Want the look and feel of a Bentley without the high price tag? Three large, five-seater sedans that convey a sense of stateliness for less than $25,000 are the Ford Five Hundred; the Chrysler 300; and the brand-new Dodge Charger, resurrected after an almost three-decade absence. Perfect com-pany cars, all three sedans are not only affordable--they're also roomy, contemporary and performance-oriented.
Ford's new flagship, the Five Hundred, comes in three versions: SE, SEL and Limited. All versions include a rear, split-folding bench seat that's slightly elevated for a "sta-dium" view of the road. Living up to its massive interior, the trunk offers more than 21 cubic feet of space, among the roomiest of any sedan, and the wheels are 17 inches. Features include chrome trim, power-folding mirrors, keyless entry, power windows and locks, ABS, and tilt wheel. The engine is a V-6. You choose between front-wheel drive and a CVT transmission with all-wheel drive from Ford's Volvo subsidiary. The Five Hundred starts at $22,840.
Not exactly a Rolls Royce but just as impressive, the Chrysler 300 is the company's 2006 vision of "the great American car." Starting at $23,525, it's a head-turner with bold styling, a dramatic front grille, high sills and a classic roofline. The 300 has all-wheel drive courtesy of its partner, Mercedes-Benz, or rear-wheel drive. The engine is a V-6; the 300C has a HEMI V-8 that turns off four cylinders when you don't need all eight. Trunk size totals 15.6 cubic feet.
Want more muscle for an equally appealing price? Starting at $22,320, Dodge's wide-stanced 2006 Charger steps up with plenty of performance in its 250-horsepower V-6 or 340-horsepower HEMI engine. With coupe-like styling, a fastback-style roof and a Ram grille, it boasts 16.2 cubic feet of cargo space. A stability system, brake assist, ABS, traction control, a special touring suspension and the longest wheelbase in its class translate into a balanced, smooth ride.
Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 26 years.