You can look at upscale sedans in one of two ways: as luxury cars at a great price or overpriced family sedans. Retailing in the mid-$30,000 to low-$40,000 range, they're generally comfortable, quiet, and reasonably luxurious and offer a lot of amenities, including many of the latest safety systems, for a sticker price that doesn't rival that of a small house. But if you can give up a few extras and perhaps a bit of interior room, some higher-trim family sedans—such as the V6-powered Honda Accord and Nissan Altima—deliver similar performance and refinement but cost about $10,000 less.
The Genesis has topped our Ratings (available to subscribers) in this category since the February 2009 issue (available to subscribers), when the six-cylinder version first edged out the Lexus ES 350. The Genesis received a mild freshening for 2012, giving it a softer, more comfortable ride; a stronger direct-injected V6; and a more fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission, which improved gas mileage by 1 mpg. Overall, the car's performance is similar to that of last year's model, and its test score remains an excellent 92.
The Avalon has always excelled as a roomy, smooth-riding cruiser. It provides a punchy powertrain and secure handling, but no one will confuse the Avalon with a sports sedan. For 2011, it received a plusher interior with an improved control layout and better fit and finish.
Like the Genesis, the TL received a new automatic transmission for 2012 (a six-speed), which improved its overall fuel economy by 1 mpg. Its 24 mpg is now the best in this class. The TL doesn't stand out in any one area, but it is a solid car with brisk acceleration, a polished powertrain, and a mostly pleasant ride and handling. It's also the only model in the class besides the Lexus that has achieved an excellent predicted-reliability rating.
Revamped for 2011, the 300 is the best Chrysler car we've seen in decades, jumping to an overall test score of 80 from a mediocre 64 of the previous model. The 300C's quick, muscular 5.7-liter V8 engine is now complemented by responsive handling and a more comfortable ride. And thanks to a major upgrade, its roomy interior is now quieter and more luxurious. The main drawback of our V8-powered 300 is its 18-mpg fuel economy, which is the lowest in a category dominated by smaller V6 engines. The 300's corporate sister, the Dodge Charger, got 21 mpg when we tested it with a V6.
The as-tested prices for this group range from the TL's $36,465 to the 300C's $44,730. All of the models here are recommended except the revamped Chrysler 300, for which we don't have reliability data.