Some cars look the part and are as powerful as they look beautiful. Of course, these are the ones that are the priciest of the lot. Then there are the lemons that may look good but are damp squibs under the hood, worth not even half the price one may have bought them for.
Finally, there are the sleepers – boring to look at cars that tend to pack a punch once you rev the accelerator – leaving other good-looking cars biting the dust. Which ones would you like to own? For posterity, here go ten cars that look boring but drive like they were on steroids.
10 Volkswagen Passat W8
The Volkswagen Passat tried to look like a great car – it was aiming to be a mix of elite and sporty, trendy but distinguished, and fun but safe. Sadly, it ended up looking like just another boring car, with no particular style or voice of its own – and you bought it because you needed a good car, not because you were aiming for a great one. But it did come with goodies under the hood – the 4-liter W8 engine packs 275 horsepower and 273 ft-lb torque, whizzing the Passat 0-60mph in a dizzyingly fast 6.8 seconds. The powertrain was successfully mated with VW’s 4-motion 4WD which made this geriatric-looking car reach top speeds of 155mph.
9 Toyota Camry V6
Another one of those boring cars, the Toyota Camry doesn’t have a personality, to speak. At least not until you start revving it, only to discover that this avuncular-looking car can spring 0-60mph in a quick 6.1 seconds. It’s like meeting an aging gentleman and discovering he can beat you in any sport, with one hand tied behind his back.
The 3.5-liter V6 engine spits out 268 horsepower and close to 250 ft-lb torque, making it very efficient under the hood, even if it doesn’t look the part. This is the kind of car you may want to get when you are a certain age, more in want of comfort than style – but its engine contradicts its looks.
8 Volvo V70R
Volvo prides itself in making family cars and somewhere down the line, they are now of the thought process that the more boring a car looks, the safer it seems to the customers. Maybe it's true because the V70R station wagon was the most sedate-looking model in Volvo lots. It looked bland, unassuming, and probably came in staid and safe colors like grey, white, and silver. Of course, very unlike its looks, it housed a 2.5-liter inline-five motor that when mated to a six-speed transmission and an AWD could pulse out a cool 300 horsepower. So while boring is what Volvo is known for, the V70R was anything but!
7 Mercedes-Benz CL 600
Surprised to see a Mercedes-Benz make the list? Well, we aren’t. It's only their top-of-the-line models and trims that look worth the kind of money one needs to put down for one of these. These are the cars the rich may drive, especially when they retire and want to do nothing but spend money on comfort and luxury, even if it looks boring and sedate.
Of course, the CL 600 is a Mercedes-Benz so if they made a car that looks boring, they compensated for the looks under the hood. The powerhouse is a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V12 that jets out a whopping 510 horsepower and 612 ft-lb torque, zipping the CL 600 0-60mph in 4 seconds flat. Boring much?
6 Chevrolet SS
The Chevrolet SS or Super Sport may not have been Chevy’s best-selling car in recent times, perhaps one of the reasons it was discontinued, but it was one awesome thing under the hood. So sure, compared to the Camaro, it looked pretty boring. Sadly beauty isn’t as beauty does in the automobile world, or people would have realized the worth of the SS. The powerhouse was the LS3 6.2-liter V8 engine (from the Corvette C6) that whipped out 415 horsepower and torque each. It was also loaded with features like park assistant, blind-spot monitoring and more – usually found in top-of-the-line cars. Sadly, the last of this legend rolled out in 2017.
5 Saab 9-2X Aero
The Saab 9-2X Aero was a rebadged Subaru WRX and while the latter is still selling like hotcakes, the former ran into bad luck. Sometimes dubbed the Saabaru because of its resemblance to the Subaru, the Saab 9-2X Aero was still all heart under the hood with a 2.5-liter EJ253 engine.
It managed 165 horsepower and 166ft-lb torque, while the turbocharged 2-liter engine raised the bar to 227 horsepower and 217 ft-lb torque. Unfortunately for the Saab, it did not look as good as the Subaru, so sales were never that high. The moment the sales began to pick up, it was discontinued because of mergers and other corporate upheavals.
4 Audi S1
And now we have an Audi in this list because sometimes even the giants do fall, or at least fail. Especially when it comes to styling. When the A1 was launched almost a decade back, speculations were rife about a smaller sibling which may be better powered. And so the S1 was launched in 2015 and is Audi’s tiniest S-badge car yet. It does not look like an Audi unless you spot those four circles on the grille, and even then you need to do a double-take. However, the story under the hood is way different. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine pulsed out 228 horsepower, a little too much for this tiny car.
3 Pontiac GTO (2004)
The original Pontiac GTO or the Goat was a tremendous success. So once the GTO was out, Pontiac decided to revive it in 2004. Only, they went about it weirdly by rebadging the Holden Monaro and turning it into the Pontiac GTO 2.0. The stuff under the hood was A+, for Pontiac does know its engines.
Corvette’s LS1 & LS2 engines were used, paired with a 6-speed manual transmission and independent rear suspension – making a total of 400 horsepower. The problem was that the Pontiac GTO looked nothing like the original, and was so boring, no one believed its road-running prowess. No sales equaled the new Pontiac GTO quietly slipping out of the car bazaar.
2 Ford Taurus SHO
The problem with the Ford Taurus SHO (often called the Taurus Show) was that it had nothing to show, at least in the looks department. Other than the SHO lettering on its behind, it looked like any other tame Taurus, even though SHO stood for Super High Output. True to these three initials, the Taurus SHO boasted a 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 EcoBoost motor that was twin-turbocharged. Married to a 6-speed automatic transmission, this powerhouse managed 365 horsepower and 350 ft-lb torque, making this tame little ride scream 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds. But since it looked like a Taurus, not many takers lined up for the SHO.
1 Seat León Cupra
The Seat León is a Spanish small family hatchback car in production since 1988, and it is pretty popular in that part of the world. In 2017, they launched a 100 limited edition León Cupra 310 that looked more or less like the León only, except with more under the hood. The name 310 comes from the fact that the powerhouse of this little wonder punched out 31o horsepower, giving it a 0-60mph sprint of 5.5 seconds. Top speed was 161mph with the re-tuned 2-liter TFSI engine also managing 313 ft-lb torque. Massive for a car this tiny, but nothing could make it look better, period.