Ask AutoGuide No. 28 – Chevy Impala vs. Honda Accord vs. Volkswagen Passat vs. Toyota Avalon

Ask AutoGuide No. 28 – Chevy Impala vs. Honda Accord vs. Volkswagen Passat vs. Toyota Avalon

What do Abraham Lincoln, Shaquille O’Neal and Chewbacca have in common? Truth be told, not a whole lot. Honest Abe got capped, Shaq can’t shoot free throws and Chewie is hairier than a herd of yaks… or the filter in a Econo Lodge hot tub. This trio’s differences abound, but one thing they all share is height.

And what does lankiness have to do with this week’s installment of Ask AutoGuide? If you can believe it, everything. Russ is on the prowl for a new vehicle; he wants a right-sized sedan with ample interior room. You see, he clocks in at a whopping 6-foot-4-inches tall, as does his 16-year-old son, who’s STILL GROWING. Like food for the Donner Party space is mission critical, though the car in question can’t be too bulky as all three of his children will be learning to drive in said vehicle.

Lincoln-Shaq-ChewbaccaNaturally, Russ has other criteria as well. The sedan has to be safe, cheap to insure, not overly powerful and dependable. Geeze, he wants it all! Is there any product on the market today that can possibly deliver ALL of this at an affordable price point? As a matter of fact, yes; we’ve found four potential candidates, each of which could fit the bill like yoga pants on Kim Kardashian. On second thought that’s probably not such a good idea since there wouldn’t be very much room to spare in those britches. Anyway… on with the suggestions!

Suggestion #1 – 2014 Chevrolet Impala LS

Information Card -- Chevy ImpalaFirst up, Chevrolet’s redesigned Impala. No longer an ambassador of the rental-car industry this sizable sedan is all new for 2014, like, COMPLETELY redesigned. It’s sleeker, more powerful and orders of magnitude better to drive than its wretched predecessor.

Base price for a stripped-down LS model is about $27,670, including $810 in shipping fees, excluding any rebates that may be available. At that price you get an eight-way power driver’s seat, Bluetooth technology for hands-free telephony, power all around and 18-inch steel wheels. Bolstering its safety credentials, the car comes with 10 airbags, standard.

Curiously, one thing lacking is a navigation system, and for good reason. Russ doesn’t want his young drivers distracted by a fiddly display screen. Sorry to break it to you, but they’ll still have their smartphones to play with while they’re behind the wheel.

2014-Chevy-Impala-EngineThe base model of this heavy Chevy is hauled around by a 2.5-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine. It delivers 195 HP, 187 LB-FT of torque and is matched to a responsive six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy rates at 21 miles per gallon city and up to 31 highway. The car is expected to average 25 MPG, which isn’t bad for such a husky sedan.

If a little more power is desired you can step up to a mild-mannered 3.6-liter V6 engine. It delivers 305 HP with 264 lb-ft of twist as well as greater fuel consumption.

The 2014 Impala is a fine car, with plenty of interior space, style and safety. It delivers a quiet, smooth driving experience with good fuel economy. Overall, it’s an excellent sedan. In fact it was one of the finalists for AutoGuide’s 2014 Car of the Year. Yeah, it’s a solid choice.

Suggestion #2 – 2014 Honda Accord LX

Information Card -- Honda AccordIf there’s one area where the hot new Impala falls short it’s size. It’s a substantial sedan, with a big body and lots of sheet metal. Fortunately it’s not the only choice in town. Honda’s perennially popular Accord is a step and a half down the dimension ladder. Don’t worry, it’s still plenty big but it’s not quite as bulky as the Chevy.

This Honda’s wheelbase is nearly 2.5 inches less lengthy than the Impala’s and its overall body is about 10 inches shorter! It’s also a whisker narrower and about an inch closer to the ground. Fortunately the Accord is very space efficient. It serves up 103.2 cubic feet of passenger volume compared to the Chevy’s 105.

2014-Honda-Accord-EngineThe bargain-basement LX model can be had for about $23,545, including $790 in destination charges. At that price you get a 184-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). You also get dual-zone climate control, a backup camera, Bluetooth, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system and a USB port. That right there is big pimpin’!

The Accord is affordable to purchase and just as economical to operate. With that miser-maximizing CVT it’s expected to return a combined fuel-consumption score of 30 miles per gallon. That figure is derived from its city score of 27 MPG and its highway figure, which rates at 36.

Aside from its attractive base price and even more appealing fuel economy the Accord’s trump cards is quality. It’s one of the most respected nameplates in the entire automotive industry. Honda is practically synonymous with longevity and the Accord is almost guaranteed to deliver decades of faithful service, which is an attribute that’s hard to argue with.

Suggestion #3 – 2014 Toyota Avalon XLE

Information Card -- Toyota AvalonBelieve it or not the Toyota Avalon is an appealing car. For generations it’s been little more than a boring four-door sedan second only in serving the geriatric market to Pfizer. It used to be the Japanese equivalent to a Mercury Grand Marquis, except front-wheel drive and even less stylish.

But Toyota finally got serious last year when they completely redesigned the Avalon. Like a caterpillar morphing into butterfly today’s version of the car is nothing like its predecessor. It has style, it has grace and it’s not too bad to drive, either.

2014-Toyota-Avalon-EngineAll non-hybrid Avalons are powered by the company’s memorable 3.5-liter V-type six-cylinder engine. Like making butter during colonial times it churns up 268 creamy horsepower with 248 lb-ft of torque. A Schrödinger-smart six-speed automatic transmission routes those goodies to the car’s front wheels. Is his cat dead or alive? Yes.

As for fuel economy this car returns 21 miles per gallon city and 31 on the highway. Its combined score is 25 mpg.

Dimensionally, the Avalon splits the difference between the gargantuan Impala and the not-as-huge Accord. Overall it’s about six inches shorter than the Chevy while its 103.6 cubic feet of passenger space barely edges out the Honda.

The entry-level Avalon XLE starts at $32,150 including $810 for delivery. At that price you get niceties like a backup camera, eight-speaker sound system, keyless entry, leather seats and heated outside mirrors. Best of all, the car’s beautiful exterior styling is standard as is long-haul reliability.

Suggestion #4 – 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE with Sunroof

Information Card -- Volkswagen PassatSome may call the Volkswagen Passat boring or bland, but we think it’s handsome. It’s got a certain timeless elegance to it that few cars manage to pull off. Chances are this vehicle will still look handsome 20 years from now. We should all be that lucky…

Mixing things up, the TDI version of this family car is powered by a super-efficient diesel engine. This petite 2.0-liter turbocharged unit only delivers 140 hp, but it smacks you in the face with a big old backhand of torque. It delivers 236 lb-ft of low-rpm twist.

2014-Volkswagen-Passat-TDI-EngineThe Passat TDI’s little lion heart can be matched to either a six-speed manual transmission or a lightning-fast dual-clutch automatic with the same number of gears. The choice is yours.

With the quick-witted autobox this car delivers 30 miles per gallon city and up to 40 on the highway! Its combined score of 34 mpg makes it the undisputed economy champ in this episode of Ask AutoGuide. But miserly motoring is not the Passat’s only trick.

This car has a very spacious back seat, perfect for gangly passengers. Total interior volume clocks in at 102 cubic feet and the trunk can accommodate nearly 16 cubes’ worth of crap. Those are impressive numbers.

When it comes to pricing the diesel-powered Vee-Dub isn’t necessarily cheap. With the compression-ignition engine and an automatic transmission it crosses the line at right about $29,115, including $820 for delivery. That’s a lot more than the similarly sized Accord, but less than the upscale Avalon.

This Passat comes with a lot of nice features including standard 18-inch wheels, heated front chairs, an eight-speaker sound system and a leather-wrapped, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel. What more do you need? Well, quality might be nice. Volkswagen doesn’t necessarily have a reputation for building the most robust vehicles. It’s safe to say their products are the best they’ve ever been, but don’t expect them to last like a Honda or Toyota. The Japanese brands have a proven track record for longevity, VW doesn’t.


So, what’s the verdict? Has the AutoGuide Gavel™ struck its sounding block with a thunderous and conclusive clap? Well, if Russ was hoping for some definitive guidance he’s going to be sorely disappointed. We’ve made our case and supported it with evidence in the form of four highly desirable sedans. We feel that each one of these cars meets his strenuous criteria and believe he’d be happy with any one of them. Ultimately he’ll have to sample each one, and most importantly give them a “test sit” to find out if they have enough leg room for him and his gangly family.

As always, good luck in your quest for a new family vehicle, Russ, and thanks again for taking the time to Ask AutoGuide.

If you need a little assistance shopping for your next vehicle feel free to do the same. Send a short message to [email protected] Let us know the basics of what you’re looking for. How many seats do you need? What size of vehicle do you want? How much are you willing to spend? With some of those fundamentals out of the way we’ll get busy to come up with two or three must-see vehicles that you’ll have to put on your test-drive list.