The Hyundai Genesis’ drivetrain provides the best combination of speed and smoothness in this pack. The V-6, which for 2012 gained direct injection for more precise control of fuel delivery, is now more efficient and more powerful than the 2011 Genesis. The engine is quiet, and the eight-speed automatic provides quick yet smooth shifts. Yet the engine is remarkably responsive when pushed, providing dramatic performance and sporty exhaust note. The Genesis is by far the quickest sedan here, easily pulling away from the Toyota and Chrysler on a blast through the rural roads south of our office.
The 3.5-liter V-6 under the hood of the Toyota Avalon is perhaps the smoothest and most mellifluous of this test. Though the engine and transmission are tuned primarily for comfort, the Avalon is surprisingly quick. The front-wheel-drive chassis struggles with the engine’s power, so it’s easy to accidentally squeal the front tires from a stop. The automatic transmission is decently responsive in Sport -- and yes, were surprised that the pedestrian Avalon even has a Sport mode. Left in Drive, the transmission delivers gear changes gently and without fuss.
In spite of horsepower and torque ratings that are mid-pack, the Chrysler 300 is noticeably slower than the other two cars. This lethargy is due in part to the fact that the 300 is the heaviest car in this trio. The blame can also be attributed to the aging five-speed automatic transmission (although an eight-speed is coming for 2012). The tall gears are optimized for fuel economy at the expense of acceleration. The 300 feels lazy when pushed, especially so because its transmission is hesitant to downshift. Chrysler’s V-6 was also the only engine to transmit vibration to the driver at idle.
Fuel economy is comparable among all of the cars. The Genesis is EPA-rated at 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, while the Avalon receives scores of 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. The 300’s weight and transmission once again penalize it on the consumption front, as the Chrysler returns just 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.
Advantage: Hyundai Genesis
Behind the Wheel
These sedans are far from sports cars, as they prioritize occupant comfort over corner carving. But the Hyundai Genesis still imparts some fun to the driver, and feels lithe when asked to navigate twisting roads. Upgrades for 2012 include beefier brakes and firmer anti-roll bars, making it a willing companion for enthusiastic driving. The Hyundai’s steering provides a decent amount of weight and feedback for this car’s class. The Genesis’ suspension strikes a balance between that of the Toyota and the Chrysler, providing more insulation than the 300 from road imperfections yet a slightly firmer ride than the Avalon.
The Chrysler 300 feels solid and composed on the road. Its firm suspension and wide tires (the widest of this trio) keep the car under control, along with strong brakes and decent feel from the chunky steering wheel. While its handling responses are respectable, the Chrysler’s weight precludes it from feeling as energetic as the Hyundai. Although the ride is generally pleasant, it can be jarring over severe bumps and doesn’t feel quite as settled as the Toyota. The 300 also admits the most road and wind noise to the cabin.
The Toyota Avalon’s chassis is tuned for comfort rather than sport, meaning the Toyota wobbles and rolls in sharp corners. It is ill-suited to enthusiastic driving: one staffer even got the front brakes smoking after a few high-speed stops. Still, these are meant to be luxury cars, and the Avalon’s creamy ride allows it to float over bumps of all shapes and sizes. The Toyota’s sloppy dynamics disappointed our lead-footed staffers, but it undeniably has the most cosseting ride in this group.
Advantage: Hyundai Genesis