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Sedan Guide

The traditional definition of a sedan is an enclosed passenger vehicle with two rows of seats. It’s an old idea, but it still works for most people and needs. If your car needs to hold five or fewer people, a good choice—compact to full-size—is probably here.

Acura ILX

Year: Starting at $28,900 MPG 38-39 The 2013 ILX sedan aims to offer lots of luxury in a small package. Although not much bigger than the Honda Civic, the ILX holds up better on bumpy roads. The ILX’s smooth plastic interior isn’t as highbrow as some competitors', but it certainly doesn’t grate the eyes. Keyless entry and ignition, push-button start, and a power moonroof come standard, but the real draw is the standard Pandora Internet radio interface. Acura’s first offering to the entry-level luxury market comes with three powertrain options: a five-speed automatic, a more exciting six-speed manual transmission, and a 111-horsepower hybrid. The hybrid makes up for its lack of punch with an impressive 39 mpg in the city, which might be enough to make you embrace the gridlock on your morning commute. Even the base ILX is more fuel-efficient than the rest of Acura’s fleet. The ILX’s styling may not turn heads, and for the money (around $30,000), you may as well check out the peppier Acura TSX, but the ILX offers a touch of sophistication without the sticker shock usually associated with a luxury brand. …
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Acura TL

Year: Starting at $43,185 MPG 17-25 The RL sports the same 3.7-liter V-6 engine as Acura’s TL, with plenty of power for a sedan, and the same all-wheel-drive system helps them around corners. The RL is clearly the more sedate of the two and draws in older buyers with its cushy interior. More spacious than any other Acura sedan, the RL has room for passengers to stretch out. It benefits from a sleek looking dash and information display, although the navigation system itself could use an update. Smooth leather seats come standard, as do keyless entry and a USB port and auxiliary jack for MP3 players. Change is in the air for the RL, however. After a long history as Acura’s respectable, refined sedan, the RL will become the 2014 RLX, for sale in early 2013. The new model will be bigger and heavier, and will come in a “sport hybrid” model, which Acura expects to achieve 30 mpg – a huge improvement over the current model’s 24 mpg on the highway. The RL provides more than enough comfort and drivability for its nearly $50,000 price point, but it could use a touch more excitement, which is probably exactly what the RLX will have in store. …
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Acura TSX

Year: Starting at $31,510 MPG 21-29 The 2013 Acura TSX makes no changes from the 2012 model year, but it comes with enough options to make up for it. The TSX comes as a sedan or wagon, with either a 2.4-liter 201-horsepower engine (lots of fun, even if it lacks some power) or a 3.5-liter V-6 with more brute force. Acura’s silky-smooth manual transmission is available in the sedan. The TSX compliments its punchy engine with a new, smoother suspension. The sedan has a paltry 12.6 cubic feet of trunk storage, but this car was clearly not built to move a family cross-country, and with its other features you might not miss the space. If you do need more room in the back, the wagon has twice the cargo space of the sedan. Believe it or not, a car this fun to drive doesn’t have to be a gas guzzler. At 19 to 22 mpg in the city and 28 to 31 mpg on the highway, the TSX is more efficient than Acura’s more sedate (read: boring) sedans. Its relatively low cost is reflected in the lack of a navigation system in the manual, and the more powerful V-6 comes at a premium. These small sacrifices just might be worth it for the chance to drive the TSX. …
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Toyota Avalon

Year: Starting at $30,990 MPG 21-31 Since Toyota first launched the Avalon in the 1990s, the full-size four-door has been Toyota’s version of the Buick: comfy, quiet, and easy to digest. As the Toyota brand’s flagship, the Avalon has enjoyed popularity among the retiree set as well as among satisfied Camry customers who simply want a little bit more, in the form of an extra-wide cabin, a Costco-grade trunk, a high level of creature comforts, and a schmaltzy ride. But the all-new 2013 Avalon has evolved into something more than a Camry. It has become lighter in weight and shorter in both height and length, making it one of the more garage-friendly full-size sedans around. Just as significant, the Avalon has upgraded almost everything under the skin, and now it shares pretty much all of its innards with none other than the slick new 2013 Lexus ES. Like the Lexus, the Avalon is powered by a silken, powerful 3.5-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower in standard form, or a four-cylinder/electric powertrain combo in the new-for-2013 Avalon hybrid that scores an EPA rating of 40 mpg. The 2013 Avalon was designed in California and brandishes a glitzy new grille, LED running lamps, sweeping body sides, and an elegantly arching roof. But the Avalon’s new interior may be its best attribute, offering not just tons of space but far more luxury experience than ever, thanks to additional sound-deadening materials, hand-stitched dash covers, capacitive touch controls, and lots of fancy options including heated front and rear seats and soft ambient lighting. …
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Toyota Camry

Year: Starting at $22,235 MPG 25-35 From the Don’t Mess with a Good Thing department comes the 2013 Toyota Camry. Still looking fresh after its complete redesign for the 2012 model year, Toyota’s perennial bestseller is unchanged for 2013, and that’s generally fine by us, as Toyota did a remarkable job adding emotion to the Camry this time around (not too much, of course…2012 is an election year, after all). Not only does its styling actually convey, well, actual style from its broad, beveled mug to its chunky, L-shaped taillamps, but it drives pretty well, too, with taut suspensions and communicative steering. Three engine choices await customers, including a frugal 178-horsepower four-cylinder, a velvety 268-horsepower V-6, and a four-cylinder/electric hybrid, the latter helping the Camry hybrid achieve an impressive 41-mpg rating from the EPA. The interior still suffers from some corporate boardroom austerity, but it is comfortably equipped even in base form and feels Lexus-like in uplevel XLE form. And of course, since it’s a Toyota, assembly quality is pretty spectacular. As good as it is, however, the Camry will have a tougher time than ever keeping its sales crown this year, with stiff new competition coming from the Ford Fusion, the Chevrolet Malibu, the Nissan Altima, and the Camry’s arch-nemesis, the Honda Accord, each of which should also be checked out by mid-size sedan shoppers before plunking down their money for a Camry. …
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Toyota Corolla

Year: Starting at $17,060 MPG 26-34 Yes, it eventually happens to all cars, even the best-selling automobile the world has ever known, the Toyota Corolla. And now, it is undeniable: the Corolla is getting old. Of course, that hasn’t stopped people from buying Corollas in droves. And so with an audible sigh, we report that 2013 brings yet another mild update to a car that has been around in its current form seemingly for an eternity. So why do people still buy the Corolla en masse? Simple: it’s simple…as in uncomplicated, plain, or as some might say, dull. And to be fair, one person’s dull is another’s “reliable transportation,” and don’t expect us to argue with that. But don’t expect us to get too excited about it, either, as the only available engine remains a wimpy 132-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder mated to five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. The Corolla LE and S models receive some reconstituted option packages, and a new 6.1-inch screen-based interface for the Display Audio system. Fuel economy is respectable but falls short of newer, fresher, and far more exciting competitors such as the Ford Focus, the Chevrolet Cruze, the Volkswagen Jetta, and the Hyundai Elantra, all of which should be considered by anyone looking at a new Corolla this year. …
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Volvo S60

Year: Starting at $31,900 MPG 21-30 How is it that, while so many car companies struggle with the task of fielding a worthy compact sport sedan, Volvo easily scored a win with the S60? The company’s bestseller holds its own against tough competition, providing American buyers with an appealing alternative. Now available with all-wheel drive, the T5 is the base model, succeeded in the range by the T6 AWD and the T6 AWD R-Design. Like the optional engines in the C30 and C70, the T5’s turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine makes 250 horsepower. The T6 AWD has a 300-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged six (325 horsepower in the R-Design model), and all-wheel drive is standard. A six-speed automatic transmission is included with all models. Trim levels are Premier, Premier Plus, and Platinum. The latter adds navigation, a premium sound system, a backup camera, an integrated garage door opener, and active Xenon headlamps. Front and rear parking assistance is available on the R-Design. The S60 keeps up in the technology race, too, adding the standard Personal Car Communicator, first introduced in the S80, which knows from a distance if the car is locked and, thanks to a heartbeat sensor, if an intruder is inside. It even turns on all lights as you approach your car. …
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Volvo S80

Year: Starting at $39,150 MPG 20-29 The S80 represented Volvo’s first foray away from boxy sedans. The company now applies the word “exclusive” to the car, although this is because it doesn’t sell very well. The only good explanation for the slow sales, though, is that snob appeal is lacking. This handsome, if understated, sedan is smooth on the road and well equipped. It offers a good value equation. You’ll find such unexpected standard features as Volvo’s City Safety system for avoiding low-speed collisions and the available blind spot monitoring and pedestrian detection. The cabin, richly appointed with leather and walnut, can be overpopulated with twelve speakers for a wonderful music environment. Americans choose from two models. The 3.2 is powered by a 240-horsepower 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine. A smaller, turbocharged 3.0-liter six makes 300 horsepower to move the T6 AWD smartly down the road. The two models share the same six-speed automatic. The S80 is Volvo’s technology leader: it introduced keyless start and Personal Car Communicator, a key fob that foretells unlocked doors and vehicle intrusion, and this is now standard. A smartphone app is also available for staying connected with the S80. Anyone seeking value and high-level content wouldn’t be called a rotten herring for picking the S80. …
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Dodge Avenger

Year: Starting at $18,995 America loves its mid-size sedans. But poor Dodge wouldn’t know about that; it hasn’t been a player in that segment for decades. When its current offering, the Avenger, came along in 2008, adopting the window treatment and muscular rear fenders of the big Charger sedan, customers ran in horror once they drove it—that is, if they could get past the wretched interior. Dodge gave the Avenger a thorough make-over for 2011, although no one seemed to notice, since the bulk of the work was done in places no one could see. The car’s sloppy handling was cleaned up, and a fabulous new 283-horsepower V-6 engine was offered. With its standard six-speed automatic transmission, V-6-powered Avengers achieve decent fuel economy (29 mpg highway). A four-cylinder model is offered, too, although with its antiquated four-speed automatic, highway mileage is not a lot better (31 mpg). The interior was simply revolutionized, with soft-touch material everywhere, edgy new color schemes, and handy connectivity features. In the end, the Avenger became a decent car overall. However, that was 2011, and nothing about the Avenger has changed much since then…except, that is, its competitive set, which now includes fresher (and better) mid-sizers from pretty much every carmaker that offers one. The Avenger’s sole claim to fame for 2013 is its status as the cheapest entry in the segment, as it should be. Its replacement is expected by 2014, which can’t come soon enough for Dodge. …
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