Car Lists

15 Performance Cars That Fly Under the Radar

Subtlety is always in style

Subtlety is always in style

When thinking of performance cars, the immediate ones that come to mind are aggressive machines that blow everyone else’s doors off and draw attention from the police. However, what if you want something a little more subdued? A car that’s understated but carries a big stick, maybe? Well, you can have that, as well. Many cars available today will give it to you. Here are 15 performance vehicles that will let you fly under the radar.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Thanks to its conservative exterior and hatchback body style, it’s easy to miss the Volkswagen Golf GTI unless know what to look for. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 210-220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque mated to your choice of a six-speed manual or a twin-clutch automatic, and it’s complemented by a chassis that’s well-balanced and playful.

Audi SQ5

A luxury crossover is often the last thing in your head when you mention a performance car, which helps the 354-hp Audi SQ5 fly by unnoticed at speeds that usually lead to a revoked driver’s license. That it’s also all-wheel drive and has more ground clearance than your average sedan means you’ll be able to handle everything Mother Nature throws at you.

Mini Cooper S/JCW

Just because subcompact cars usually look cute and adorable doesn’t mean they’re not packing a good dose of firepower. In the case of the Mini Cooper S and its more powerful JCW sibling, you’ve got anywhere from 189 to 228 hp and 206 to 236 lb-ft of torque on tap on a diminutive hatchback complemented by a chassis that can easily make winding roads beg for mercy.

Chevrolet SS

The textbook definition of sleeper is a sports car that flies under the police radar with ease, and the 415-hp Chevrolet SS is a sport sedan that is exactly that. Essentially a Camaro with four doors, a big trunk, and room for a family, the SS is the quintessential American four-door sports car that puts the fun back in functional.

Volkswagen Golf R

If the Golf GTI isn’t potent enough for you, Volkswagen has another solution in the all-wheel-drive, 292-hp Golf R. Essentially a rally car for the streets, the Golf R doesn’t have all kinds of styling cues that make it attract attention, which helps in keeping prying eyes off you when you’re having all kinds of fun in the twisties.

Audi S3

If you’re averse to hatchbacks and don’t mind spending a few extra thousand dollars, the Audi S3 is a plusher, more luxurious Golf R with a trunk. However, that doesn’t mean it’s less potent. It packs the same 292-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-four and can be had with magnetic shocks to give you that nice balance between ride and handling.

Audi S6

Quite possibly one of the most understated midsize luxury sedans available, the Audi S6 hides a 450-hp, twin-turbo V-8 and a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox under the hood. Think of it as an all-weather autobahn cruise missile that can coddle you comfortably on the road and discreetly speed past the cops regardless of any weather condition.

Fiat 500 Abarth

Most Fiat 500s on the road are cutesy, and that also includes the more potent 500 Abarth. Because it’s available with bright colors, the 500 Abarth can easily disguise itself as an innocent little city car tooling about. Under the hood, however, lay a tiny engine with a big heart, a 1.4-liter turbo-four with 157 to 160 hp and 170 to 183 lb-ft of torque, giving it plenty of power on tap to complement its light weight and performance-minded suspension.

Mercedes-AMG E63 Wagon

No one will suspect a wagon is actually a performance machine, and nobody will realize the 2016 Mercedes-AMG E63 has a fire-breathing 577-hp, twin-turbo V-8 under the hood. This is a car that to the unknowing eye is merely a family hauler. But to those in the know, this is the ultimate do-everything car, hauling your family and hauling on the racetrack. A new version based on the 2017 E-Class and with even more power on tap is in the works, and will hopefully come stateside.

Audi S8 Plus

The Audi A8 and S8 are already solid all-weather luxury sedans, but what happens if even the S8 won’t satisfy your desire for performance? Enter the 605-hp S8 Plus, which masquerades along looking like every other A8 family member.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

Known more for its off-road prowess, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is perfect for those who love to go out into the wilderness. However, go for the 485-hp Grand Cherokee SRT, and you’ll have an SUV that can conquer racetracks and crawl rocks afterward.

Tesla Model S P90D

Silent and quiet like every electric car, the Tesla Model S P90D hides a considerable amount of performance under its swoopy exterior. Thanks to a prodigious 762 hp and 713 lb-ft of torque available on demand, this electric car can blow the doors off other cars without showing off to the world with a loud, sonorous exhaust note.

Ford Fusion Sport

Ford brought back a proper performance-oriented midsize sedan with the 2017 Fusion Sport, which comes with a 325-hp, 2.7-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 and all-wheel drive as standard. Although it’s still sexy like every other Fusion on the road, the Fusion Sport promises to offer more potent performance and handling compared to your typical run-of-the-mill family sedan.

Buick Regal GS

Even though it lost power after a refresh, the Buick Regal GS is still a sleeper. It comes with a suspension setup that gives it great handling to complement the 2.0-liter turbo-four’s 259 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is also available in case you need to tackle all four seasons on your daily commute.

Jaguar XJR

No one will suspect the Jaguar XJR for a performance machine because of its size and length, but under the hood is the same 550-hp, 5.0-liter, supercharged V-8 and ZF eight-speed automatic found in the F-Type R. Thanks to its aluminum-intensive structure, the XJR is also lighter than its competitors, making it a highly capable performer despite its dimensions.

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

There won’t be many that will suspect a Dodge Charger will have 707 hp, which means the Charger SRT Hellcat with its supercharger V-8 makes for a great sleeper in more conservative exterior colors. Only a few styling cues will give you a hint that a Charger is a Hellcat, so you’ll easily blend in, especially with the car’s sedan body style.

Volvo V60 Polestar

Now that it’s available in less striking exterior colors, the Volvo V60 Polestar is one of the best sleepers available today, provided you can get your hands on one before they run out. A 2.0-liter, super- and turbocharged I-4 rated at 362 hp and 347 lb-ft replaces that old 3.0-liter, turbo I-6 that puts the power down to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. This is one hot wagon that will surprise those who don’t know what they’re up against.