There are plenty of supercars on the market currently. They get all the fame, all the press, whether on HotCars itself or elsewhere... And they should. It takes a lot of thinking, a lot of planning and often a good amount of courage to build something that’s outrageous, addicting and awesome.
But that doesn’t mean your daily drivers can’t have a similar press coverage. Take Mazda, for instance. This car manufacturer is looked upon favorably in the automotive world because it produces awesome cars. Like the little Miata, for example. It looks good, is a convertible and most importantly, drives exceptionally well. And on the other end of the weight spectrum, you have cars like the Mazda CX-5, Mazda CX-9, etc., which look and drive quite charmingly, too. Even in the middle of the spectrum, Mazda does more than a fine job of making sure its cars satisfy the public as much as possible, meaning practicality is married to enjoyability. And that’s just one car manufacturer, although it’s one of the most successful in terms of satisfying a car aficionado. You still have some lineups from Nissan, some from VW, some from Honda and the like.
So, these are the types of automakers that were considered when the list was made. Quite frequently, you’ll find a sleeper car, because at the end of the day, it’s a car that doesn’t look the part, but definitely does the part. Other times you’ll find cars that are a daily driver, but not necessarily quiet.
20 SUBARU LEGACY SPEC.B
The Subaru Legacy had been living the car life for a long while. In 2003, the lineup entered the era of its fourth generation. The car you see here, however, isn’t just any other fourth-gen Legacy. Nah, it’s the spec.B Legacy. And despite the fooling, unassuming exterior, the car actually had the ability to churn out a whopping 250 HP, meaning that the 60-mph mark was reached in just an astonishing 5.3 seconds. Just to give you some perspective, that’s the same time as of the Audi S4.
The car was rare, too. For instance, only 500 were made in 2006.
19 VOLVO V60 POLESTAR
When people get tired of SUVs, the go to crossovers, and when they get fed up with the crossovers, they go to a station wagon. And that’s where they might have the opportunity to meet this baby. First of all, the exterior of the V60 looks quite mesmerizing. The long side-profile suggests a very fine fragrance of artisan work; the rear is curved gracefully and the front paints a full picture of an archetypal Volvo car. When the Polestar came out in 2013, it was offered as only “Rebel Blue.” Don’t get that color. It’s a nice color, but it’s a bright color, so it grabs your attention rather quickly. For those wishing to be under the radar, white, black or silver should be considered, because the 2-L twincharged I4 outputs 362 horses so that you can achieve 0-60 in 4.5 seconds!
18 VW GOLF R
If you check out the exterior of the Golf R and then the base Golf, you’re bound to scratch your head. “What’s the difference?” you ask. There is none. Besides the “R” badge, the difference is in the mind rather than in a physical entity.
But if you dismiss the Golf R as just another car on the street at a red light—and try to do something clever—you’ll find yourself in the dust produced by the Golf R.
That’d be the magic of the turbocharged 2L I4 that generates a whopping 292 horses and 280 lb-ft of torque. What the exterior intentionally hides, the engine intentionally makes up for: The car zooms past the 60-mph mark in just 4.8 seconds.
While the price of these bad boys is around $40K, be assured the cars are well-equipped.
17 BMW E39 M5
The E39 M5 was produced in the years that make it of voting age now. The beauty of this car comes from being produced on the same assembly line as the plebian 5-Series, yet being better and more powerful. R&T went to say that all BMW M5s qualify as a sleeper—which is somewhat reasonable—the unique thing about the E39 M5 is that it doesn’t look different from the normal 5-Series from the outside.
It’s only when you pop the hood open, do you see a 4.9L V8 that’s waiting for your command to lash out 394 BHP. Folks, that’s a lot of power for a car that looks like a normal BMW from the early 2000s.
16 FORD TAURUS SHO
I’m personally not the biggest fan of this car. The entire exterior seems to be bulky. The character lines seem to be in the wrong places and the structure of the hood just throws off the entire game of the car. So naturally, the exterior doesn’t scream performance. The Ford Taurus was once the best-selling sedan in the US; it was a household name. Sadly—or I guess luckily, as no one wants to be burdened with a clunker—it is in dire need of resuscitation.
The exterior clothing of both the Taurus and SHO—Super High Output—is similar if not the same. The interior is quite common too. The car seats a total of five people, provides ample cargo space and has a decent cabin. The only difference between the SHO and base Taurus is the presence of a twin-turbo 365-HP V6.
The name of this thing should give some hints of its prowess. It’s actually the performance-enhanced version of the 5-door Mazda3.
If you check out the Mazda3, you’ll note it’s a fun little car. It’s curved here and there, and even the front grille looks a little fun.
If you really look at the front grille, it might even start smiling at you with a touch of vice—but it’s still not the most enjoyable car. No, that title goes to the Mazdaspeed3. However, the Mazdaspeed3 also means serious business. The turbocharged 2.3L I4 produces 263 horses. The fun part comes with the six-speed manual and the fact that all the power goes to the front.
14 CHEVY SS
Launched as a 2014 model year, the car was supposed to fill the gap left by the Pontiac G8. Essentially, it would be placed between the Malibu and Impala. It was a badge-engineered Holden Commodore, one of GM’s lineups in Australia. The exterior of this car is beautiful. Just check it out. The sides have vents that don’t do much, but look nice. The hood is shaped nicely, and the grille suggests power.
All in all, the car looks aesthetically pleasing, but at no point would you have known that the engine bay had a Corvette 6.2L V8. So it’s also difficult to imagine that the car produced a whopping 415 horses and an equal number of torque in lb-ft. For one reason or another, the car didn’t pick up the pace as needed. Just after four years, it was put to rest.
13 MERCURY MARAUDER
This car was built by combining various parts available at the utmost top level possible. It was built on the Panther platform of Ford, which Ford had been using since 1978 for its full-size, RWD sedans. If your mind went to the all-time famous Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, you wouldn’t be wrong.
The Marauder had its brakes and suspension derived from the Crown Vic. It had the rest of the materials from the Grand Marquis, a famous Mercury car.
But that wasn’t enough; taking pieces of the best wasn’t what Mercury had in mind. It wanted something more. So they replaced the 235-HP, 4.6L SOHC V8 with something more dramatic, a Cobra-based 302-HP and 318-lb-ft V8. The car looks about as normal of a car as possible—if not worse—but you know better than to be a fool.
12 VOLVO V70 R
This car is an oldie but a goodie. “V” standing for versatility and “70” denoting the platform size, the V70 was a pretty good car in the Volvo lineup; the “R” alluded to the racy stuff that the high-performance version was equipped with. While it may not have looked as gorgeous as some of the current wagons that Volvo churns out like it’s no big deal, it still looks satisfactory.
While the exterior has received upgrades here and there, one thing stayed the same: a powerful, turbocharged 2.5L five-cylinder. The performance number came out as follows: 296 horses, 295 lb-ft of torque and 5.9-second 0-60. Pretty neat for that’s a decade old huh? Especially after you consider that it beat some non-Z06 Corvettes of its time.
11 CHEVY COBALT SS TURBOCHARGED
Before diving into the SS, let’s discuss the Chevy Cobalt and its emergence. When it came out in 2004, the Cobalt replaced the Chevy Cavalier. The Cavalier was not exactly a good car, but unfortunately, neither was the Cobalt. Both cars looked a little off, or I guess, Chevy-like. The car was for people who wanted a compact American car at all cost. Sales numbers were good for some reason, although so were the recall numbers.
But it was amidst this junk that Cobalt SS was found. These were offered as either a two-door coupe or a four-door sedan. Three different variants were built: a supercharged, a turbocharged and a naturally aspirated engine. It’s the SS Turbocharged that’s of concern here.
Here’s what cnet.com said: “The car is powered by a 2-liter turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. The tech on this engine lets it get 260 horsepower at 5,300 revolutions per minute and 260 pound-feet of torque at a nice, low 2,000rpm, which explains all of our wheel spinning. GM claims a very respectable time of 5.7 seconds to 60 mph from stop.”
Mazda is an automotive manufacturer that gets things right. And that’s evidenced by not only this car, but also another Mazda that made it on the list. Even without the magic of the Mazdaspeed, the Mazda6 is a good car. In fact, any Mazda is generally a likable, jolly, yet reasonably priced car. That’s not to say that when the performance-enhancing team does its magic the car is not liked even more. That’s what happened from 2005-2007, when Mazda turned it’s sensible, for-family sedan into a still-for-family-but-more-fun sedan by equipping it with a 270-HP turbocharged I4. Sensibility wasn’t exactly thrown out the window just because the car could do 0-60 in just 5.5 seconds. It’s just that the manual transmission and those many ponies became a little too tempting for some.
9 GMC SYCLONE
This one is special. First check out the exterior of this car. If you didn’t know what it was, you’d take the car to be a general-purpose vehicle. The hood is simple—there’s nothing sticking out. The front fascia is calm. It reminds you of nothing, honestly. The sides are simple. It looks good, or better yet, not unsightly, but nothing suggests that it’s anything more than a usual car. The bed, similarly, looks like a normal bed.
All in all, the car looks like just any other GMC truck. Except it isn’t. It isn’t a normal truck. Far from it.
Produced in 1991—and just in 1991—these trucks were somewhat a limited-edition deal, as only 2,995 units were produced. But boy, this was a lunatic pickup truck that had a turbocharged 4.3L V6 guiding it. It left Ferraris to check out its rear styling in races.
8 HONDA CIVIC TYPE R
First, let’s just admire the beauty this is. The exterior is just bold and aggressive. The hood looks dominating; the front fascia, with the grille, the red badge, and the headlamp, looks intimidating. The sides are no less, with the beautiful curves at the bottom. And of course, the rear is just one dashing piece of work. The exterior styling gives you the vibe that Honda had known what it was going to do well in advance. And that better be right, as a design like this doesn’t just happen one night. It’s a car that drives so well that everyone wants to drive it. It’s also a car that sells so well that dealers are marking the price up by as much as $10K in some places (Jalopnik).
Here’s C/D giving an overview of the car: “The Type R has taken the States by storm, with its amazing mix of performance and poise earning it a spot on our 2018 10Best Cars list. The lone powertrain is a turbo 2.0-liter inline-four that funnels 306 hp to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.”
7 TOYOTA TUNDRA SUPERCHARGED
This was one of the most absurd concepts when Toyota came out with it in 2008. The leviathan-like beast produces a whopping 505 horses and 550 lb-ft. It should be duly noted that such numbers do not represent the modest Toyota Tundras, but instead the supercharged ones.
This truck was a daily driver, although could easily touch the 60-mph mark in just 4.7 seconds.
The truck is a good piece of art, honestly, although C/D had some valid concerns. First, what do you do with such a huge, tire-burning, neck-twisting amount of power in a pickup? Just because power was available doesn’t mean the nose-heavy truck was the best at cornering. Moreover, the suspension stayed working class. Overall, it was a truck that had only a good engine, but no supporting accessories.
6 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE OVERLAND
These things are pretty beast-like. Compared to the subdued Jeep Cherokee, the Grand Cherokee is exactly that: bigger and, perhaps, better. The Jeep Cherokee has more of a bubbly personality to it with the squinty headlights and gracious curves on the sides. Grand Cherokee? Not so much. It has lines, but they are more straight. It has a polite front grille, but it’s laced with a sense of authority. Overall, the exterior looks more aggressive.
The cabin of the Grand Cherokee is very nicely done too. And when it comes to the powertrain, anything that’s equipped with the Hemi, 360-HP V8 is bound to beat a cop car. Plus, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland is not that expensive.
5 CADILLAC XTS V-SPORT
Cadillac has always tried to boast itself as a luxury-car manufacturer, but at the end of the day, it ends up producing pricy items. Some of those cars are posh, others not so much. Either way, the manufacturer doesn’t exactly hold much of a chance against the German trio, and the Cadillac XTS V-Sport just hurts the chances. Produced since 2012, the car has seen declining sales. That’s right, sales have only gone down—and they never even broke the 50K-unit mark—since 2013. All told, there’s a V6 that manages to generate over 400 HP, which might be a redemption.
4 CHRYSLER 300
It was likely the exterior of this car that won the hearts of millions of people. The car looks convincing, dominant and calm. It’s not dying to show off what it has or what it looks like; the straight lines, the formal front fascia and the authoritative rear speak for themselves.
It was a highly charismatic car, which meant celebrities like Obama and rappers like Snoop Dogg bought this car instantly.
Of course, the car was used in every single rap album that was made. While the popularity dwindled over time, one thing remains true: It still is available with a Hemi V8 that produces 363 HP.
3 FORD FUSION SPORT
If you check out the front grille, you will see an eerie resemblance to the DB lineup of Aston Martin. That’s not exactly a coincidence. This whole scheme started back when the big, fat Ford owned Aston Martin and Jaguar. One of the Jalopnik writer flat out says, “You see a 2015 Ford Focus, I see an Aston Martin.” I guess the same could be said of the Fusion. Anyway, the Sport model doesn’t look much different from the base Fusions, but it does boast a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 that generates 325 horses, plenty enough to whoop a cop car’s rear, front and sides.
2 FORD MUSTANG
This is a gorgeous car. The exterior is as chic as a car needs to be in this price range—and the current model year received some upgrades. The interior is as functional as needed and while the power-hungry might want more power, let’s just accept that at 310 horses coming out of that V8 at a paltry sum of $26K, it has a decent amount of power for us to drive it daily and economically. And if you were to compare it with others, namely nemesis Camaro, you’d soon find it’s more practical at being a daily driver as the car also has room for other things too.
1 LINCOLN MKS
If you closely examine the Lincoln MKS, you’ll note that the car has the size of the Chrysler 300, but the shape of the Ford Taurus (the two share the platform). And that, my friend, is not the kind of compliment a car would want to have.
It’s so bulky and bloated. And what’s up with the grille on this car? What was Lincoln trying to do? Attract whales?
While the car is not in production anymore, I’d like to say it was equipped with the same thing that was present in the Taurus SHO—a 365-HP 3.5L V6. The car was and is mainly driven by the older folks.