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Comparison review: Ten large sedans -- the best and the worst

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Large sedans used to be a mainstay of the American market, with many buyers gravitating toward the most metal they could buy.

Today the market occupies a much smaller niche. An overwhelming majority of sedan buyers finds all the space and comfort they need in such midsize models as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, rather than stepping up to a larger class. The Camry's sales volume last year alone equaled nine of today's ten large sedans combined.

But there's been a resurgence in recent years of America's biggest attainably priced sedans. No longer just for the geriatric who are mistrustful of anything smaller, many of these sedans have fresh doses of premium styling, high-end amenities, and sophisticated driving dynamics in an effort to broaden their appeal.

Some pull it off more successfully than others, as revealed by back-to-back test-drives of 10 large sedans, whose out-the-door transaction prices fall between $31,000 and $37,000 when loaded up with luxury features. Every car at this price point should impress to some degree, but standards can be high at this range.

See rankings and mini-reviews of the ten cars in this comparison in today's slideshow.

Many of the vehicles in this class look like winners. But the different models were each designed with particular tradeoffs that will fit some buyers better than others – style versus interior space, ride versus handling, luxury versus value, and others. Some of these cars, too, have flaws that keep them from achieving even the balance they intended to strike.

This comparison relies on test drives and analyses of price, safety and fuel economy of the ten large sedans to pick winners and losers for different types of customers, and to rank them from top to bottom overall.

Note that if you're shopping in this class, it makes sense to give at least a quick look to some of the most roomy, polished, and powerful midsize sedans to see if they'll fit your needs at a lower cost. Pay particular attention to the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Volkswagen Passat.

More from this comparison:
- Rating the ten large sedans: How do they compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Ranking the ten large sedans: How do they stack up for different types of buyers?
- Quick summaries of the ten large sedans: Pros, cons, conclusions.
- Full reviews of the: 2014 Buick LaCrosse, 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ, 2014 Chrysler 300, 2014 Dodge Charger, 2014 Ford Taurus, 2014 Hyundai Azera, 2014 Hyundai Genesis, 2014 Kia Cadenza, 2014 Nissan Maxima, and 2014 Toyota Avalon.

See also:
All Cars Examiner car reviews
Comparison review: Midsize sedans
Comparison review: Compact crossover SUVs
Comparison review: Large crossover SUVs
Comparison review: Minivans

1st Place: 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8
1st Place: 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 Brady Holt

1st Place: 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

The 2014 Hyundai Genesis is a fairly old design but it's still both more practical and luxurious than most competitors. A 2014 Genesis 3.8 with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $40,520 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $36,512, and is rated for 22 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- Spacious, high-quality interior.
- Solid, substantial driving dynamics.
- Easy visibility out of large windows.

Key weaknesses:
- Relatively high price.
- Rear-wheel-drive with no all-wheel-drive option.
- A few cheap or dated interior bits.

Overall:
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.

Overall grade: A

- More photos of the 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8
- Report card: Rating the Genesis -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Genesis -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

Second Place: 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
Second Place: 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ Brady Holt

Second Place: 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is an impressive car in most ways, unless you're looking for a luxury experience. A 2014 Impala LTZ with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $39,245 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $36,780, and is rated for 22 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- Spacious and stylish interior.
- Comfortable ride yet relatively agile handling.
- Competent or better in nearly every way.

Key weaknesses:
- Not as luxurious as some competitors.
- Relatively high price.
- Poor rear visibility.

Overall:
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.

Overall grade: A-

- More photos of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
- Report card: Rating the Impala -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Impala -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

3rd Place: 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium
3rd Place: 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium Brady Holt

3rd Place: 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium

The 2014 Kia Cadenza is all-around competitive at a reasonably competitive price – unless you're too tall to fit in it. A 2014 Cadenza with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $38,900 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $34,471, and is rated for 22 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- High-quality interior with premium-grade trim.
- Very quiet ride.
- Slick, high-feature, and user-friendly infotainment system.

Key weaknesses:
- Insufficient headroom for taller drivers.
- Rear seat doesn't fold down to expand unexceptional trunk volume.
- Driving dynamics not quite as slick as some competitors.

Overall:
Even though the Cadenza can't rely on its price tag to seal the deal, there are plenty of reasons to give it a long look regardless.

Overall grade: B

- More photos of the 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium
- Report card: Rating the Cadenza -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Cadenza -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

Fourth Place: 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited
Fourth Place: 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited Brady Holt

Fourth Place: 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited

The 2014 Hyundai Azera offers a lot of strengths at an excellent price, but the various issues represent potentially deal-breaking compromises. A 2014 Azera with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $37,225 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $32,059, and is rated for 23 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- Affordable price with lots of luxury features.
- Punchy acceleration and good gas mileage.
- Comfortable seats.

Key weaknesses:
- Insufficient headroom for taller drivers.
- Dashboard doesn't give off a very luxurious vibe.
- Stiff ride quality.

Overall:
A few key upgrades would go a long way in the Azera, and it would still be a compelling value even if the price had to go up a smidge to cover that.

Overall grade: B

- More photos of the 2014 Hyundai Azera Limited
- Report card: Rating the Azera -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Azera -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

5th Place: 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather
5th Place: 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather Brady Holt

5th Place: 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather

The 2014 Buick LaCrosse does well with the basics of comfort and luxury, but has some other flaws. A 2014 LaCrosse Leather with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $38,795 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $36,781, and is rated for 21 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- Comfortable and quiet ride.
- Cushy front and rear seats.
- High-quality interior materials.

Key weaknesses:
- Higher price than most competitors.
- Tiny trunk for a full-size sedan.
- Poor outward visibility.

Overall:
Though it's 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.

Overall grade: B-

- More photos of the 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather
- Report card: Rating the LaCrosse -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the LaCrosse -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

Sixth Place: 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited
Sixth Place: 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited Brady Holt

Sixth Place: 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited

The 2014 Toyota Avalon has traded some of its old space and comfort for sleeker styling and sharper handling, yielding a car with few glaring flaws but few notable strong points. A 2014 Avalon Limited with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $40,885 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $37,006, and is rated for 24 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- Good acceleration and class-leading fuel economy.
- High-quality interior.
- Decent interior room.

Key weaknesses:
- One of the comparison's highest prices.
- Some fussy dashboard ergonomics and slow, small screen.
- Middling seat comfort and ride quality.

Overall:
Generally average across the board, the Avalon probably has some of whatever quality you're seeking, but it probably doesn't excel at it either.

Overall grade: B-

- More photos of the 2014 Toyota Avalon Limited
- Report card: Rating the Avalon -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Avalon -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

7th Place: 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV
7th Place: 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Brady Holt

7th Place: 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV

Smaller and sportier than the competition, the 2014 Nissan 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. A 2014 Maxima 3.5 SV with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $38,900 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $33,126, and is rated for 22 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- Sportier and more agile handling than other cars in this class.
- Smooth, strong acceleration.
- Lots of features for the money.

Key weaknesses:
- Tighter cabin than the competition.
- Downscale interior ambiance.
- Mediocre crash-test scores.

Overall:
The Maxima has both the pluses and the minuses of being smaller than the rest of the cars in this class – plus some further minuses.

Overall grade: B-

- More photos of the 2014 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV
- Report card: Rating the Maxima -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Maxima -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

8th Place: 2014 Chrysler 300 C
8th Place: 2014 Chrysler 300 C Brady Holt

8th Place: 2014 Chrysler 300 C

The 2014 Chrysler 300 is generally competitive but lacks the sophistication of today's large sedans. A 2014 300 C with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $40,500 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $34,481, and is rated for 23 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- Cushy ride quality and good noise suppression.
- Comfortable seating.
- Good gas mileage.

Key weaknesses:
- Unnatural, disconnected throttle feel.
- Interior lacks polish.
- Weight affects acceleration and handling.

Overall:
Though it makes a decent first impression for its comfort and luxury, there's an underlying crudity to the 300 that undermines its competitiveness in this class.

Overall grade: C+

- More photos of the 2014 Chrysler 300 C
- Report card: Rating the 300 -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the 300 -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

9th Place: 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus
9th Place: 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus Brady Holt

9th Place: 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus

The 2014 Dodge Charger is a sporty-looking big sedan without the sophistication of other big sedans, priced slightly less than superior competition. A 2014 Charger SXT Plus with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $36,470 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $31,612, and is rated for 23 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- Lowest price tag in the class, and good gas mileage.
- Unique styling and image among large sedans.
- Well-designed infotainment system.

Key weaknesses:
- Uncomfortable seats and lacking rear seat room.
- Bumpy ride quality yet non-sporty handling.
- Unnatural, disconnected throttle feel.

Overall:
The Charger's price and styling give it the appearance of a bargain performance car. This initial impression is sadly misleading, especially disappointing after other qualities were sacrificed to convey it.

Overall grade: D+

- More photos of the 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus
- Report card: Rating the Charger -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Charger -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

10th Place: 2014 Ford Taurus Limited
10th Place: 2014 Ford Taurus Limited Brady Holt

10th Place: 2014 Ford Taurus Limited

The 2014 Ford Taurus's price tag is tempting, but it's unsurprisingly ponderous to drive while being surprisingly cramped – among other flaws. A 2014 Taurus Limited with heated leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, and other premium features has a sticker price of $39,220 and an estimated out-the-door transaction price of $32,364, and is rated for 23 miles per gallon in mixed driving.

Read full review

Key strengths:
- Lots of features for the money for such a large car.
- Well-shaped trunk with outstanding, easily class-leading volume.
- Good fuel economy for the class.

Key weaknesses:
- Poor passenger room for such a large car in both the front and rear seats.
- Bulky, ponderous driving feel.
- Poorly designed dashboard controls and mediocre interior quality.

Overall:
The badly aged Taurus once helped revitalize the large sedan class, but it is overdue for a revitalization of its own.

Overall grade: D+

- More photos of the 2014 Ford Taurus Limited
- Report card: Rating the Taurus -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Taurus -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?
- Full review

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