The performance measure of any sports car has, for decades now, been how quickly it can get to 60mph. Over time, the threshold has consistently dropped – in the 1960s, any performance car that could broach 60mph in less than seven seconds was viewed as heroically fast. That metric didn’t change much in the 1970s. By the mid-1980s, though, power outputs were beginning to recover from the doldrums of the ‘70s and the 0-60mph numbers began dropping, albeit slowly.
That 0-60mph figure also became a significant marketing device for car manufacturers. It has been such an important factor in selling performance cars that some carmakers with manual transmission models have deliberately made it possible to hit 60mph in second gear as opposed to third, which lowered 0-60 acceleration times. The motoring press would duly report such performance numbers, boosting the street cred of the subject car.
But in more recent times, marketing folks began to realize that 0-60mph heroics could imbue regular family-sized sedan cars with that magical sheen of supercar performance. It started in Europe, where marques such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW began churning out hyper-performance sedans capable of quite insane performance. It didn’t take long for domestic North American manufacturers to jump on the bandwagon, producing sedans capable of drag-strip sprint times to 60mph.
In recent times, the number of sedans capable of reaching 60mph in less than five seconds has exploded. A large part of their appeal is in the unlikelihood of such Ferrari-baiting performance emanating from a car that profiles as a boring family hack. Here are the 24 best examples.
24 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
Famous motoring hack and TV personality Jeremy Clarkson once said that you aren’t a true car guy until you have owned an Alfa Romeo. Implicit in this sentiment is the notion that only a true enthusiast would put up with the foibles of this romantic marque, from its historic unreliability to the ergonomic mess of its interiors.
That is certainly true of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, a car that you would forgive any moody moments just to enjoy its phenomenal performance. You’ll struggle to find a review of this Alfa that scores less than five out of five stars – its Ferrari derived 2.9-liter twin-turbo motor smokes it to 60mph in a hilarious 3.6 seconds.
23 2018 Jaguar XJR
Jaguar’s largest cruiser is synonymous with British country mansion luxury, offering a wood-and-leather sanctuary from the furious pace of life outside. It is meant to provide a soothing balm to the daily commute – nobody would ever ask such a vulgar question of the big XJ as “what’ll she do?”
In the case of the XJR, though, the answer is “actually, quite a lot.” With a determined right foot on the gas, this XJR 575hp sedan will reach 60mph in 4.2 seconds. Keep that foot planted and the big cat will top out at 186mph. The fact that the XJR also offers agile handling is merely a bonus.
22 2009 Audi RS 6
Audi does ‘premium’ better than any other marque from Germany – its interior architecture and quality is the gold standard that other manufacturers aspire to but rarely match. Car buyers migrate to Audi when they reach a life-stage – and income level – that demands a one-up on the Joneses next door.
So your neighbor says he has a faster car? Trust me, if you are driving an Audi RS 6, you’re faster. Not just a little, but a lot faster – the 2009 RS 6 sedan packed a V10 with a staggering 572hp, good for 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds. The UK enthusiast bible Autocar said: “So the RS6 does mind-bendingly rapid very well indeed and, thanks to that hugely broad torque spread, it will do so with the merest twitch of your right foot.”
21 2018 Dodge Charger Hellcat SRT
Car manufacturers have a habit of giving their cars names meant to offset their deficiencies. Skoda, for example, launched a slow car called the ‘Rapide.’ Kia named an anonymous box of a thing ‘Soul’ and Buick gave us a blue-collar grafter called ‘Regal.’
So it was quite refreshing when Dodge launched the Charger Hellcat SRT. If anything, this was an understated handle for a car that claims to be the most powerful and fastest on the planet. That’s 707hp and a tad over 200mph, and the 0-60mph run takes just 3.6 seconds. Perhaps a better handle for this beast would have been the Dodge Subtle.
20 2018 Mercedes-AMG C 63
Car manufacturers from Germany are nothing if not competitive. So there was no way that Mercedes-Benz would put up with BMW launching a compact super-sedan in the guise of the M3 without responding. That response was pretty astounding – the Mercedes-AMG C 63 is a 503hp V8 charger that will dispatch 60mph in a little less than 3.8 seconds.
Car and Driver magazine reckoned the C 63 is a sensation: “The power delivery is immediate and mighty, and stomps on the gas pedal send the car hurtling forward like Mjölnir making its way back to Thor’s hand. And the sound is as intoxicating as ever—at least in this turbocharged generation—all thunder and fury in the exhaust’s most aggressive setting.”
19 2017 Chevrolet SS
With a storming 6.2-liter V8 borrowed from a Corvette, available six-speed manual gearbox and rear wheel drive, the Chevrolet SS had all the makings of a proper hot-rod. And it delivered in spades – its 415hp was plentiful enough to return a 0-60mph sprint in just 4.5 seconds.
The SS (Super Sport) was discontinued in 2018, and it will be sorely missed. U.S. performance cars have a long track record of being fierce in a straight line but lacking finesse and agility around corners. The SS put that long-running reputation to bed, demonstrating that a car from here could take performance sedans from Europe head on.
18 2016 BMW M3
BMW was one of the first mainstream manufacturers to embrace the concept of a boring four-door car capable of humiliating a Ferrari. The 3-series compact sedan became a hugely successful model for BMW, becoming one of the best selling cars in its segment. But it isn’t a car that you would give a second look – just another vanilla shopping cart.
The M3 changed that for all time. For over 30 years now, informed observers have noted the extra exhaust tips, mildly flared wheel arches, and that super-subtle M3 badge and realized that this otherwise plain 3-Series is actually a player. In its current format, the M3 will hit 60mph in just 4.0 seconds. That is seriously fast.
17 2014 Jaguar XFR-S
When it first launched back in 2013, the mid-sized Jaguar XFR-S was the fastest ever sedan from the British manufacturer. With a 542hp supercharged V8, the Brit bruiser could demolish 60mph in 4.4 seconds and storm on to a top speed of 186mph.
It took the fight, with great effect, to German rivals such as the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E 63. As Motor Trend magazine found, the XFR-S lives up to its sporting profile: “Under full throttle, the XFR-S growls with equal parts American muscle car and Italian sports car. For a near 2.2-ton midsize luxury sedan, the XFR-S accelerates, stops, and handles like a legit sports car, with limits much higher than the average driver's abilities.”
16 2018 Bentley Mulsanne Speed
The Bentley Mulsanne Speed is, along with the Rolls Royce Ghost, unique in this group – while it has the power to generate that sub-five second performance, it has no intention of offering a sports car experience. It is, though, a remarkable achievement that a car weighing just short of 6,000lbs can accelerate to 60mph in 4.8 seconds and steam on to a top speed of 190mph.
This is how the UK’s Top Gear magazine summed up the 530hp Bentley: “The more sporting looks are writing cheques the dynamics themselves can’t quite cash. Is this a problem? Nah, any Mulsanne Speed owner who actually minds about driving will have a garage full of tasty stuff that helps them get their rocks off. This one’s for when they wants to feel lord of all they survey.”
15 2018 BMW M5
BMW’s M5 is the fastest gas-powered car to 60mph in this group, getting to that benchmark speed in just 2.8 seconds. To put that remarkable achievement in context, that time is actually a shade quicker than the 750hp V12 Lamborghini Aventador. To deliver such stunning performance, the M5 deploys a twin-turbo 600hp V8 sending power to all four wheels. An optional performance package raises the top speed to 189mph. Not only is the M5 ballistic in a straight line, it also boasts fine handling balance and down-the-road refinement.
The M5 is a delicious recipe – here is a practical four-door sedan that’s happy to do the weekly grocery shop and then embarass any supercar driver that takes it on.
14 2018 Mercedes-AMG E 63
When Mercedes-Benz launched the Mercedes-AMG E 63, it had BMW’s M5 squarely in its sites. Hence, the numbers – its twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 generates 603hp powering all four wheels. And while a 0-60mph run in just 3.0 seconds is mightily impressive, it can’t quite match the BMW. To be fair to the Merc, though, no driver will ever notice the 0.2-second difference. They’ll be too busy relishing the thunderous V8 soundtrack and marveling at how precisely the nine-speed automatic gearbox shifts.
One of the Merc’s more amusing party tricks is ‘Drift Mode,’ which decouples the front axle, putting the big sedan into a rear-drive mode. With over 600hp to call upon, sideways action is a foot-flex away.
13 2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo
The Porsche Panamera Turbo hits all of the right numbers here – a 550hp twin-turbo V8 delivers a 0-60mph run of 3.0 seconds, which puts it decisively amongst its rivals. The Panamera makes an even stronger argument in its favor, with agility, throttle response and handling refinement that betters its BMW and Mercedes rivals. The latest iteration of the Panamera also addresses a criticism of its ham-fisted styling – it is now a genuinely good looking car.
Car and Driver magazine echoed that sentiment and added this: “[The Panamera] is really more of a modern-day 928—a four-seat GT with a V-8 up front and build quality commensurate with the price.”
12 2017 Tesla Model S P100D
You know you are in for something special in a car that has a ‘Ludicrous’ mode (for real). The Tesla Model D P100D does not disappoint – when Motor Trend magazine road tested the P100D, it reached 60mph in a barely believable 2.28 seconds, well clear of the nearest competition in this group.
This is a car with a sense of humor, too. Press and hold the ‘Ludicrous’ button and a flashing message bar will ask ‘are you sure you want to push the limits?’ Two buttons below bear the script ‘No, I want my mommy’ or ‘Yes, bring it on!’ Seriously.
The system will then prepare the powertrain for an acceleration run that can only be equaled by an F16 leaving a runway in a hurry.
11 2018 Maserati Quattroporte GTS
Calling a car ‘four doors’ in English sounds beyond dull. Say it in Italian – Quattroporte – and it sounds impossibly romantic. And that explains a lot of the appeal behind the GTS, a charismatic, quirky Italian super sedan. Packing a 523hp 3.8-liter V8, the Quattroporte will get to 60mph in 4.4 seconds.
This Italian has a real sense of fun, too. When Motor Trend magazine tested the GTS they said: “At times it’s banana-peel driftable, almost too much, so you need quick, quick, quick hands to collect it, but once you get used to it, it’s a real pleasure to come baking out of a corner at an angle.”
10 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S
If this were a competition to name the most beautiful sedan, the Aston Martin Rapide would walk it. Long and low with graceful lines, the big Aston makes every journey a special event. Handy, then, that it also has a thumping great 5.9-liter V12 that sends 550hp to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic.
The Rapide gains entry to this club courtesy of a sprint to 60mph that takes 4.7 seconds. That’s not a hugely remarkable figure, but the mellifluous roar of that big V12 more than makes up for that. Less good, as Car and Driver magazine noted, is practicality: “It’s easier to get onto King’s Cross Platform 9 3/4 bound for Hogwarts than it is to enter the Rapide with one’s dignity intact. It’s an ergonomic wonderland in there, too, with seatbelt anchors sunk down into the seats, seat-adjustment controls mounted on the center tunnel, and narrow footwells. And it’s nearly impossible to see out the back.”
9 2015 Ford Falcon 351 GT F
Australians love big, V8 performance cars and one of the most revered is Ford’s Falcon. Big-engined Falcon GTs go back as far as 1967, but the last of the breed bowed out in 2016. The final fast Falcon deployed a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 with a very healthy 470hp, which endowed the big Ford with a 0-60mph run of 4.5 seconds.
The hot Falcon wasn’t just about drag-strip performance – it also featured stiffer springs and bushes, larger 19-inch wheels and grippy Brembo brakes. A six-speed manual gearbox was standard, with six-speed auto optional. Compared to its European peers, though, the Falcon was a pretty archaic machine. But what it lacked in sophistication, it made up for with character.
8 2018 Rolls Royce Ghost Black Badge
The Rolls Royce Ghost is the ‘smaller’ offering from Britain’s premier luxury car manufacturer. Slotting in under the vast and imperious Phantom, the Ghost is still a massive car, weighing nearly five and a half thousand pounds and stretching to a shade less than 18 feet. Which is why its ability to hurtle to 60mph in 4.8 seconds is so hilarious (in 612hp Black Badge trim).
The Ghost is, for all intents and purposes, a BMW 7-Series underneath all of that expansive bodywork. But Rolls Royce parent company BMW – motto ‘the ultimate driving machine’ – has ensured that, despite the turn of speed the Ghost can deliver, it is calmly relaxing to drive with a ride quality that you’d expect of Britain’s finest motor car.
7 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt
Even by modern standards, this blast from the past Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt was stupendously swift. Ford made just 100 of these drag-strip Fairlanes in 1964. Hugely successful in competition, they were also street legal – even in a modern performance car, you will have to think twice before taking on the Thunderbolt.
To eke out every ounce of performance, Ford made the Thunderbolt lighter, with plastic windows and fiberglass doors, hood and fenders. With a 425hp 7.0-liter V8 driving the rear wheels, this hysterically fast Ford could get to 60mph in just 4.4 seconds and to 100mph in 11.4 seconds. In 1964, the Thunderbolt would blow the doors off a Ferrari 250 GTO. That’s proper fast.
6 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
Chrysler has led the resurgence of U.S. performance cars, delivering coupes with unimaginable power. The company also offers sedans that might look a little conservative but will deliver a Rambo-esque punch at the lights. One of the best is the 470hp, 6.4-liter V8 Chrysler 300 SRT8, good for a 60mph run in 4.5 seconds.
Not just a straight-line speed merchant, the 300 SRT8 is also a rewarding drive on a favorite twisting road. Motor Trend magazine said: “Underneath the blend of distinctly American and (borrowed) Bentley cues lies a surprising and immensely gratifying machine. At 4.5 seconds to 60 mph, and 13.0 seconds to the quarter mile, the Chrysler will show its taillights to a supercharged Audi A7 and a twin-turbo BMW 550i.”
5 2018 Cadillac CTS-V
In one of the most surprising and unlikely transformations, Cadillac has morphed from the maker of some of the most bloated and dynamically comatose barges to sporting sedans worthy of taking on European competition. One of the very best of these is the CTS-V. And unlike past Cadillacs, the CTS-V handles. Edmunds.com said: “The CTS-V has a truly state-of-the-art chassis and suspension that allow it to take corners better and impart more communication to the driver than other high-performance luxury sedans.”
With a thunderous 640hp 6.2-liter supercharged V8 under the hood, this Caddy will streak to 60mph in just 3.8 seconds and, says Cadillac, will continue on to 200mph. I can testify to the probable truth of that last figure – a Cadillac CTS-V holds my personal highest German autobahn speed, an indicated 186mph. And it was still pulling.
4 2018 Kia Stinger GT S
Kia had a brilliant strategy when it sought to invest its cars with Audi-like exterior design – namely, hire the guy that does Audi design. When it thought about how to make a sporting sedan with, say, the handling DNA of a BMW M3, they hired the guy who ran BMW’s M division. The result is the 365hp twin-turbo V6 Stinger GT S, a rear-drive charger that’ll crack 60mph in 4.8 seconds.
Jeremy Clarkson, one of the most critical motoring journalists in the world, said of the Stinger: “Everything was either delightful or wonderful or better than I was expecting. If you were in the market for a BMW M3, or a fast Audi or a Mercedes-AMG, it’s certain you’d be better off with the Kia.” Although Clarkson did concede that badge snobbery would probably prevent you from buying the Kia.
3 2018 Bentley Flying Spur S
Contemplate a Bentley and you will probably conjure images of an English country mansion study, all delicately crafted wood, and butter-soft leather chairs. A Bentley Flying Spur is all of those things, and the fact that Bentley also offers optional bespoke crystal Champagne flutes should tell you all you need to know about prospective owners.
Such a genteel clientele might be slightly shocked when the 521hp S Spur picks up its skirts and flies to 60mph in just 4.3 seconds, all to the distant rumble of its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. That performance is all the more remarkable for the Bentley’s 5,500-pound heft. It calls to mind the old saying “it’s not so much how well a bear can dance, rather that it can dance at all.”
2 2018 Mercedes-AMG CLA45
The Mercedes-AMG CLA45 is utterly unique in this group – it manages a titanic performance with half the number of cylinders of any car here. Courtesy of the magic worked by Mercedes’ performance arm AMG, the CLA45 manages to extract a huge 375hp from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant. With 60mph dispatched in just 3.8 seconds, this Merc is among the very fastest cars in this group.
In spite of these towering numbers, Car and Driver magazine came away somewhat underwhelmed by the mighty CLA45: “As competent as it is, the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG feels sterile when hustled on track or road. It lacks the punch of a [Mitsubishi] Evo and the sensitivity of a BMW 1-series. More disturbing, the CLA45 doesn’t have the reckless streak of other AMG models.”
1 2018 Audi RS 7 Sportback Performance
In standard form, the Audi RS 7 Sportback V8 conjures up a healthy 560hp, but tick the Performance option and that increases to a massive 605hp. So equipped, the twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 will hustle the RS 7 to 60mph in 3.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 190mph. All of that power is channeled through an eight-speed automatic, which is smooth and seamless when you aren’t in the mood for heroics, and precisely, instantly responsive when pressing on.
While its supercar-grade performance doesn’t come cheap, carbuzz.com reckons it’s worth it, saying: “It’s not a cheap car no matter which trim you option, but then again it’s never been marketed as affordable. The Audi RS7 is for someone with the budget of a supercar but the needs of a family car. It’s the best of both worlds and is worth every premium dollar spent.”
Sources: caranddriver; Edmunds; motortrend; autocar; autotrader, automobilemag; evo; Bloomberg; carmagazine; auto.howstuffworks; autoexpress