Cars are good, right? Hotrods are better and supercars are simply stupendous. We covet convertibles and longingly gaze at monstrous trucks. Unless we are able to buy the dream car of our own choice, we tend to gaze at other and better wheels rather wistfully. What we very often don’t pay attention to are the sleepers. We can call them Q-ships, or stealth modes. We can call them anything we like but the key word here is deceptive. They look rather avuncular and peaceful standing beside us at a crossing, and we often dismiss them with a jaundiced view as well. Until they rev, give us a whiplash and leave us standing in the dust with jaws agape.
These cars look low key and perhaps are also lower in price because of their less than stately appeal. They look, for want of a better word, common! No one really believes that they pack a punch under the hood until they too have been victims of a sleeper’s stealth. They are also bought by people who do not judge a book by its cover and have bought these rides knowing the jetpack that lies sleeping softly under the hood. It’s also a double whammy because we expect supercars and sporty cars to be fast, but no one expects a boring sedan to out-accelerate and out-perform the monster we just emptied out our bank accounts for! So here go the 20 insanely fast cars that no one truly believes can go that fast. Trust us, they do…
20 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD: No Sedate Ride
Think of an Acura and you think of a corporate honcho in mid-management, using this car as purely office commute. He may have a sportier convertible hidden in the garage for weekend trips with the boys, which he could trade in for a cool truck when he plans a family. The Acura, for him, remains a simple means to get to and back from the office at sedate speeds amidst traffics and jams. Big mistake!
Acura has always been badged an underdog despite the Legend, NSX and RSX being solid performers.
The 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD is even more of a beast with 305 horsepower and a 13.6 second quarter mile time! Plus, the torque-vectoring AWD system in this one is just about unbeatable…
19 2008-2010 Audi RS6: A Gallardo On The Inside
Yes, it’s an Audi sedan. And yes, it says avuncular luxury to the extreme. Now, if you drive one of these and be next to a cognoscenti behind the wheel of the legendary BMW M5 (but please, don’t say the M2!) or a Mercedes Benz E63S, or even an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio – they would know the monster lurking beneath the hood of this innocuous looking car. For the rest of the world, it would look like just another Audi, nose heavy and a pain to turn. The cognoscenti know though, as do you that the sedate Bruce Banner of a car hides the Hulk – a 570 horsepower V10 originally designed for the Lamborghini Gallardo! Need we say more?
18 2015 Tesla Model S P85D: Faster Than It Looks
Look at the Tesla Model S and you have to admit, Elon Musk has some sick designers on his team, giving this electric vehicle a near supercar-like look. But since it’s an electric vehicle, how fast can it go, right? Wrong. We do know how fast it can go and it’s not just crazy fast, it’s near psychotic.
This all-electric, all-wheel-drive is also all about speed, and low emissions of course.
Its two electric motors combine to give you an astonishing 697 horsepower and it can go 0-60mph in a jetting run of 3.2 seconds. It can eat up a quarter mile in like 11 seconds. These figures are in the same league as that of the Dodge Charger Hellcat or even the McLaren F1! But remember, the Tesla is a 4-door EV!
17 1994 Lingenfelter GMC Suburban: Pointlessly Awesome
What do you get when you merge a GMC Suburban with the engineering and tuning prowess of John Lingenfelter? No, not a Corvette. You get the 1994 Lingenfelter Suburban. What’s that you may ask? As it whizzes past you generating enough force to rock your world, you would be asking everyone just that! Lingenfelter and Chevrolet-GMC decided to make the already awesome 7.4-liter Suburban more awesome. Why? Well, why not, YOLO! So Lingenfelter dropped in a 9.9-liter marine engine under the hood which churned out 550 horsepower (this was 1994!) and 705 lb-ft torque. With a 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds, it more of a “thar she blows” than a “there she goes”!
16 1986-87 Dodge Omni GLHS: Shelby Star
The Dodge Omni and its sister car the Plymouth Horizon were light cars, cheap and rather insignificant in motoring history. They were even lesser than your average Joe, and it is only when Carrol Shelby took an interest in the Omni that it managed to make a dent in the auto world of then, and now. Shelby first launched the GLH version, and the initials stood for Goes Like Hell. Then he launched another version and dubbed it the GLHS, the moniker of this being Goes Like Heck S’More. I mean, we are talking Shelby here, not Shakespeare, right!
The GLHS version had a 177-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
This may not sound like much now but this was the mid-80s and the Omni was a very light car. The Shelby GLHSs manager top speed of more than 150mph and raced 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds.
15 2005-2007 Mazda Speed6: Packed A Solid Punch
The Mazda Speed6 did what sedans do now, a decade back. It made a superior version of the Mazda6 and called it the Mazda Speed6. It hides a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four engine that could churn out 270 horsepower. Another notable thing about this car was Mazda’s Active Torque Split computer-based control that could route 50% of the power to the rear wheels if the driving conditions so demanded it. The Mazda Speed6 looked rather subtle, and like all other cars on the list did not look capable of a fast 0-60mph sprint. The fact that it could go 0-60mph at 5.4 seconds did mean that it was a hidden sporty sedan and took many by surprise.
14 1991 GMC Syclone: The Very Racy Pickup
The Syclone did not look like a pickup, and frankly, if you told us it could tow a heavy load, we’d laugh in your face. The thing is the GMC Syclone was built for speed, and not for a payload. The Syclone and its brother, the Typhoon SUV were perhaps built by GMC to counteract Buick’s Grand National. And they did well if your idea was to race the Syclone rather than tow something behind it.
With Chevy’s small block 4.3-liter turbocharged V6, the Syclone could roll out 280 horsepower.
To further leave furrows in the asphalt, they added a Borg-Warner all-wheel-drive system to this mini-pickup. The end result was a psychotic 0-60mph run of 4.3seconds and 13.6 seconds for a quarter mile.
13 1998-2000 Ford SVT Contour: A Dash Of SVT Magic
If you sport a Ford Contour with Recaro seats, the kind that are in hard-cornering race cars – know you have just spotted an SVT Contour, and pray, do not mess with it. Other than those race seats firmly fixed in place to make sure the driver didn’t wing off on fast corners – it looks like just another Ford Contour. Which is to say, it doesn’t look like much! Of course, the engine was an upgraded version of the 2.5-litre V6 and gave out 200 horsepower on a 50speed manual transmission. Different seats and trims, better brakes and tires and slightly upgraded bodywork also made it perform a lot better than its poorer cousin.
12 1995-1997 Volvo 850 T-5R and 850 R: Unexpectedly Fast
No one, for some reasons, expects a Volvo to be anything but sedate. Powerful yes, but fast isn’t a word you’d naturally associate with a Volvo. However some car enthusiasts and may we name Paul Newman among them, knew the power of the Volvos. And these subtle Swedes are fast cars indeed, and the models we mention are really fast station wagons.
In 1995, they consulted with Porsche and managed to make the 300-horsepower 850 T-5R.
Then they made the 850 R based on the T-5R as well. Finally, they retired these sleeper wagons in 1997, before making more awesome successful sleeper cars. Such is the subtlety of Volvo that goes to pieces when you press the accelerator.
11 2017 Ford Fusion Sport: More Than A Trim
Usually, when you buy a “Sport” version of a car, the only difference lies in the trimmings. More often than not, the extra moolah you pay for a sportier looking car is spent on looks alone – but adding racing stripes to an average acceleration car will only make it look fast, not be any faster. Ford Fusion turned out way different than the rest though for when you ordered the Ford Fusion Sport, you got a sleeper like never before. This midsize sedan didn’t just look different, but ran different as well, with 325 horsepower and 380 ft-lb of torque that whipped all four wheels into a racing frenzy. This so-called family car could then run 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds, matching a Mustang EcoBoost!
10 2003-2004 Mercury Marauder: Going Mach
The Mercury Marauder was introduced in the 60s as a better version of the Galaxie. It was named after the Mercury Marauder engines put in it, but after a well-received start, slow sales soon killed off this nameplate by the end of the 60s. Forty years later, Marauder was revived in 2003 as a sister car of the Crown Victoria, the immortal and legendary police car. It didn’t look like much but with a 300 horsepower Ford V8 engine, and some other parts from the Crown Victoria interceptor – it ran like a sleek racehorse just foaming at the mouth at the thought of the open road.
9 The Rolls Royce Phantom: Luxurious And Powerful
Why have we put a luxury car in here? Because when it comes to the Rolls Royce Phantom, everyone thought it looked good but did not look fast. Rolls Royce, on the other hand, had a quote about its cars, rather the performance of its cars that went, “adequate, and then 50% more.”
The Phantom is a 19-foot long beast that looks more a mansion than a car, and no one ever thought that its almost 6000-pound frame could move at a speed other than lumbering.
Well, with a 6.75-liter turbocharged V12 under its hood, it can go from 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds!
8 2012 Toyota Sequoia RS: Big And Powerful
Frankly, if you put Toyota and SUV in the same sentence, you already have an awesome, reliable and powerful car. There’s a reason why the 4Runner, Land Cruiser, and the Highlander are so popular. Now the Sequoia looks like just another SUV and melds with the SUV crowd by being bland and inoffensively boring. Except that it comes so packed under the hood that it can chew up a road with a 7.4-second 0-60mph run. Why? Because it sports a 310 horsepower V8 engine capable of doing a lot more than just transporting you around. Of course with its modular engine, you can do things to it to make it even faster. Like going nitrous!
7 2013 Kia K900: Pricey But Fast
The problem with the Kia K900 was not the design, but the fact that it entered with a hefty $60,000+ price tag that seemed much even for the V8 engine model.
The V6 model too starts at little under $50,000, which isn't much cheaper.
Now the 2013 model may have been expensive and looked just about averagely stylish for a full-size rear-wheel-drive sedan with a big V8, but it came packed with tuned power as well. It could scramble from 0-60mph at a decent 5.5 seconds and packed some 420 horsepower as well so it could move pretty quickly.
6 1969 COPO Camaro: A Beast In Disguise
So, the thing is, there is no visual distinction between a 1969 Camaro, which of course with all due respect, was one cool car, and the 1969 COPO Camaro (COPO stands for Central Office Production Order). Of course, the full form of COPO is something a mail company employee may be familiar with because it hardly comes with speedy undertones. That said; while the Camaro purred, the COPO Camaro menacingly growled having been fitted with the legendary 7.0-liter V8 that Chevy used to chew out its competition in Can-Am racing… Forget outracing a normal Camaro, the COPO Camaro could outdo just about anything, anywhere!
5 1989-1999 Ford Taurus SHO: Not A Show Car
The 80s gave us some good cars, but mostly bad ones. One glowing example came from Ford, that was stuck with a boring sedan and a bunch of high output engines from Yamaha it didn’t know what to do with. So they stuck the engines in the boring Taurus and marketed it as the Taurus SHO (Super High Output). Guess what? The sales went super high too and the Taurus SHO became a bankable brand. The third generation Taurus was something special too, being the only Ford Taurus to boast a V8 under the hood with the engine being built as a collaboration between Yamaha and the Cosworth legends.
4 1990-1994 Mercedes 500E: The Autobahn Beast
This was the time when Mercedes Benz engineers were chockablock with work over the development of the S-class, and Porsche was struggling in a crisis. So Mercedes decided to launch a higher performance version of its existing and somewhat drab W124 model, and commissioned Porsche to not only fit in a 5.0-liter V8 into this car but also assemble it in the under-utilized factories of Porsche. The result was a win-win for both. This became a Benz capable of a cool 170mph, but you had to be a connoisseur of cars to realize that this was much more than just a nicely done up E-Class.
3 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV: An Electrifying Heart
Yes, we heard those sniggers. Why would we ever talk about the tiny, barely-there Chevy electric car that’s best suited for a grocery trip to the nearest supermarket? Because this cute little city car that is often chosen for its low emissions and ease of parking is stupid fast. Electric cars are no longer slow and lumbering beasts.
They are getting faster than conventionally fuelled cars.
Don’t get us wrong, a 7.2-second sprint from 0-60 mph isn't going to set any land speed records. But it matches an Acura NSX or better still, a Lexus IS 350F. If you are still turning up your nose, it also matches the speed time of a 1967 Impala 427. So there, muscle cars!
2 1990-1992 Lotus Carlton: Supercars Went Green With Envy
So Lotus didn’t really make sedans because that would be too boring for Lotus. What they did make was an upgrade of the Opel Omega (also known as the Vauxhall Carlton) saloon. Basically, they zapped the engine and turned this ride into a superhero of sorts. The car looks just about as boring as the Opel and Vauxhall versions did, but it was like a deranged maniac under the hood. Lotus engineers made just a few tweaks to the exterior but basically took the straight-six apart and rebuilt it. They then garnished with a pair of turbochargers so this car then ran at 180mph and churned out 377 horsepower. It only came in a distinctly dark shade of green that looked almost black, and no cop car could ever catch it.
1 1987 Buick Grand National: The Quintessential Sleeper
The mystery remains to this date, why did GM kill off the Buick Grand National – a car that was a hit, and was also known as the world’s fastest production car? Some say that it was because the Grand National was even faster Chevy’s sports car, the Corvette. Other’s says that it happened because GM killed its rear wheel drive and brought in a front wheel drive instead so the Grand National was rendered obsolete. Whatever be the reasons, it was a crying shame because even though Buick itself advertised the Grand National as a 274-horsepower steed, it actually churned out 350-400 horsepower. When GM got a whiff of this, it was curtains for the Grand National.
Sources: Hemmings, Mecum, RMSothebys