10 Modern Sleeper Cars: Unassuming But Strong And Fast

2013 Ford Taurus SHO

There are models on the automotive market called ‘sleepers’ which mostly can’t boast of attractive appearance but do have outstanding performance you may not even guess about. Here we’ve made a selection of 10 modern sleeper cars available on sale today.

A sleeper (American English) or Q-car (British English) is a “gray mouse with a lion heart” – i.e. a car with an economy-class look but offering high performance. The British term derives from the Royal Navy’s Q-ships, while the American name comes from ‘sleeper agent’.

Our TOP 10 sleeper cars you can buy today includes:

1. Ford Taurus SHO

2013 Ford Taurus SHO image
2013 Ford Taurus SHO

The Taurus was in production from 1985 to March 2019, and it still hits the roads. Ford produced the Taurus SHO in 1989–1999 and 2010–2019. The last generation was a large sedan with a 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine delivering a solid 365 horsepower to all four wheels. Few cars could keep up with it.

The original Ford Taurus was a milestone for the manufacturer and for the entire American automotive industry: it was the first vehicle for whose design and production the statistical process control ideas were used. And it was the Taurus to save Ford from bankruptcy in the ‘1980s.

2. Chevrolet SS

2016 Chevrolet SS image
2016 Chevrolet SS

This rear-wheel-drive sedan is a rebadged Holden Commodore SS V. The Holden company built the car in 2013-2018 in Australia, and then exported it to the USA to sell under the Chevrolet SS (Super Sport) name. The model sat between the Malibu and Impala in Chevrolet’s lineup, and it also filled the void left by the Pontiac G8.

Despite its boring appearance, the SS features superb performance due to a 6.2-liter V8 engine with more than 400 hp.

3. Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

2022 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon photo
2022 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

The VW Golf itself is an iconic nameplate. For decades, the model has been among the world’s best-sellers. The car has multiple variants, and the Golf R Wagon is one of the most underrated Golfs. It is a fast and potent all-rounder that comes with a 2.0-liter 315-hp turbo-four engine and all-wheel drive.

In a world where SUVs are preferred, this really good car is somewhat lost. Meantime, the combination of performance, practicality, and personality makes the Volkswagen Golf R Wagon a decent alternative to crossovers.

4. Cadillac CTS-V

2016 Cadillac CTS-V image
2016 Cadillac CTS-V

The 4-door sedan was introduced in 2004 and discontinued for the 2019 model year after three generations on the market. This is a high-performance version of the CTS model. Cadillac improved the car’s performance with every new iteration.

Essentially the CTS-V is a sleeper car but it keeps up with most muscle cars. In its latest iteration, it is a fun-to-drive and highly refined vehicle with Chevy Corvette Z06’s supercharged 6.2-liter 640-hp V8 engine under the hood.

The engine paired a responsive 8-speed automatic transmission sending power to rear wheels with an electronic limited-slip differential.

5. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

2022 BMW 2-Series Active Tourer
2022 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

The company has produced this 2-row subcompact executive MPV since August 2014. It is mechanically related to the MINI Countryman.

The current 2nd-generation model is available with a choice of gasoline, diesel, and plug-in hybrid powertrains, with horsepower ranging from 121 to 322. The 2 Series Active Tourer proves that a people carrier is able to provide a decent performance by most standards. It needs 7 seconds for 0-62 mph acceleration and gains a top speed of up to 150 mph (223i variant).

The exterior is not attention-grabbing, but it is paired with a comfortable and spacious interior featuring sliding rear seats, and you get a tall and practical trunk in addition.

6. BMW M3 Touring

2023 BMW M3 Touring image
2023 BMW M3 Touring

It is a typical high-performance car with a body style that is untypical for the BMW Motorsport series. The vehicle’s powerful 6-cylinder twin-turbo engine produces 510 hp and 480 lb-ft, and it takes just 3.6 seconds to hit 60 mph. The top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, but an optional package can raise it to 174 mph.

A station wagon is more associated with practicality than high speed, power, and aggressive manners, but the M3 Touring is a blend of it all. It was risky for BMW to add the wagon version to the M lineup, but the risk paid off – the BMW M3 Touring is one of the best wagons ever.

7. Ford Flex Ecoboost

Ford Flex 2013 photo
2013 Ford Flex

Ford produced this boxy-shaped affordable model as a full-size crossover SUV or a wagon from 2009 to 2019 through a single generation. It was marketed and still hits the roads in North America, Mexico, and the Middle East.

The Flex is a successor to the Taurus X, a direct counterpart of the Lincoln MKT, and functionally replaces the Freestar minivan. It can tow up to 4,500 pounds (2,040 kg). 

The Flex remains one of Ford’s underrated models. It has not been as successful as expected, and competitors like the Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse, and Buick Enclave outsold it.

Even though the Ford Flex looks like a boring commuter, this is a performance vehicle when comes with an optional twin-turbo Ecoboost V6 good for 355-365 horsepower, and all-wheel drive. The Flex Ecoboost needs less than 6.2 seconds for the 0-60 mph acceleration, which is quite good,

8. Toyota Camry TRD

Toyota Camry TRD 2020
2020 Toyota Camry TRD

Toyota has produced the Camry since 1982, and this model has topped sales rankings for years. This is an undisputable best-seller loved by many for its excellent combination of affordability, practicality, and reliability.

How has the Camry gotten on our list of modern sleeper cars? – Maybe, this Toyota is a popular model, but it is not famous for being fast. A TRD version breaks the idea of the ​​Camry as a city car that does not have high performance. The Toyota Camry TRD features superb driving dynamics due to its 3.5-liter V6 engine tuned to deliver more than 300 hp.

9. Genesis G70

2022 Genesis G70 Shooting Brake image
2022 Genesis G70 Shooting Brake

Prior to its debut in 2017, the Genesis G70 was under development for several years. It is offered both as a 4-door sedan and a 5-door shooting brake (wagon). This is a related model to the Kia Stinger famous for its sports dynamics and performance.

The G70 is the case when good performance can be hidden behind a sleek appearance: it’s about a version with a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that delivers 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque,

Both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive are available for the model, either 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual (till the 2022 MY) transmission. Acceleration from 0–62 mph takes decent 4.7 seconds for the LSD-equipped 3.3L V6 RWD G70.

10. Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG

Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG 2007
2007 Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG

Due to the fact only 200 units were ever made, this minivan (called a Sports Tourer by the manufacturer) is a rare 2007 model with insane performance for a vehicle of this class. The Mercedes-AMG badge can be usually met on very fast sedans and sports cars, but the R63 AMG has become an exception.

This is one of the coolest minivan options, indeed, that needed just 4.6 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph. Under the hood, the Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG featured a hand-built 6.2-liter V8 from the CLK63 AMG sports car. The engine sent 507 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque.

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