Buy/Drive/Burn: The 2018 Mid-size Import Sedan Showdown

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn the 2018 mid size import sedan showdown

This will be our third Sedan Showdown in a row. Kicking us off were some basic full-size models, and through the “Not nice enough!” complaints, the Charger took home the win. Giving the people what they want, we turned the budget up to $45,000 and presented some luxury full-size sedans instead. Again, FCA took home a win; the Chrysler 300 easily overpowered the base Lincoln Continental, and pipped the top-trim Buick LaCrosse.

All the while, this third commenter-sourced trio waited in the wings, ready to pounce. Smaller than our previous two sets of cars, Bumpy ii wants to see you squirm and set fires. You ready? This couple is.

Today’s target budget was set around $30,000, for mid-sizers that lean toward full-size.

Volkswagen Passat GT

North America has had its own special iteration of the Passat since 2012. An update for the 2016 model year brought considerable visual change to the Passat, and in fact only the doors, roof, and side rails are shared with the previous version. Infotainment was the other big change with the 2016 model. VW’s MIB II is now under the dash, as well as automatic post-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, and other driver assistance safety features. Two engines presently provide Passat power; a 2.0-liter turbocharged mill in various states of tune, or a 3.6-liter V6. The latter is in today’s upmarket GT trim, providing 280 horsepower. Visually, the GT comes with the R-Line trim’s sporty bumpers, and is available in white, black, or grey. All GT interiors are black and grey two-tone leatherette, as VW does not like color in this trim. Power slips through a 6-speed DSG transmission. The only options here are dealer installed accessories, and there’s no navigation available. As a result, the Passat V6 GT rings in at $29,995, no matter which color on the grey scale you select.

Kia Cadenza Premium

The Cadenza is Kia’s mid-large size sedan, slotting in under the larger K900 model. As replacement for the (frankly hideous) Amanti, it’s been available on our shores since 2010. A second generation debuted for 2016 and featured sharper, less conservative styling penned by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer. The base Premium trim is the one available today, and all trims offer the same proven 3.3-liter V6 engine from Hyundai. 290 horsepower travel through the front wheels via the 8-speed automatic. A few more colors are available than the Passat, though some exterior colors select either the black or beige interior for you. Seating surfaces are real leather, but we can’t add any luxury packages because of the Cadenza’s steep base price. This means we’ll make do with the standard 7″ touch screen featuring Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay. Cadenza rings in at $32,290.

Nissan Maxima S

Our final competitor is the 4DSC-equipped Nissan Maxima. Nissan’s long-running flagship sedan has been around since 1982, when it replaced Datsun’s luxury 810. Now in its eighth generation, the most recent Maxima was born for 2016. All US-bound Maximas are built at Nissan’s factory in Smyrna, Tennessee, and every Maxima has Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter VQ V6. That engine has been around for nearly 20 years now (remember the I35?), and has powered the Maxima since 2002. Our budget today requires us to shop the base S trim. The S has the same 300 horsepower as all other trims, traveling through the front wheels via CVT. Four colors are available without extra cost, one of which is blue. Cloth is the only seating surface available here, and there are no additional packages to buy. “This version comes equipped with many standard features,” says Nissan. That includes Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, navigation, and remote start. Final asking price trumps the other two, at $34,155.

Which one goes in the garage? Can you resist setting only one of these on fire?

[Images: Bigstock, Timothy Cain, Chris Tonn, Nissan]

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2 of 90 comments
  • CecilSaxon CecilSaxon on Apr 21, 2018

    For the love of Pete, that couple is just creepy looking. Those blank stares and soulless smiles.

  • Bd2 Bd2 on Apr 22, 2018

    Buy the Cadenza - it's a better, more elegant looking Lexus ES. Drive the Passat - still some Autobahn-driving DNA in it, even if it is the very definition of bland (sheetmetal). Maxima - burn; pains me to say it (as used to like the Maxima back in the day), but the sheetmetal is a prime example of "garish" Japanese design and the Maxima isn't the driver it used to be, esp. with that CVT.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.