Sleepers are cars that look mainstream but pack a big punch. We run down some of today’s wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Speed is relative. No car has taught us that better than the current Tesla Model S sedan which can sprint from 0-60 MPH in under three seconds if one checks off the right options. However, the Model S is now well known for its capabilities, and we are not surprised if we see one launch away from a stop. However, among us are vehicles that are a lot quicker than they appear, and quicker than they should be for the money. We call them sleepers. These incognito quick cars have been around for as long as there have been cars, but it rally took off in the 1960s when GM, Chrysler, and Ford began putting huge engines into sedans and coupes that had been family cars up to that point. The Pontiac GTO emerging from the Tempest may be a perfect example. A better example would be an actual Tempest without the GTO badges but packing the big power. Here are a handful of vehicles on the market today that one can buy new that have a lot more scoot than they appear to have. We will also throw in one of our favorite used model for those that may want to some stoplight racing on a budget.
2013-2017 Honda Accord V6 Sedan and Coupe
In just a few short months the V6-powered Accord may well be surpassed by a faster Honda, the Civic Type R. We will see how that matchup goes once the Type R is actually here (Honda has never brought one over to the U.S. up until now). For now, the 2017 Accord remains Honda’s quickest car and a true sleeper. When equipped with the optional 278 hp engine and six-speed automatic transmission with Sport Mode Gear Ratios, the Accord V6 is one of the fastest $31K sedans on the market. With a 0-60 MPH time of under six seconds and solid performance once underway, it can run with many “sports sedans” costing thousands more. Honda also makes the Accord in an attractive Coupe body, that looks as quick as it is. In case you doubt us, consider that when Motor Trend raced an Accord vs. a 310 hp Mustang EcoBoost, the Accord beat it in 0-60 MPH times, the quarter mile, and 45 MPH-65 MPH acceleration. Here’s a hint for budget shoppers – The older V6 Accords were even quicker, and Honda still puts a manual six-speed in the coupe.
2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport
Ford didn’t fail to notice that Honda had a sleeper in its lineup and recently decided to do something similar. For 2017 Ford drops its 2.7-liter V6 EcoBoost engine into the Fusion sedan. With 325 hp it would be a fast car, but with 380 lb-ft of torque, it should leap off the line. Making that launch even more impressive is all-wheel drive. No tire spinning, no smokey burnouts, just floor the Fusion and shoot for the horizon. MotorWeek clocked a 5.3-second 0-60 MPH time in the Fusion Sport V6. Hitting potholes on the way to the finish line is also no problem for the Fusion Sport, with its unique pothole protection technology.
2016-2017 Mazda Miata
Everyone knows the Mazda Miata as a slow car because the first and second generation cars were relatively slow with 0-60 mph times of about nine seconds. Mazda started to turn that around with the MazdaSpeed Miata in the second generation and the third generation, called the NC by fans, was respectably quick with zero to sixty times in the low sixes. About two years ago, the new 2016 model changed things. The ND, fourth-generation Miata, is now a quick roadster with Zero to sixty times under six seconds. That makes it one of the fastest convertibles at its $30K price point. The Miata is also quicker to sixty and faster from 30-50 MPH in top gear than the more powerful Fiat 124 Abarth Spider. The Miata is the second normally-aspirated car on our list that is faster than comparable cars with turbos rated at higher horsepower. That the Miata’s performance capabilities only get more impressive if turning or stopping are involved, make it a true sleeper.
Toyota RAV4 V6
One of our favorite used sleepers is the third-generation Toyota RAV4 V6. With its 276 hp engine and automatic transmission, the RAV4 V6 ran from 0-60 MPH in the low six-seconds range. That is only impressive if you consider that this was a cute little mall-crawler, or if you consider that for many of the years it was built, the RAV4 V6 was Toyota’s quickest U.S.-spec vehicle. The 2005 through 2012 RAV4 V6 is a sleeper many fans know well. That it is just as quick as today’s turbocharged Subaru Forester XT shows that it has staying power.
As we explained in our opening paragraph, speed is relative. These cars on this list of sleepers may not be as quick as dedicated sports cars, or $140K Teslas, but they are all quicker than a 1976 Lamborghini Countach, many 1970s and 1908s Corvettes, and even quicker than a 1961 Ferrari 250 California Spyder. More to the point, they are also quicker than many pricey sports sedans sold today.