Remember tried-and-true sedans? They’re getting crowded out by popular crossovers and SUVs. Ford will even stop making almost all its passenger cars in a few years. But other automakers are fighting back, determined not to let their four-door mainstays go the way of saggy pants, studded belts and — yeesh — anything velour. From fashionable tweaks to full makeovers, sedans are getting sassier.
GENESIS G80 3.3T SPORT
Mpg: 17 city, 24 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.1 seconds
Genesis. It used to be a Hyundai model but is now its own luxury brand: Genesis Motor America. Taking a successful entity like Hyundai and spinning off a more exclusive brand can be tricky but not impossible. Think Honda/Acura or Toyota/Lexus. Of the three Genesis models (all sedans) the G80 midsizer is in the sweet spot between the G70 compact (which just arrived this summer) and the full-size flagship G90. While the G80 base model is just fine, things really pick up with the all-new 3.3T Sport.
It boasts the same twin-turbo V6 as in the larger G90. But because the G80 3.3T Sport weighs less, it’s quicker and more responsive. Sure, a souped-up Mercedes E-Class AMG will eat this car’s lunch on the test track, but such a blistering Benz costs $104,000. This G80 holds its own, though, when it comes to svelte styling and a slew of standard features: steering-wheel paddle shifters, matte wood and aluminum trim, heated/cooled front seats, rear and side window shades, wireless charging pad, carbon-dioxide sensor on the climate control system, Lexicon 17-speaker stereo, tons of safety gear and, well, you get the idea.
Basically, the Genesis game plan was to create a capable, fully loaded sport sedan with a bargain basement price.
NISSAN MAXIMA SR MIDNIGHT EDITION
Mpg: 21 city, 30 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.9 seconds
Nissan sedans have always enjoyed edgier styling than their Honda and Toyota counterparts. But the midsize Maxima SR — the sportiest of five Maxima trim levels — goes even further with a special Midnight Edition package. The look is tough and rebellious, sort of like adding tats and piercings all over.
The extra cost is just $1,200, and you can choose black, white or gun-metal gray for the grille, rear spoiler, 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and mirror caps. There’s also a rear diffuser and custom floor mats. The 360-degree parking camera is a nice touch, as are the outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature and the auto-dimming driver-side mirror. Other plusses include the robust and fuel-efficient V6, as well as an easy-to-use infotainment system. Because this is the SR trim, there’s also a sport-tuned suspension, aluminum sport pedals, paddle shifters, heated/cooled seats, LED headlights and a dynamic control system for improved handling and braking.
Minor quibbles include lack of rear-seat headroom and no all-wheel drive. Despite the in-your-face exterior design and tuner-like engineering, the high-quality cabin is actually quiet thanks to sound-reducing glass and other innovations.
VW PASSAT GT
Mpg: 19 city, 28 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.9 seconds
Is the all-new VW Passat GT punching above its weight? A GT designation, which means Gran Tourer or Gran Turismo, take your pick, is usually reserved for high-end performance coupes, such as a $225,000 Bentley Continental GT.
But the Passat is an everyday midsize sedan, more accustomed to traffic jams than jaunts to the Hamptons. Still, most Passats are equipped with four-cylinder turbos, while the GT model features a 280-hp V6. It’s not exactly a speedway racer but is certainly plenty quick. And few $30,000 sedans come with V6 bragging rights. To bolster its sporty bona fides, the Passat GT has a low, taut suspension, along with a slick black roof, red brake calipers and red accent trim around the grille.
There’s even a slightly throaty exhaust rumble. Cabin highlights include faux carbon fiber accents, black headliner and two-tone, black and gray seats. For safety gear, there’s a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and pre-collision warning. Gas mileage isn’t exactly noteworthy, but with sure steering, smooth shifting and little body roll when tackling curves, this GT is definitely fun — and very affordable.