It’s easy enough to order up a brand new Camaro SS from your Chevrolet dealer, but it’s a whole different matter to buy a truly fast car that flies under the radar. We combed the archives to find five seriously quick cars that don’t loudly announce their presence.
There isn’t a sleepier sleeper than the Subaru Forester 2.5XT. But despite its crushingly boring looks, and it’s “mom-mobile” status, the 2.5XT is a hot rod, featuring 235-lb.ft. of torque, just about the same as you’d get out of a WRX. This example was also equipped with a five-speed manual, a rarity for Subaru Foresters of any vintage. They’re truly the best of all possible worlds, with seriously fun performance, family-hauling utility and the ability to blast through any weather condition.
The Mazdaspeed6 was the ultimate in cars that people really didn’t know even existed. It’s an example of those kind of cars that get auded by the media, only to have them nailed to showroom floors all over the country. The Mazdaspeed6 featured a direct-injected, turbocharged 2.3-liter four cylinder that churned out 274 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Sixty miles an hour came at a very quick 5.4 seconds, which sounds even faster when you realize that it has all-wheel-drive with an Active Torque split that could route 50 percent of power to the rear wheels. Plus a six-speed manual? Yeah.
“Sleeper” doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap.” The X5 xDrive50 easily creeps into the $70,000 territory. As an all-round, day-in-day out car, the X5 is great, but the xDrive50 with its 445hp, twin-turbocharged V-8 is an absolute beast of a vehicle. With the M Sport package it starts really looking like a beast. But if you skip that and order it up in brown, nobody would ever suspect that you had the ability to absolutely wax a fair number of honest-to-goodness sports cars.
Like the X5, you can select an SQ5 and other than the clandestine “S” badge, you’d hardly recognize any difference between this the typical Q5 grocery-getter tens of thousands of Americans run back and forth to work. But under the hood, you’ve got a 354hp, turbocharged V-6 that can get you to 60 miles per hour in 5.1 seconds. They’re not quite as quick as the BMW X5 xDrive50, but they’re also a lot less expensive.
If this thing had a European badge on it, it would be $65,000. But it doesn’t, and it suffers a bit from a super-stealthy body that make it look more like the front wheel drive Impala than it does the LT-1-powered Impala SS from the 1990s. This Holden Commodore features a 415hp V-8 with just as much torque, and it’s good for running to 60 miles per hour in 5.0-seconds without anybody paying a bit of attention to it. It’s like the CIA ordered it special.