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Seven Sleepers that can be Yours in 2017

These are the best sleeper cars of 2017

I have said it before and I will inevitably say it again: the word “sleeper car” is the most overused and incorrectly used word in the custom car scene. From Stancers to Hot Rods, everyone seems to love calling their clearly-modified creations “sleepers” despite numerous stickers, performance add-ons, and flashy aftermarket wheels. A sleeper should look either like a stock car or like an old, stock car. That’s it.

Luckily, performance cars available from the factory are especially good at going under the radar, normally. Sports cars really can’t be sleepers, but everything from hatchbacks to 4x4s are all wonderfully deceptive, quick options for those looking for performance that surpasses the presumptions onlookers form about that certain vehicle. The trick is picking the right one. Luckily, 2017 is a great year for surprisingly fast cars.

7. 2017 Kia K900 (V8)

The 2017 Kia K900 equipped with the optional 5.0 liter V8 engine makes a great sleeper from the factory. It doesn’t look like a performance car and, in fact, it doesn’t even look like a Kia. It looks a bit generic, really, but that only helps it keep a low profile.

The V8 makes 420 horsepower and the car goes from 0-60 in just 5.5 seconds. That is respectable performance for a car that is not marketed as a performance luxury car. The engine is prime for tuning, and I doubt anyone is going to be suspicious enough to look under the hood of the K900 unless particularly conspicuous rims or a loud exhaust are drawing attention.

The main downside is that this car is a bit soft from the factory. The steering is numb and the suspension makes it float around comfortably while not providing much feedback from the road. For any kind of fast driving, mushy steering and suspension will be an issue. Still, this car is only a couple of upgrades away from being an amazingly deceptive performance car.

6. 2017 Chevrolet SS

Big Chevy sedans are the standard sleeper performance car in the US, mainly because there is an abundance of V8-powered, rear-wheel drive sedans on the used market that can be had for dirt cheap. A little tune, and boom! Instant power. So how does the new fast Chevy sedan, the 2017 Chevrolet SS, stack up?

It’s a real, proper performance car in a body that looks as plain as a Malibu. The 6.2 liter V8 makes 415 horsepower and takes the car to 60 from a dead stop in just 4.6 seconds. The really impressive bit is the handling, though. The SS uses magnetic ride control to adjust the suspension dampening to the conditions and comes with Brembo brakes from the factory. It also comes with a nice 6-speed manual transmission.

The downsides? While you can bolt a supercharger onto an old LT1 Police Interceptor for under $5,000, the SS Starts at $48,000. That is a lot for a car that does not come with particularly luxurious trim. And the name is unbelievably dumb and tends to just confuse people when you tell them what it is. This is the last year this car will be in production in the US, so if you want one you had better act quickly.

5. 2017 Ford Taurus SHO

The main rival to the Chevy SS is the 2017 Ford Taurus SHO. It is both more discreet and better looking than the Chevy. There is something the Taurus has on its side that the Chevy does not: there are already tons of Taurus’ on the road that look nearly identical to the SHO. That said, it does bring a bit less power to the table.

The twin-turbo 3.5 liter V6 makes 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. This means that 0-60 takes just 5.2 seconds. While this is pretty quick, I was expecting a bit more given that the Taurus SHO has all-wheel drive. Also, the only transmission available is an automatic with 6 speeds, which doesn’t sound ideal

While I do like this car, and agree that it makes a great sleeper car, I have one complaint. It doesn’t seem like Ford really cares about making this a proper sports sedan. After seeing what they can do with the Mustang and F-150 Raptor, it is clear that this car could be so much more than it currently is.

4. 2017 Volkswagen Golf R

The 2017 Volkswagen Golf R is a sleeper* for sure, but there is an asterisk on that title for a reason. Because of the reputation that Volkswagen hatchbacks have gained via their massive following, it is important to keep the car extremely stock looking to retain sleeper status. A loud exhaust or a few too many stickers can raise eyebrows and give away the deceptively quick underpinnings to the outside world.

The 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine under the hood makes 292 horsepower and sends it out to all four wheels. In stock form, this takes the Golf R from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds. Like all good sleepers, there are plenty of easy modifications that can be done to the Golf R to make it faster. The drivetrain also makes a great base for a performance car, and Volkswagen’s reputation in the world of fast cars is hard to ignore, given that they own the brands Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, and Bugatti.

As long as add-ons like aero kits, 3-piece wheels, and extremely lowered suspension are avoided, then this car is surprisingly stealthy. In stock form, it is fun, practical, and capable of holding its own on the rare track day. With a bit of tweaking, this car can achieve supercar performance.

3. 2017 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400

Despite the fact that Infiniti is owned by Nissan, a company known for fast sports cars, the brand has never had a reputation for being particularly performance-oriented. Compared to other cars in its class like the BMW M5 and Audi S6, the 2017 Q50 Red Sport 400 is not all that fast. That said, it is much faster than it looks, and that is what counts here.

As the name states, the Q50 Red Sport has 400 horsepower. This comes courtesy of a twin-turbo 3.0 liter V6. The car is available in both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive arrangements, which is nice. It is only available with an automatic transmission, which is less than optimal, but the 4.3 second 0-60 time is respectable. The suspension and steering are particularly responsive; areas in which many other sporty sedans suffer.

All of this performance and no outrageous updates to the exterior styling. I am impressed at how simple it is. I do have to wonder. Why doesn’t nissan just plop a Q50 body down on the underpinnings of a GT-R and make a killer sports sedan? I’m sure it wouldn’t be simple, but with a performance platform capable of creating so much buzz, it seems like a waste to not promote the performance side of Infiniti.

2. 2017 Volvo S60/V60 Polestar

If you want to make a vehicle that can perform and keep a low profile, there are few better options than a Volvo. With a massive following in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the US, there are tons of performance parts out there to tune up older models that have spent their lives as commuters and family cars. Even better, there are communities of people out there who tune Volvos and share their knowledge. Every once in awhile, though, Volvo makes a fast car straight from the factory.

 

Meet the 2017 Volvo S60 Polestar… and the wagon variant, the V60 Polestar. If I had ranked them separately, they would be numbers 2 and 3 anyway (the wagon being slightly more stealthy, and just as quick). Despite the distinct color and badging, the vast majority of people will not notice anything aside from the Volvo badge. They certainly won’t expect to see that, under the hood of each, is a twin-charged 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine that makes 362 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque.

I am a big fan of Volvos in general, so of course I love anything made by Polestar. While they have shown, through race cars and concepts made for Volvo, that they can make crazy things. Instead of making their Volvo production cars absurd, Polestar has made these cars extremely reasonable for the performance they offer. They retain their Volvo practicality and, more importantly, their safety.

1. 2017 Tesla Model X

I really wanted the Volvo V60 Polestar to be the best sleeper car out there. It checks all of the boxes, but unfortunately Tesla has created new boxes that come pre-checked. This is the 2017 Tesla Model X P100D. This car offers supercar performance in a package that looks like a minivan that had some metal removed, abruptly at that, from its rear. Everything about it sounds like a vaporware concept car that is always “a few years” away from production. But it’s real. You can just buy one.

Seating for 7 adults, tons of headroom, gullwing doors, and a 0-60 time of 2.9 seconds make this car an absolute legend. The range for the P100D, the fastest model (therefore the best), is 289 miles. The top speed is a comfortable 130 miles per hour, made possible with the 532 horsepower generated by the motors. This car is an incredible sleeper, but not because it has a reputation of being slow.

In fact, Tesla is known for making pretty fast cars. The Model X just doesn’t look fast. Not parked, not moving, not even while going fast. It just looks too much like a turtle with eyeliner on for anyone to take it seriously as a performance car. Seeing it pull away is like an optical illusion. If you want an unfathomably quick car that is practical, cool, and eco-friendly, look no further.

Categories: List Articles

Ian Swan
About Ian Swan

I am a life-long car enthusiast and the proud owner of what is likely the only Mini Cooper S to have ever been hit by a Snow Cat. I live in Brooklyn, New York, where I spend too much time looking for neat cars.