2005 Chrysler 300, Ford Five Hundred, and Toyota Avalon Compared

Mike Dushane
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The Avalon was not engineered for the sporting drives we prefer--even with the Touring model's stiffer suspension. Steering was vague and control quickly switched to extreme body roll and understeer when the car was pressed.

Safety These cars' responsible, people-carrying intentions should make safety an especially important consideration for owners. All three score well, notching five-of-five stars in the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration's front- and side-impact ratings--except for the Chrysler, which received four of five in front-seat side impacts. The Ford and Chrysler also earned solid four-star rollover ratings; the Toyota had yet to be tested.

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Antilock brakes come to the 300 as part of the Touring package, while the Five Hundred and the Avalon offer this important feature as standard equipment. The Chrysler, the heaviest car of the three, is the only one with stability control offered on the tested trim level; Toyota offers it on some other Avalon models, but Ford doesn't yet offer it on any Five Hundred. The Toyota boasts standard front-side and front and rear side-curtain air bags; curtain inflatables are optional on the other cars, although the Ford is the only machine that does not offer side air bags.

The SkinnyBased on its sporty nature and superior fun-to-drive quotient, we would buy the Chrysler 300. Its interior is the weakest in the group, but its exterior styling is the most interesting and eye-catching.

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The Ford Five Hundred is by no means a bad car, but it is outdone in nearly all areas by one of the two other competitors here. It does offer some enjoyable driving dynamics if you're able to deal with its lack of power.Executive editor Mark Gillies called the Avalon, "a perfect example of car-as-appliance." We'd recommend the Toyota Avalon to most people based on this car's refrigerator-esque likelihood for efficient, trouble-free--though perhaps largely unexciting--operation for many years and thousands of miles.

All three of these family sedans offer what most Americans desire: a good highway ride and lots of room inside. With these latest solid efforts from Chrysler and Ford, Detroit has made some significant headway on Japan in terms of the overall package, but they've still got a way to go before they can catch up from a quality-and-value standpoint.

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