If you’re looking for a car that can keep passengers comfortable, entertain the driver, and look sharp at the golf club, the best bet is a full-size, V-6-powered sedan like the three we’ve gathered here -- all priced at around $40,000
The Hyundai Genesis arrived on American shores for model year 2009, and just three years later has undergone a hefty refresh. The 2012 Genesis benefits from new fascias, restyled headlights, new wheels, larger brakes, and a revised suspension. Its base 3.8-liter V-6 gains 15 percent more power, for a total of 333 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque, thanks to the addition of direct injection. The new model year also brings Hyundai’s new eight-speed automatic transmission.
The Genesis 3.8 starts at $35,050. On top of that, our car had the $4000 Technology package, which adds a 17-speaker sound system, navigation, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, parking sensors, heated rear seats, and a cooled driver’s seat; and the $4800 Premium package, which includes a sunroof, power rear sunshade, power folding mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a backup camera, and 18-inch wheels. Our tester’s final sticker price was thus $43,050.
Chrysler launched the second-generation 300 for 2011, and its basic recipe remains the same as when the 300 first debuted in 2004: a luxurious, all-American rear-wheel-drive sedan with a choice of thrifty V-6 and brawny V-8 engines. The new base engine is Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, offering 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Our tester was a Chrysler 300 Limited V-6, which stickered for $31,195 before options, which included the $2795 SafetyTec package consisting of power folding mirrors, adaptive HID headlights, parking sensors, collision- and blind-spot warning systems, and adaptive cruise control; a $1295 panoramic sunroof; and the $795 UConnect touch-screen navigation and entertainment interface. Our 300 also had the $3250 Luxury group with niceties like leather seats, LED interior lighting, a power sunshade, heated and cooled front seats, and heated and cooled cup holders. With all its options, our tester’s sticker price climbed to $42,770.
The Toyota Avalon is the only front-wheel-drive sedan in this group. This iteration of the Avalon was introduced in model year 2005 and was refreshed for 2011. The update brought a new grille, rear bumper, revised interior trimmings, and restyled wheels. A 3.5-liter V-6 provides 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque, which is routed through a six-speed automatic transmission.
We opted for the $36,445 Avalon Limited with the $1450 Navigation and Premium Audio package, which includes a touch-screen navigation system, backup camera, 12-speaker sound system, plus iPod and Bluetooth connectivity; and the $393 Preferred Accessory package, which nets carpeted floor mats, a first-aid kit, and a glass-breakage sensor for the alarm. The as-tested price was $38,884 -- the cheapest of the bunch.
Which of these full-size V-6 sedans deserves your hard-earned paycheck? Read on to find out how the three cars stack up.
When it comes to sheer panache and visual presence, the Chrysler 300 wins hands-down. Its muscular lines, LED-accented headlights, and optional 20-inch wheels add up to a car that exudes far more presence than the Toyota and Hyundai. The front three-quarter view may be worth the price tag alone: a flashy chrome grille and squared-off headlights lead into broad shoulder lines than run the length of the bulky car.
Sitting in the Chrysler 300 can feel a bit dark and gloomy, as our tester was filled with dark leather and burled-wood trim. The dashboard and center console are upscale and attractive, showing that Chrysler really put effort into refreshing the 300 for 2011. Although the gauges are ornately trimmed in chrome and the cabin is swathed in blue LED lighting, many of us think the interior looks a bit overdone. Nice touches include heated-and-cooled cup holders and a big panoramic sunroof.
With the Genesis, Hyundai has taken a more European approach to luxury-car styling, producing a car that looks compact and taut next to the bloated Chrysler. Smart creases border the grille and run across the hood into the car’s A-pillars. Its profile is accented by subtle chrome strips, and head- and taillights that wrap onto the fenders. Some of our staff feel the exterior is too plain and that Hyundai could have gone a little further with the 2012 refresh.
Sitting inside the Hyundai Genesis reveals an interior following the same styling mantra as the outside: stylish and upscale. Leather and aluminum trim pieces mix with soft-touch plastics and smart switchgear. The cabin feels special and looks expensive without flashing its luxury pretentions in your face. Again, some of us think the interior is starting to look dated and deserved a more thorough freshening for 2012.
We were least taken with the styling of the Toyota Avalon, which struck us as bland and generic. The Avalon's profile is the quintessential shape of a car: a hood, a passenger compartment, a trunk, and four wheels. Although it looks somewhat like the Genesis from the side, the Avalon's plain lighting designs, massive C-pillar, and protruding trunk aren't as pretty as the Hyundai. Colleagues noted that the Avalon vanished in their rear-view mirrors, a testament to the car's anonymity on the road. The Toyota's derivative looks mean it will never stand out from the crowd in a parking lot.
The Toyota Avalon has a spacious interior, but its dashboard layout looks the same as Toyotas from a decade earlier. In true Toyota fashion, the switchgear and gauges are arranged sensibly in a marvel of ergonomics. Perhaps to cater to the older generation known for buying the Avalon, the controls are labeled in a size-24 font.
Advantage: Chrysler 300