The Situation: You want a comfortable full-size sedan for less than $40,000.
The Obvious Choice: 2014 Lexus ES 350
Pros: Smoothest V6 in the segment, if not the world. Bred for silence in all driving situations. Top-notch Lexus build quality.
Cons: Mouse-based electronics interface not always intuitive.
When it comes to quiet and comfortable, few do it better than Lexus, and the ES 350 is the obvious choice for peace and quiet at this price point. Primary among its strengths is a large V6 that is as powerful as it is silent. A six-speed automatic transmission slots between gears with buttery smoothness. A roomy interior (especially the backseat) is backed by a high standard of build quality and a suite of standard luxury amenities including keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
Besides being somewhat passionless in execution, the ES's downsides are few. It does come with a price tag near the upper end of our range, and some people find its mouse-based electronics interface difficult to use.
Starting Price: $37,530
Configuration: Transverse front-engine, front-drive, five-passenger sedan
Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6; 268 horsepower, 248 pound-feet; six-speed automatic transmission
EPA Fuel Economy: 24 mpg combined (21 city/31 highway)
See Edmunds' rating of the 2014 Lexus ES 350 here.
The Often-Overlooked Alternative: 2014 Chrysler 300
Pros: Remarkably refined ride and interior. Available all-wheel drive. Excellent electronics interface.
Cons: Aggressive styling can be polarizing. Limited rearward visibility.
We distinctly remember being amazed when the current-generation Chrysler 300 arrived on the scene. It had, virtually overnight, transformed from an also-ran large sedan to a genuinely quiet, comfortable cruiser. It was big, relatively powerful and unfazed by most road irregularities. And it remains so today.
You get a lot for your money with the 300, too. Standard options include keyless entry and ignition, an 8.4-inch central touchscreen interface, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
If there are any drawbacks to this big cruiser, they're hard to find without nitpicking. Rear visibility, thanks to a high rear deck could be better, but a back-up camera is available on midlevel models and higher. It is rear-wheel drive, which isn't ideal for folks in cold climates, but all-wheel drive is an option.
Starting Price: $31,825 ($34,325 AWD)
Configuration: Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan
Powertrain: 3.6-liter V6: 292 hp, 260 lb-ft; eight-speed automatic transmission
EPA Fuel Economy: 23 mpg combined (19 city/31highway)
See Edmunds' rating of the 2014 Chrysler 300 here.
The Value Option: 2014 Chevrolet Impala
Pros: The best combination of quiet and comfortable you can get for the money.
Cons: Though it's still respectable, the Impala's interior trimmings don't match the segment leaders.
When it comes to comfort, it's hard to argue with a car that shares much of its mechanical roots with a Buick. That's exactly what the Impala does, at a significantly lower price. Even with the optional 20-inch wheels, we give the Impala's ride quality our highest rating. Interior noise is also kept to near luxury sedan levels. Amenities, including dual-zone automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, are abundant. Ironically, with 305 hp, the Impala is also the most powerful car here (when equipped with the optional V6).
The Impala does suffer a reduction in interior quality that's proportional to its lower price relative to the other offerings here. Large A-pillars challenge forward visibility in certain situations as well.
Starting Price: $30,895 (V6 LT Sedan)
Configuration: Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan
Powertrain: 3.6-liter V6: 306 hp, 264 lb-ft; six-speed shiftable automatic transmission
EPA Fuel Economy: 21 mpg combined (18 city/28 highway)
See Edmunds' rating of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala.