Known for their firm command of the freeway, cavernous truck space and adult-sized rear seats, full-size sedans like the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Nissan Maxima and Ford Taurus provide spacious platforms for daily commutes and road trips alike. With recent designs’ heightened focus on efficiency, taking a comfy cruise down the highway won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
The Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 tie for first place with eRatings of 110. This is not surprising as these Chrysler Group siblings share the Pentastar V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Each model also offers a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission upgrade. This $1,000 option, usually only seen in up-market sedans, boosts highway mileage to 31 mpg on both vehicles and raises their eRatings to 117. The transmission also improves acceleration and can be had with optional paddle shifters.
If those family road trips need more excitement than a few rounds of the alphabet game can provide, both the Charger and 300 are also available as models of Chrysler’s high-performance SRT brand. The SRT8 editions come with Chrysler’s famed 6.4 liter 470 horsepower HEMI V8 (HEMI indicates the engine’s use of a performance-enhancing hemispherical combustion chamber) and cylinder deactivation technology, which turns off four of the engine’s eight cylinders when the extra power is not needed. That partly softens the performance versus efficiency trade-off, but the lower mileage with the HEMI pulls both cars’ eRatings down to the mid-80s. That in turn means nearly 30 percent more planet-pounding per mile compared with the Charger’s or 300’s standard configurations.
The Nissan Maxima comes in third place at an eRating of 100. The 2012 model sports a refreshed exterior with a new grill, taillights and aluminum alloy wheels. The Maxima has some distinctive features including a manual thigh extension for the driver’s seat, meant to improve comfort for long drives. Also unique is the six-point engine mounting system designed to firmly hold the engine and reduce vibration in high torque situations, and a “drive sport” mode for the vehicle’s continuously variable transmission (CVT). This modifies the behavior of the transmission to allow for higher engine revs and increased acceleration and, paired with optional paddle shifters, enables the CVT to make stick-like shifts.
The Taurus comes in a very close fourth with an eRating of 99. The 2012 Taurus offers new features including the exterior color Ginger Ale Metallic and standard integrated blind spot mirrors, which help increase the side view mirrors’ rear visibility. Also noteworthy is Ford’s use of innovative green technologies and materials. The 3.5 liter, 263 horsepower V6 features a low-tension accessory drive belt, reduced friction lubricants and fuel shutoff during deceleration, all helping to reduce drag on the engine and increase fuel efficiency. Green materials include a headliner partially made from recycled materials and seat cushions that utilize soy foam in place of the traditional petroleum-based foams found in most vehicles.
These full-size sedans offer an exciting blend of performance, comfort and efficiency. With highway mileage hovering around 27 mpg, taking one of these sedans on your next road trip will help you focus more on enjoying the freedom of the open road and less on GPS directions to the nearest gas station.
|Make and Model||$MSRP||Specs||City/Hwy/Comb|
|Dodge Charger||26,590||3.6 L 292 hp V6,|
|18 / 27 / 21||110|
|Chrysler 300||28,595||3.6 L 292 hp V6,|
|18 / 27 / 21||110|
|Nissan Maxima||33,200||3.5 L 290 hp V6,|
|19 / 26 / 22||100|
|Ford Taurus||26,350||3.5 L 263 hp V6,|
|18 / 28 / 22||99|