We test the six best all-wheel drive sports sedans and reveal their personalities. Which is your pick?
Over the past year, BestRide has been fortunate enough to test the very best sports sedans on the market. These included the 2019 BMW 330i xDrive, 2019 Volvo S60 T5 R-Design AWD, the 2020 Acura TLX 3.5L SH-AWD PMC, 2020 Genesis G70 AWD 3.3T Sport, 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC, and 2020 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD. Every one of them had all-wheel drive and more than enough power and handling prowess to make them a blast to drive. Although at a glance they may all seem similar, after a week behind the wheel each reveals a unique personality. All of them are good at everything. A couple of them are great at many things. Others have some real standout aspects to their personality. We are not going to tell you which is the best one for you to buy. Rather, we hope to impart on our readers a sense of what we felt stood out among each of these great cars.
Don’t worry too much about the model year. Every model you read about here is updated for 2020 without any significant changes. We do suggest that you verify the prices before you shop. We show the prices that our tester had on its window sticker and they may have changed slightly since we tested them. Finally, Tesla has a vehicle in this segment that is very popular and leads in sales in some states. We reached out to Tesla and extended an invitation for the Model 3 to be included in this comparison. Tesla opted not to participate. So we’ll rank the Model 3 last in this segment in our book until we can prove otherwise with a full test. The 30 minutes we’ve had behind the wheel of the Model 3 SR+ trim didn’t impress us enough to think otherwise.
The Standout – 2020 Genesis G70 AWD 3.3T Sport – Price as tested $ $53,245 (All prices in this story include destination charges)
The Genesis G70 we tested was a top trim. Yet, it was far from the most expensive vehicle in this comparison. It had every option including a head-up display, heated steering wheel, adaptive headlights and much more. For example, secondary front passenger seat controls on the side of the seat facing the driver. That makes it easy for the driver to pull the passenger seat forward a bit for rear-seat passengers entering the vehicle. The G70 even had a spare tire! Nothing we would ask for in a sports sedan in terms of luxury was omitted.
But that’s not why the G70 topped our list. Rather, it was the personality of the G70. This is a car that wants to get you into trouble. It begs to be driven hard, and when you push it the G70 becomes a happy machine. You can certainly cruise in the G70, but the throttle is there and you know you can pass that car ahead in a flash. We found ourselves doing so. Often. The 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 was the most satisfying engine in our group. It has explosive power off the line, and any time you want more it has more to give. The handling of this rear-wheel drive platform with AWD added is also perfect. Of all the vehicles in this comparison, the G70 feels like the one you would want to take to a track day.
Topping off all of its many pluses, Genesis is now the quality leader in this industry as measured by JD Power and others. The G70 also comes with three years of included maintenance and has the longest warranty, extending out ten years. If you have not thought of Genesis as a luxury sports sedan company, think again. We found that it was a leader in every category in which we evaluate sports sedans.
Most Exclusive and Best-Looking – 2020 Acura TLX 3.5L SH-AWD PMC – $50,945
Acura builds this special TLX trim alongside its NSX here in America. The paint takes days to apply. Every aspect of this sports sedan is fretted over by Acura’s engineers and assembly team until it resembles a highly-polished gem.
To our eye, it is the best looking car in this comparison hands-down. Inside, the microfiber suede materials coddle the driver. The personality is quiet confidence. This is not the race car in this bunch. Its normally-aspirated engine (no turbo) is smooth and wants to rev. But it lacks the low-end punch that the Genesis and Volvo offer.
We only had the TLX for four days rather than our usual seven of testing due to its schedule in our media fleet during harsh winter. Every day we had the car it snowed. We drove it straight into an ice storm and off the beaten path in rural New Hampshire and it shined. This is a true all-weather sports sedan with much to offer. At $50,945 it seems like a great deal. Acura is only making 360 of these special PMC trims of the TLX, so act fast if you want one.
Biggest Surprise and Best Value – 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC – $50,055
On paper, the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 looks like the punching bag of the group. It’s 2.0-liter turbo engine is about 50% less powerful than the top three vehicles in the test. It starts with a front-wheel-drive layout. It’s a Mercedes, so we expected it to be expensive compared to its peers. As it turns out, if you give this car a chance, it shatters every preconceived notion. Starting with being the least expensive vehicle in this comparison.
Despite its low price point, the CLA250 4MATIC is a joy to drive. You will need the Sport mode more than with some of these sedans, but when you put the boot to this Merc it responds and rewards you with a satisfying driving experience. In addition, it is the best daily driver here. It was absolutely silent in our testing despite wearing winter rubber. All of the interior aspects are modern and impress passengers. There were a few luxury items missing in our CLA250. No heated steering wheel. No head-up display. No spare tire. The price is reflective of the content. This may be one of the least expensive vehicles Mercedes-Benz makes, but it is for sure part of the family. The Mercedes name and logo carry weight in our book. We came away shocked that a sports sedan shopper could get this great car at this low price.
Most Improved and Most Mature – 2019 Volvo S60 T5 R-Design AWD – $53,085
Not every sports sedan shopper is looking for a fight with a Subaru WRX. Some shoppers want a car that has the abilities of a sports sedan, but also brings value, safety, and style. The Volvo S60 may be perfect for such a shopper. This made-in-America sedan has changed dramatically with its last update from an overly-stiff car with outdated infotainment to a Scandanavian-designed wonder. The engine may be its most impressive piece of tech gear. 340 hp from a small four-cylinder engine? Yes, and it also has no bad habits in traffic. If you are trying to sneak in a sports sedan as your work vehicle this is the one to pick.
The Sleeper – Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD – $ 60,475
The Infiniti Q50 is well into its design life now. We did a full review of the Q50 a few years ago and were impressed then with all aspects of the car. The infotainment is now showing its age a bit. The style is not. It is a close second to the Acura for best looking in this comparison. The Q50 packs a whopping 400hp from its 3-liter turbocharged engine. But you have to work to extract it. The throttle is muted in normal driving. Floor it, and it wakes up like Godzilla. If you like a car with a split personality, here you go. If we were shopping for a Q50, we would bargain hard to get that very high price point down to close to the cost of the Genesis.
Best Interior And Most Well-Rounded BMW 330i xDrive – $58,220
This segment was once called the “BMW 3 Series Segment” by auto writers. The smart ones know better now. Yes, the 3 Series is still very much a contender, but Tesla outsells it by a factor of three to one in America. As you can see from our comments above, there are five other great options from which to choose. All but one are much less expensive. BMW makes a 3 Series car that may well have bested all of these in any fair comparison. But not for under for $60K it doesn’t.
The BMW 3 Series had the interior we felt was the best of this bunch in a tie with the Genesis G70. Although the 2019 we tested lacked Android Auto, for 2020 BMW is leaping ahead and offering both Android Auto and Apple Car Play wirelessly in its 3 Series. That is a big deal. With hand gesture controls for the infotainment and other tech features, the BMW is still very much ahead in some areas of this segment. However, with a $58K price point and a 2.0-liter turbo making 50% less power than the Volvo, Infiniti, and Genesis, the BMW lacks the punch that three of the cars in this comparison offer.
By our count, there are at least seven great sports sedans available for between $50K and $60K in America. Each is very good at what it should be. Which car’s personality would you most likely call your match based on what we have presented here?