In this town of celebs and power brokers, sedans are a perfect match. They mix four-door functionality with professional panache, especially when automakers add special trim levels like “Executive,” “Premium” or—in the case of the new Lincoln Continental—“Black Label.” But such buttoned-down monikers don’t prevent these rides from being lots of fun.
VW PASSAT SEL PREMIUM
Mpg: 23 city/34 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.7 seconds
While VW offers an Executive trim level for its CC flagship sedan, the high-end version of the midsize Passat is called the SEL Premium. The Passat’s styling is a bit dated—the latest design debuted in 2012—but it still holds its charms. That’s also true inside, where the layout is clean yet flaunts many Audi-chic elements. The bolstered seats, especially, are a delight. There’s also plenty of headroom and legroom, even in the backseats. But the touchscreen is dinky, and the infotainment system isn’t very intuitive. Still, there’s a choice of two fine engines: a fairly quick four-cylinder turbo or a more spirited V6 that lets the Passat scoot from 0 to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. The German engineering also shines through on the road, with responsive steering and braking. Another plus: a long list of standard features, including heated seats, LED headlights/taillights, power-folding mirrors, automated parallel-parking system, hands-free trunk opener with foot sensor, high-end Fender stereo and more.
Mpg: 19 city/27 highway
0-to-60 mph: 6.9 seconds
If the old-school exterior on the VW Passat evokes a “dad jeans” sensibility, then the Infiniti Q50 is channeling a skinny-jeans vibe: it’s form fitting, with a tight and sassy rear. This shapely sedan drives just as nice, too, with solid handling and superb body control. A four-cylinder engine comes standard. But it’s hard to resist choosing one of the two zippier V6 options—one of which comes with 400 hp to help rocket the Q50 from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. There also are four trim levels—base, Premium, Signature and Sport—with various mix-and-match packages. But all trims come with push-button start, smartphone-app integration and an infotainment system with voice recognition. The backup camera also offers a 360-degree, bird’s-eye view that really helps when parking. While there are other niceties—like an eight-inch upper touchscreen and seven-inch lower touchscreen—the interior hasn’t kept up with the times. And though there is a hybrid version, the Q50’s other engines aren’t as fuel-friendly as what many competitors offer. But this Infiniti still scores when it comes to the long warranty, affordable price, and top-notch ratings for safety and reliability.
LINCOLN CONTINENTAL BLACK LABEL
Mpg: 18 city/27 highway
0-to-60 mph: 5.5 seconds
Many millennials probably don’t understand the hoopla surrounding the rebirth of the Lincoln Continental. After all, it’s been 15 years since this sedan—basically an also-ran for rental-car companies—graced dealer showrooms. And it doesn’t help that Lincoln has a confusing lineup: MKC, MKS, MKT, MKX, MKZ (and the giant Navigator SUV), which are basically gussied-up versions of Ford products. Yet the new Continental proves how silver foxes can reinvent themselves. With a stunning grill and other styling borrowed from Bentley, the Continental is much more than a replacement for the MKS sedan. This is a full-size flagship, measuring 117.9 inches in length and weighing a hefty 4,555 lb. Luckily, any of the three available V6 engines have plenty of pep to power this land yacht. And there is opulence everywhere, with the much-ballyhooed 30-way power seats, rear-seat climate controls, dual sunroofs and all the latest safety gear. The four trim levels include a base-model Premier, Select, Reserve and high-end Black Label—which also comes with a concierge program for pickup and delivery, complimentary car washes (anytime/anywhere) and other services. Perhaps the only thing this car doesn’t do is pump your gas for you.