Once a mainstay on American roads, 4-door sedans have experienced a steady decline in recent years as drivers continue to turn to sport-utility vehicles and crossovers as their first choice for room, comfort and utility. But is all that utility necessary all the time? A large sedan offers an attractive alternative to a crossover — and in many cases it provides a more spacious cabin, a more comfortable ride and improved fuel economy. What follows are spacious sedans alternatives to rival the glut of SUVs now on the road.
When the Audi A8 debuted in the 1990s, it was the first luxury car to make extensive use of aluminum for the spaceframe as well as bodywork. It was powered by a V8 engine with quattro all-wheel drive, making it a unique offering in the luxury car segment. Today Audi’s flagship A8 sedan is offered in the U.S. market in a long-wheelbase version, with the high-performance S8 on a shorter wheelbase.
Rear-seat legroom on Audi’s flagship is 42.9 inches for the A8 and 38.7 for the S8. The A8 3.0T is powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 producing 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, and the 4.0T is powered by a turbocharged V8 that produces 450 horsepower and 444 lb-ft of torque. At the top of the line, the 6.3-liter W12 produces 500 horsepower and 462 lb-ft of torque. The high-performance Audi S8 is powered by a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 producing 605 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque.
BMW 7 Series
BMW’s flagship 7 Series sedan is the second-best-selling large luxury car in the U.S. market, and it was redesigned for the 2016 model year with extensive use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic in the structure of the passenger cell for increased strength and stiffness with reduced overall weight. The 7 Series is offered exclusively as a long-wheelbase model for the U.S. market, providing 44.4 inches of rear-seat legroom and 38.9 inches of headroom. The 740i and 740i xDrive are powered by 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo 6-cylinder engine producing 320 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque.
BMW 7 Series
The 750i and 750i xDrive get power from a 4.4-liter TwinPower Turbo V8 engine producing 445 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. The 740e iPerformance XDrive plug-in hybrid is powered by a 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo combined with an electric motor for total system output of 322 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The high-performance ALPINA B7 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 producing 608 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. For 2017 the M760i xDrive will join the lineup, powered by the V12 M Performance TwinPower Turbo producing 601 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque.
The largest car in the Buick model line, the full-size LaCrosse is new for the 2017 model year, displaying the new face of Buick that draws from the Avenir concept car. The new grille has a large opening with a three-color Buick tri-shield with wing-shaped elements and dark grille bars.
The new LaCrosse is longer, lower and wider than the previous model, but is also 300 pounds lighter. Power comes from a 3.6-liter V6 engine producing 310 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque, combined with a new 8-speed automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive. The new LaCrosse offers 40 inches of legroom for rear-seat passengers and 37.2 inches of headroom.
A new addition to the luxury car ranks, the CT6 is Cadillac’s new top model for 2016, built on a lightweight aluminum-intensive body structure and designed to offer new levels of driving dynamics in a large luxury car. The top engine choice is a new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that produces 404 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, combined with a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Two other engines are offered: a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 265 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque.
In terms of space and comfort, CT6 passengers enjoy 40.4 inches of rear-seat legroom and 38 inches of headroom. For 2017 a Cadillac CT6 plug-in hybrid is added, powered by a new two-motor rear-wheel-drive electric variable transmission combined with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine for a total system output of 335 horsepower and 432 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy ratings are expected to be more than 65 MPGe.
An iconic nameplate, Chevrolet’s full-size Impala flagship sedan was a top seller in the 1960s, and today’s tenth-generation Impala was the top-selling full-size car in America through October and a close second to Charger for the year. The current Impala was redesigned for the 2014 model year.
The Impala has a standard 196-horsepower 2.5-liter engine with start/stop technology, or an available 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine. New technology includes available wireless charging for smartphones and phone integration through Apple CarPlay via the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system. Rear-seat passengers enjoy 39.8 inches of legroom and 37.4 inches of headroom.
Chrysler brought back the 300 nameplate for the 2005 model year with a bold new design for the rear-wheel-drive flagship full-size sedan. Inspired by the 1955 Chrysler 300, the new design really sets the 300 apart from other sedans on the market. The current model carries through the design proportions and overall look of the 2005 model with sleeker and more refined details.
The 300’s standard engine is a 292-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, and an optional 5.7-liter HEMI V8 produces 363 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque combined with an 8-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission for 31 mpg on the highway. Rear-seat legroom is at 40.1 inches with 37.9 inches of rear-seat headroom.
The top-selling full-size model in the U.S. market, Dodge’s Charger brought back this iconic muscle-car nameplate for 2006 — as a 4-door sedan. Standard power comes from the 292-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, with an optional 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine producing 370 horsepower and a 6.4-liter HEMI rated at 485 horsepower.
Now if we’re talking ultimate sedans, the Charger SRT Hellcat is powered by a 707-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8. And if we’re hauling passengers instead of hauling ass, the rear seat offers 40.1 inches of legroom and 36.6 inches of headroom, which is a little less than the Chrysler 300 because of the Charger’s sloping roofline.
The original Taurus was a new midsize car introduced in the 1980s to compete with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Taurus is now Ford’s full-size sedan, after Ford renamed the Five Hundred sedan Taurus for the 2008 model year. The Taurus received a major redesign for 2010 and continues for its seventh year with minor styling updates along the way.
The standard engine on the Taurus is a 288-horsepower 3.5-liter V6; an optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder produces 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. The powerful Taurus SHO has a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 producing 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Rear-seat legroom is at 38.1 inches, with headroom at 37.8 inches.
Hyundai added the upscale Genesis sedan to its lineup for 2009, but for 2017 Genesis becomes an entirely separate luxury line featuring the G80 and G90 models. The flagship of the new Genesis brand, the G90 aims to compete with top luxury vehicles through a combination of technology, refinement, dynamic performance, design and ownership experience.
Two engine choices for the G90 are a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 producing 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, or a 5.0-liter V8 producing 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. Both engines have 8-speed automatic transmissions and are available with an H-TRAC all-wheel-drive system. Rear-seat passengers enjoy 38 inches of headroom and 37.8 inches of legroom.
Known for building smaller, efficient cars that represent good value for the level of equipment offered, Hyundai moved into the large car market in 2006 with the Azera. The 2016 Hyundai Azera was recognized by J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study as the highest in initial quality in the large car segment. Azera’s standard equipment includes leather seats; heated and ventilated front seats; hands-free Smart Trunk; 8-inch color navigation touch screen; and blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert.
Azera is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 producing 293 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque combined with a 6-speed automatic with SHIFTRONIC manual shifting, rated at 28 mpg highway. Azera’s convenience features include a 14-speaker 550-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Rear-seat headroom is 37.6 inches, with 36.8 inches of rear-seat legroom.
The Jaguar XJ has always been one of the most elegant luxury sedans, and for 2011 it received a dramatic new design and all-aluminum construction. For 2016 the XJ got exterior updates, an enhanced infotainment system and new driver assistance features. Available in two wheelbase lengths, the XJ L offers 44.1 inches of rear-seat legroom and 38.6 inches of headroom, compared with 38.9 inches of legroom for the standard wheelbase versions.
The Jaguar XJ sources power from a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine producing 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, and the XJ Supercharged is powered by a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 producing 470 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque. For the XJR, the 5.0-liter supercharged V8 gets pumped up to 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque.
Another automaker known for smaller, fuel-efficient cars that represent good value in the marketplace, Kia moved upmarket to the full-size segment in 2014 with the Cadenza. The redesigned second-generation 2017 Cadenza features a more sophisticated exterior and a more luxurious interior with higher quality materials.
The 2017 Cadena also possesses a new body structure that is stronger, lighter and more rigid for a better driving experience. Powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine producing 290 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque combined with Kia’s first 8-speed front-wheel-drive automatic, the 2017 Cadenza is rated at 28 mpg highway. Rear-seat headroom is 37.9 inches and rear-seat legroom is 37.2 inches.
The flagship sedan of Toyota’s luxury Lexus division, the original 1990 Lexus LS 400 debuted at the 1989 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January and went on sale in September 1989. Over the next 25 year, the Lexus LS challenged the traditional players in the luxury car segment and set new standards for customer service and quality.
Today the Lexus LS is sold as the LS 460 and LS 460 L, both powered by a 4.6-liter V8 engine producing 386 horsepower and 367 lb-ft of torque. The LS 460 offers 38 inches of rear-seat headroom and 35.8 inches of legroom, with 36.7 inches of legroom of the long-wheelbase model.
One of the most recognized names in luxury cars, the Continental returns to the Lincoln lineup as the flagship of Ford’s luxury brand, with a focus on quiet luxury and elegance. Continental offers a new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that is exclusive to Lincoln, and expected to produce 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Also available is a 305-horsepower V6 and a 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 producing 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque.
The new Continental’s available all-wheel-drive system incorporates Dynamic Torque Vectoring to transfer torque between the rear wheels when cornering for better handling and stability. The focus of the interior is a quiet and relaxing experience for all passengers with 41.3 inches of rear legroom and 37.7 inches of rear headroom. Also offered are Perfect Position seats that can be adjusted up to 30 different ways with heating, cooling and available massage functions.
Long recognized as a benchmark among luxury cars, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the top-selling large luxury sedan in the market today. The current generation S-Class debuted for 2015 and for 2017 is offered in seven different sedan configurations. The S550 is powered by a 4.6-liter biturbo V8 producing 449 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The S550e is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 biturbo engine combined with a 132-kW electric motor for a total output of 436 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque and up to 58 MPGe in hybrid mode.
The stunning S600 gets power from a 6.0-liter biturbo V12 producing 523 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque. The S63 and S65 feature hand-built AMG engines, with a 5.5-liter biturbo V8 producing 577 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque for the S63 and a 6.0-liter biturbo V12 producing 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque for the S65. Passenger comfort? Rear-seat legroom is 43.1 inches and headroom is 37.4 inches.
When Nissan first launched the Maxima in the 1980s, they coined the phrase 4-Door Sports Car to evoke the new Maxima’s sporting demeanor. The moniker returned with the aggressive redesign of the 2016 Maxima.
Maxima possesses a 300-horsepower version of Nissan’s award-winning 3.5-liter V6 engine, combined with an Xtronic continuously-variable transmission to achieve an EPA highway fuel economy rating of 30 mpg. Rear legroom is a bit tight at 34.2 inches with headroom at 36.7 inches. Apple CarPlay is standard for all trim levels.
Porsche’s Panamera isn’t as big as some of the other luxury cars on this list, but it is the largest Porsche ever made that is not an SUV, and it has more front-seat legroom than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or the BMW 7 Series. Known for lightweight, compact sports cars before introducing the Cayenne SUV, Porsche added the Panamera sedan as a 2010 model and found lots of interest in a Porsche sedan with room for four.
More than 10 different trim levels are offered for Panamera: Base, S, 4, 4S, Edition, 4Edition, GTS, 4S Executive, Turbo, Turbo S, Turbo Executive, Turbo S Executive and Turbo S Exclusive! Whew! Power units range from a Base 3.6-liter V6 producing 310 horsepower to the Turbo S featuring a turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 putting out 570 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque.
Avalon joined the Toyota family in 1995 as a slightly larger version of the Camry, adding a 6-passenger option to the model line. As a larger version of the Camry, Avalon proved to be a roomier and more comfortable sedan that was designed to drive more nimbly than traditional full-size cars of the time.
Even after 20 years, Avalon remains Toyota’s large 5-passenger sedan, powered by a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. Rear-seat passengers have 39.2 inches of legroom and 37.9 inches of headroom for a very comfortable ride.