.

5. 2014 Chrysler 300 C: B
After generous discounts, a well-equipped 300 sells for a projected $34,481 out the door.

4. 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: A-
A well-equipped Maxima sells for about $33,126 out the door after discounts.

3. 2014 Ford Taurus Limited: A
Steep discounts bring a well-equipped Taurus to $32,364 out the door, and the configuration of its options package gives it more equipment than most cars in this comparison.

2. 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited: A
There are just two ways to configure the Azera – well-equipped with no options, and with a pricey options package. But either is a solid value by the standards of this class; expect to spend just $32,059 out the door for a fully-optioned model after discounts.

1. 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus: A+
With lower sticker prices than the related Chrysler 300 and similarly large discounts, the Charger is the class's value leader at $31,612.

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:
Ranking the large sedans: How do these cars stack up for different types of buyers, such as those who prefer performance or who prefer value?
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.