No one knows what the future holds. Youth brings about a want for traveling fast down a highway to escape we’re not quite sure what. But whatever it is, it’s at home, and it makes us wonder if we’re ever going to get out of that place.
Sorry for the country song there. A lot of people like to drive fast early on in their driving years because they like to feel alive, because, no doy.
As the years creep up, more practical decisions are made. Space. Space is needed in a vehicle. Space for soccer things and lacrosse things and ballerina things and long road-trip things. There are babies now, and they have car seats that need hooks. My car has hooks? I had no idea my car had hooks. Well, there are hooks there, and they better keep my kid in her seat.
We still maintain that yearning for going fast even though our haul appears to be expanding faster than the universe. That’s where the nebulous strain of automobile between sports car and minivan comes into play.
Some of these cars are straight-up sleepers, but in the last decade, there’s been a rising speed tide that lifts all sedans and SUVs. Even run-of-the-mill, khaki-flavored ice cream cars come off the line with some pretty impressive performance features.
There’s a catch with a few of these cars, though. The sedan is a dying breed, and some of these models are either recently discontinued or at risk of being on the chopping block.
Here are 20 family cars that are total speed demons.
20 Hyundai Sonata
Yeah, I know, I know. It’s a Hyundai. Your dad can’t pronounce the name. It’s fine. But they’ve put a lot of time and attention into the aesthetic quality of the car. That grille that resembles an overpriced cheese grater you bought for your grandmother from a Skymall catalog is gigantic and probably unnecessary, but it looks pretty cool, right?
The turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder model is by far the slowest entry on this list, but the 185 horsepower is still an impressive crank, considering you can get the Sonata well-equipped for under $25K. The Sonata is a solid choice for a daily commute, and unlike some U.S. brands (ahem, Ford), Hyundai has no plans to stop making sedans.
19 Mazda CX-9
Sales figures make it clear that a lot of drivers (maybe even you!) are averse to the prospect of driving a lowly sedan. You want room! You want as much distance between you and your children as possible! You want to maintain eye contact with truckers!
The CX-9 has all of that. But why would you get one of those when you can get a CR-V or a RAV-4 or a Rogue?
May I present to you this: turbocharged and all-wheel drive, giving you 250 horsepower, but also maintaining Mazda’s fuel-sipper reputation with a 22/28 mpg estimate.
You’re not going to win any drag races, but you’ll certainly leave most of the other offspring haulers in your dust.
18 Chrysler 300
This is a Dodge Charger. You realize that, right? It’s a rare bird in that it’s a rear-wheel drive with an engine that starts at 292 horsepower.
I’m not sure why you buy this and not a Charger. The reasons aren’t clear. The threshold for an entry-level Charger is substantially cheaper than a 300 (for a more attractive version of the same engine and drivetrain).
I’m letting myself get too riled up about this, though. If I’m being fair, this is the ultimate sleeper car for someone looking to get a quick family whip that all parties involved are okay with. It’s not really much to look at, but it’s nice enough on the interior, the trunk is big enough; the safety features are safe enough.
Oh. What’s that? It’s available with a Hemi? Okay. Let’s do this.
17 Kia Optima
Kia has an interesting perception problem. Some consumers think of them as cheap commuter boxes that'll fall apart a day after the warranty expires (not true. also worth mentioning, they have a great, long warranty), or people are like, “Oh, yeah. That car with the gerbils. Craig in IT drives one of those…”
Like Buick, Kia has a long way to go in changing these perceptions, which is a shame, because their current fleet of vehicles is legit.
Especially the Optima. The top-trim SXL Turbo is the only car I’ve driven under $30K that was: 1. Pretty dang fast 2. Had a panoramic sunroof and ventilated seats.
16 Honda Accord EX-L 2.0T
Recently, I was in the market for a new car; I had my sights set on a top-trim Civic hatchback. I texted my buddy at the Honda dealership, asked him what the chances were I could get my hands on one. His response: “I'll tell you what, man. You’re more likely to get this Type R we have on the lot that two guys are in a bidding war over. But I can get you an Accord. Boy, I can get you an Accord…”
The Accord is Honda’s workhorse. That’s for good reason; they’ve been improving upon a solid model year after year. The current selections are no exception. After scaling down from a 3.5-liter V6 to a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, they managed to engineer a faster car with more features. While most selections come with an impressive 10-speed automatic, you can get this 252-HP Sportback with a six-speed manual. Yes, please, and thank you.
15 Nissan Maxima
Had to trade in your Nissan Z when the baby showed up but were unwilling to relinquish your title as Office Dude/Dudette with the Sweetest Daily Driver?
May I introduce you to the Nissan Maxima. Sure, sure, you’re HPs are dropping from 332 to 300, and okay, alright, you’re trading in a stick for a CVT, but should you be worried about downshifting to pass that hoopty in front of you? You’ve got a little one in that roomy backseat. And think about all that money you’re saving with the CVT. You’ve got diapers to buy!
Chill out. You’ve got Apple Carplay in that puppy, so turning on that Baby Mozart album while you’re driving around the block to get your little one to finally take a nap is easy.
14 Buick Regal TourX
A Buick? The Regal TourX is no Grand National, but it’s also certainly not the Granny Getter you’re thinking of. This 250-HP AWD road boat is a middle-class alternative to its European counterparts.
“Why don’t I just get an Outback if I want a wagon so bad?” You may be asking yourself. Well, yourself, the first time you park that puppy in a Whole Foods, you can count on spending the two hours after your shopping trip wading through the ocean of asphalt and other Subarus before getting your quinoa tapas coconut water kombucha salad-stuffed bread bowl to shelter.
If you’re really torqued at the thought of driving a Buick, you can just point out to naysayers, “Um, actually, it’s an Opel...”
13 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Volkswagen is one of the main Poppa Daddies for drivers into wagoncore (that’s a term I just made that you can’t steal, okay?).
I’m going to level with you. This isn't the fastest car on the list. My stock Mazda 3 GT hatch will definitely smoke this car from the line.
The turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four produces only 170 horsepower, but it’s all-wheel drive and only comes with a 6-speed stick. Let me repeat: The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack only comes with a 6-speed standard transmission.
So, you’re not winning any pink slips on the drag with this one, but the Alltrack is fun to drive and can be purchased well equipped for under $30K.
12 Toyota Camry
On the surface, the Camry is the khaki shorts of cars. Not the khaki cutoffs, though—that would imply a certain level of improvisation, a certain level of danger. These are khaki shorts that are cut to knee length before they’re ready for market. They’re dorky, but you have them for a reason.
Don’t know if you know this, but Toyota makes this little brand of car called Lexus. They make fast cars with big grilles and nice features. If you’re willing to pay a little more for your Camry, you can get some of this Lexus stuff.
The XSE V6 is that car. It’s got 301 HP, which is cool, but so is the low-slung grille. Necessary? Maybe not. Cool? Yeah, dude. You’re the cool guy dropping those kids off in the morning for sure.
11 Ford Fusion Sport
Like a lot of sleepers on this list, the Ford Fusion Sport looks like a real granny hauler. Don’t let its meh design and its blah interior fool you—this car was built to move.
With standard all-wheel drive and a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 that cranks out 325 HP, you’ll not only be able to shame an Accord or a Camry, but you’ll also be able to hold your own against most entry-level muscle cars.
You’ll also be able to get Jimmy and his friend Rusty (you can’t stand Rusty, but you can’t say that to your only son) to and from Quidditch practice.
The Fusion as we know it has been sunsetted, so you’ve got maybe one or two more years to get one, but the latest word on the street is Ford is going to revamp it as an Outback-competing wagon, so you'll have to wait for it a few years if you're into wagoncore.
10 Volvo V60
When people think of Volvo, they think of the overly cautious parent who keeps their child on a leash well into their 20s. Add a wagon to the mix, and it’s a recipe for a cargo-shorts pocket full of dad jokes.
I’m not sure Volvo cares too much about the misguided perceptions, though, because these days, they build beautiful, indestructible speed boxes.
The V60, Volvo’s smallest wagon offering, has an impressive speedster range. The entry-level T5 boasts a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that can crank 240 horses. The turbocharged/supercharged T6 will bump you up to 302 HP, while the T6 Polestar will ratchet you up to 362 ponies.
Let them laugh at you all they want, yeah—you’ve got a bunch of soccer equipment in the back, but the stoplight is your launchpad.
9 Mazda Mazda6 Grand Touring
Mazda has made solid cars for a number of years but has taken a ding on its reputation as the ZOOM-ZOOM brand since the discontinuation of the RX-8 and the MazdaSpeed series. People love driving the cars, but they want more horsepower.
Mazda set out to do just that with the 2018 Mazda6. Their solid (and efficient) Skyactiv 2.5-liter 4-banger is blessed with the addition of a turbocharger, knocking the horsepower up to 227 (250 if you want to shell out the bucks for 93-octane). With the torque tuned to 310 lb-ft, this grocery getter is fast out of the box.
Here’s the kicker: the turbo is only available on the highest three trims: Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature.
8 Volvo S60 Polestar
I’ve already made all the great jokes about Volvo drivers, so we’ll just pick up where we left off on the performance aspect of the Swedish Fish of the automobile world. I’m not going to pretend that the Polestar trim is reasonably priced; the S60 costs about as much as two mobile homes, and since I’m measuring the cost of a car on a scale of mobile homes, you can probably glean that my tastes aren’t exactly refined.
That doesn’t mean I can’t love them, though. In college, I figured out I didn’t have enough money to pay rent for the fall semester one year, so I sold my ‘97 Camaro SS and bought an ‘86 240 DL off Craigslist. It had at least 350K miles on it and was beat to h*ck, but it kept me in-car for a couple years.
What I’m getting at is that the S60 Polestar is supercharged and turbocharged, blasting 362 HP, and it comes in colors like “Rebel Blue” and “Passion Red.” If you can afford one, get yourself one then call me up, and let me drive it sometime, okay?
7 Ford Taurus SHO
The Ford Taurus SHO looks like a car your grandmother would take to pick up her prescriptions for eye gout or latex gloves so she can make your favorite carrot salad (she’s deathly allergic, Roger! And you don’t even care!). And she could do those things, but she’d be at the helm of a 365 HP twin-turbo V6. The 350 lb-ft of torque and all-wheel drive would ensure Mimi is the first one out of the intersection at the stop light.
The high-powered SHO is a car that Ford couldn’t seem to figure out if they wanted to keep on the lot. Since its inception in 1988, the SHO has been discontinued and revamped four times. The most recent model year appears to be its last. While the previous four generations of “will they / won’t they” would usually leave some to guess that it could return in a few years, this is most likely the last round because Ford has announced that moving forward, aside from a few models, they'll only be in the business (in the U.S.A.) of manufacturing trucks, SUVs, and fleet vehicles.
6 Chevrolet SS
You’ve got to be pretty far down the car-head rabbit hole to appreciate and identify a Chevy SS out in the wild. At first glance, the SS can be easily mistaken for any of the other three sedans in the Chevy portfolio. But then, you hear the driver punch the accelerator, and you think, “Why does that Impala sound like a Corvette?”
That’s because it’s got a 6.2-liter V8 under the hood. Couple that with a 6-speed stick and rear-wheel drive, and you’ve got 415 powerful ponies to fool the 20-something next to you in the modded-out Civic.
Like the SHO, you can’t buy the SS new off the lot anymore. Also, Chevy didn’t sell many of them, so it might be a good investment sleeper as well.
5 Ford Focus RS
Okay, the Focus is barely a family car. My metric for including this barely-a-sedan on the list is my buddy has two kids and drives a Fiesta. It’s bigger than one of those, so you can fit a family in there if you’re creative, right?
The MSRP on an RS is upwards of $40K, so it’s not exactly accessible, but when you’ve got an all-wheel-drive, 350 horsepower, and 350 lb-ft of torque bolted to a six-speed stick, you’ll figure out where to scrounge for those extra pennies. (Also, I’m pretty sure “RS” here stands for “Rocket Strapped to a Skateboard.”)
4 Dodge Durango SRT
If you don’t know about the Durango SRT and see one out in the wild, my money is on you being confused, if not at least curious. A big ‘ol SUV with a vented hood. What’s the vent for? Oh, the 475 HP Hemi under there. What’s that button do? Oh, that? That’s launch control. In a family car.
This monster is equipped to safely haul your little angels, but it’s also made for burning through those tires pretty dang fast.
The $64K price tag keeps it out of reach of the “Should we get a minivan?” demographic, but it definitely appeals to the speed demons who have to strap in their offspring and haul them to lacrosse practice.
3 Kia Stinger
If you’re a car nerd, I don’t need to tell you why the Kia Stinger is on the list. If not, remember that commercial during that very important football game I can't name here where the lead singer of that rock group that I also can't name here and that collaborated with that rap group (that I can't name here) drove a car backward and came out younger? That’s this car. I’ve driven one, and the experience didn’t Benjamin Button me, but it did give me the confidence to feel like I, too, could sing falsetto with silk scarves tied to my microphone stand.
The Stinger starts out by cranking 252 horsepower; if your budget is a little more robust, the GT comes with a twin-turbo, 3.3-liter V6, upping the pony ante up to 365. If you don’t think this four-door Beamer buster is cool, you better dream on.
2 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon
You see one of these at the grocery store, and maybe you wanna laugh. It looks like it’s a bus to deliver dorks to the geek factory. You can’t take this wagon seriously.
Then you hear it crank. It rumbles, and it’s a thunderous epiphany you didn’t know you were going to have that day. This German beaut kicks tail.
With a twin-turbo V6 and all-wheel drive, it had better have at least 300 horsepower (329, actually). If you’re running late for Timmy’s Pokemon Go meetup, this speed tank goes 0-60 in just a couple ticks over 5 seconds.
I know, I know... I should be mentioning the AMG version of this wagon, but this is a list of reasonably attainable family cars, not rocket ships disguised as German estate cars.
1 Dodge Charger
Seems unfair the Charger gets to be on this list, but it is, by all accounts, in the same league as the other brood boxes here.
Perhaps much like you, you overworked/underappreciated parent you, the Charger trim levels wear a lot of hats. The sub-$30K SXT is a rear-wheel, 292 HP metal mover, keeping it in step with a lot of other cars listed here.
Bumping the budget up a little bit will buy you a Charger GT, which comes equipped with eight more horses and all-wheel drive.
If you’re really swinging for the Cool Parent fences and have upwards of $68K to drop on a car, you can get yourself a 707 HP SRT Hellcat. With that much oomph, I have a feeling you and the kids will be well acquainted with getting pulled over.
Sources: Car and Driver; Edmunds; Wikipedia