2009: What's New In Mid- And Full-Size Sedans

By Brian Alexander

2009 Jaguar XF

In the modern autoscape, the big battles are fought in the mid- and full-size sedan segments. Year after year, this is where vital sales numbers are posted and where they achievement of high quality ratings warrants serious celebration. In short, the family sedan segment is to the automotive industry what high fructose corn syrup is to America’s soft drink tycoons, what hamburgers are to the fast food pushers – more than just a leg to stand on, these vehicles represent the bedrock-anchored pillars that hold up the fort. Here’s what 2009 has on offer for the industry’s most embattled sector.

2009 Hyundai Genesis

2009 Volkswagen CC

The top-end of the luxury sedan market is dominated by leather-clad, high-horsepower luxo-cruisers. Mercedes-Benz’s now iconic CLS550 and blisteringly powerful CLS63 AMG get a very minor update, with LED taillights, trapezoidal exhausts, a new front-grille and a host of other features only the truly obsessive will notice. Jaguar’s all-new XF backs up its contemporary styling with a solid, dynamic chassis and fantastic automatic transmission, but the real story will be the 5.0-liter, supercharged XFR that will make its debut sometime later in the year. A key competitor will be Cadillac’s bombastic 556 hp CTS-V. With a torque curve as flat as the kitchen table, adjustable magnetic suspension and brakes that would make Isaac Newton reconsider his hypotheses on inertia, the CTS-V has the muscle to go toe-to-toe with the best of the world’s super sedans. Only serious hooligans need apply.

The full-size, no expenses spared premium luxury landscape will look much the same in 2009 as it did in 2008, with the exception of BMW’s 750i. BMW is abandoning its 4.8-liter V-8 in favor of a more powerful, torque-laden twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, as well as incorporating more conventional exterior styling in place of the old seven’s, er, controversial outer shell. Alongside BMW’s flagship full-sizer comes Hyundai’s bid in the luxury market. One more time, just in case you missed it – Hyundai’s bid in the luxury market. The 2009 Hyundai Genesis has flipped the luxury segment on it’s head, beating back a torrent of skepticism and delivering on its promise of Lexus allure below the magical $40k mark. Acura’s, all-wheel drive RL gets a refresh rather than the full-on overhaul, with a more powerful V-6 engine as well as revised suspension and styling.

In the world of mid-size luxury performance sedans, the competition is equally fierce. Acura has given the TL a complete overhaul, and while opinion on the new front fascia remains divided, equipped with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine and all-wheel drive the TL now boasts to be Acura’s most powerful model to date. And yes, that’s the same Acura that produced the now legendary NSX. Infiniti is upping displacement in equal measure, dropping a 3.7-liter V-6 engine into its G37 sedan, a powerplant previously available only in the G37 coupe. Optional items such as all-wheel drive and the sport model’s four-wheel active steering system can be added to sharpen the experience. What was essentially the G sedan’s old 3.5-liter engine moves downstream to Nissan, seeing service in the brand’s four-door flagship, the Maxima. While Nissan has put the focus on performance, don’t be fooled – large, front-front wheel drive cars are only capable of so much. With a solid list of standard features and excellent craftsmanship, consumers are more likely to praise the Maxima’s price-to-feature ratio than they are its 0-60 time and slalom speed.

Those that place all of their buying criteria squarely in the column titled “affordable performance" will welcome the arrival of the Pontiac G8 GXP. Armed with the Corvette’s 6.2-liter V-8 pushing 415 horsepower to the rear wheels, this car doesn’t just tack on a few improvements to the base G8 GT platform, it flat-out redefines what a $38k car is capable of. However, chances are it will be too hardcore for most.

If looks alone were enough to go on, order books for the 2009 Mazda 6 and Volkswagen CC would have been full roughly 13 seconds after the first photos went out. Both share a similar sleek profile, while the CC sparingly borrows its truncated roofline from ‘four-door coupes’ such as the Mercedes-Benz CLS. Lincoln is also taking a page out of the European style guide with its MKS, which, while far from the ideal driving experience, effectively pulls in goodies from Ford’s impressive technology basket that the Lincoln brand so desperately needs to leverage.

You don’t have to live outside of your means to get your hands on a well-equipped midsize sedan though, and there are impressive newcomers below the $20k mark. The 2009 Hyundai Sonata epitomizes the carmaker’s philosophy of more for less. Outside, it has only been mildly altered, though the interior is entirely new and scores much higher in the ergonomics department. The 2010 Ford Fusion follows a similar revision scheme, boasting a new yet familiar exterior and a completely redesigned interior centered around Ford’s superb next-generation navigation system that debuted in the Flex. Also on offer for the first time is a Fusion Hybrid, netting an astonishing 41 mpg city and coming out this spring.

If you’re in the market for a mid- or full-sized sedan, it’s safe to say you’ve got your work cut out when it comes to narrowing down the options. Don’t get us wrong, that’s a good thing. 2009 has brought a lot of promising new models and technology to the market, and it will only get better from here.

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