Even though Mercury never intended the Grand Marquis to be a performance car, they decided to turn it into one by installing a highly tuned 4.6-liter V8 producing 302 HP. And then they added a revised suspension, gearbox and brakes. And all those changes turned this sleepy and comfy sedan into a sharp muscle car.
The black paint, one of three colors available, gave the Marauder its menacing looks and aggressive stance, clearly differentiating it from its more sedate cousins. The performance was impressive for such a big, heavy sedan. Accelerating from 0 to 60 mph happens in approximately seven seconds.
At first glance, there is nothing special about the sixth generation Nissan Maxima. It is an ordinary family sedan with bland styling and strange proportions. However, if you option yours with a six-speed manual, you basically get a Nissan 370Z with four doors.
And that is because the Nissan 370Z sporty coupe and the ordinary Maxima share the same 3.5-liter V6 engine. The 265 HP, although sent to front wheels rather than the rear, still deliver a strong performance and thrilling ride in an unassuming package.
The Buick Roadmaster was the typical American sedan of the early â90s with a lazy engine and comfy ride. But the Buick engineers found a way to install a Corvette LT1 5.7-liter V8 engine into the Roadmaster engine bay. The LT1 produced 300 HP in the Corvette.
But in the Buick, it pumped out 260 HP. And that was more enough horses to turn this heavy car into a proper hot rod. Despite the curb weight of over 4,400 pounds, this car could outrun most of the muscle cars of the day.
Volkswagen Passat W8
With the restyling of the then-current B5 generation of the mid-size sedan, Volkswagen introduced a special edition with top of the line technology. It had an advanced 4.0-liter W8 gasoline engine and a four-motion all-wheel-drive system. Customers got a selection of manual or automatic transmissions.
The result was the perfect sleeper performance car in an unassuming Passat body. The compact, yet powerful W8 engine delivered 270 HP and 270 lb-ft of torque. And that was enough to propel the somewhat heavy Passat to just over six-second 0 to 60 mph times.
Mazda Mazdaspeed 6
The Mazdaspeed6 was an affordable performance car Mazda disguised as an economy family four-door. Under the hood is a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 270 HP. And that engine sends its power to all four wheels over an intelligent AWD system and six-speed manual transmission. Mazda hid the Mazdaspeed 6 advanced hardware under their regular body style. The only difference is the grille and a few subtle modifications.
Volvo 850 T5 R
Volvo was always known for its boxy cars and the ability to surprise drivers with unexpected performance. And the 850 T5 R was exactly that. It was a boxy car, available as sedan or wagon, but with a powerful engine. Underneath the body, there was a 2.3-liter turbocharged five-cylinder that pumped out 250 HP. Although it isn’t much by today’s standards, it was a lofty number for the mid-90s. In fact, it gave the 850 R a respectable 0 to 60 mph time of 6.5 seconds.
Ford Taurus SHO
The Super High Output or SHO was a performance model in the Taurus lineup. It featured a Yamaha-sourced 3.0-liter high revving V6 that delivered 220 HP. Today, that doesn’t sound like much, but for 1989, it was an impressive number.
And it showed in the performance with just 6.7 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. On the outside, the Taurus SHO looked like any other regular Taurus. In fact, only the badge on the back revealed its true nature.
Honda Accord V6
The 2007 Honda Accord V6 may not look like a performance sedan, but in fact, it is. Under the hood is a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 244 HP. Drivers could get it with a five-speed manual, but 2007 was the last year they could opt for that. This combo proved to be quite capable with 0 to 60 mph times of just seven seconds, which is respectable even today.
Alfa Romeo 164 3.0 V6
You could buy brand a new Alfa Romeo 164 in America until 1995 when this brand left the states only to return in 2009. However, the last model Alfa they sold in the U.S. was the gorgeous 164 Sedan with its famous Busso 3.0-litre V6 engine delivering 210 HP.
It has a 0 to 60 mph time of around 7.5 seconds and makes a fantastic sound. Also, with its precise manual gearbox and great handling, the 164 is a rare and forgotten performance sedan from the early ’90s.
Lexus IS 300
The first generation IS 300 was a true driver’s car especially if you ordered it with the manual transmission and limited-slip differential. That combo turned the Lexus IS 300 into a true BMW fighter. The 3.0-liter straight six delivered 217 HP, which was more than enough for a thrilling ride. Today, those 1998 to 2003 IS models are inexpensive, but you should go for the manual with the LSD version.
Nissan Altima SE-R
You wouldn’t expect the Altima to be a performance car, but when it is an Altima SE-R, it is. This special version was a limited production model featuring the 260 HP engine. It had a stiffer suspension and improved performance as well as different and elegant exterior details. The result was a capable sedan with a 0 to 60 mph time of around six seconds, which for 2005, was impressive.
Ford Contour SVT
The Contour SVT is an interesting although a bit forgot performance sedan. Ford introduced it in the late ’90s, it seemed to be the younger brother of the Taurus SHO. Ford installed a 2.5 V6 that produced 200 HP along with many performance upgrades.
Also, they gave it a stiffer suspension, special tires and many other upgrades. The result was a competent sleeper sedan with a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of just over seven seconds. And that is good for the late 20th century.
Dodge Spirit R/T
The Spirit an economy model Dodge introduced in the late ’80s. But then Dodge presented the R/T version and things got interesting. The base 2.2-liter four-cylinder developed only 90 HP got a turbo upgrade. And it was able to pump out an impressive 224 HP with 218 lb-ft of torque.
For the 1991 model year, this was a lot of power coming from an economy car. The newfound power raised the performance to a whole new level. The Spirit R/T could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds, which was Corvette territory in 1991.
BMW 330i ZHP
The E46 is slowly becoming a classic with those M3 prices going stratospheric. However, there is a hidden gem in the range. It is the 330i ZHP in a four-door guise. With a 3.0-liter straight-six engine that produces 235 HP and a six-speed manual transmission, this BMW is a proper fast and capable sedan.
The ZHP package includes a stiffer suspension and several other improvements. Interestingly, some drivers say the 330i ZHP is really an M3 with two more doors.
Mitsubishi Galant VR4
The Galant VR4 is an interesting car. Although it is a proper sedan, this model could be a rally car for the road and a real homologation special. They equipped it with a 2.0-liter turbo engine, 241 HP and intelligent all-wheel drive.
The Galant VR4 is an extremely capable sedan. But it looks outdated from the outside due to its â80s styling. However, the car is potent with a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of just over six seconds.
SAAB 9-3 Turbo X
SAAB presented the Turbo X in 2007 as a limited edition of their 9-3 compact sedan. Apart from the special black paint and unique wheels, the Turbo X came with a 2.8-liter V6 engine. It pumped out 280 HP and had an advanced intelligent all-wheel-drive system. Customers got the choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
They limited the production to 2,000 examples with just 600 going to U.S. buyers. However, those 600 lucky buyers got a special Swedish machine capable of achieving 60 mph in less than six seconds.
In the late ’90s, Cadillac unveiled the Seville STS, for Seville Touring Sedan. And it was a competent car. It got 300 HP from its 4.6-liter V8 engine to produce a magnetic ride. Also, it came with a plush interior and numerous other features. And all that made the STS a true competitor to the Mercedes and BMW.
For a while, the Cadillac STS was the most powerful production front wheel car they ever built. And although Cadillac designed it for comfort, this Caddy could accelerate to 60 mph in seven seconds, which is a respectable number.
Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup
Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup
This obscure Volkswagen model was a homologation special for the Jetta TDI Cup racing series they established in 2008. The idea was to have a racing series with identical cars in the form of diesel-powered Jettas. All of them had to come with DSG automatic gearboxes, stiffer suspensions and the same 170 HP diesel engines.
Volkswagen also sold some of these roadgoing cars. They provide a surprisingly good performance, mainly due to that fast DSG gearbox and massive 385 lb-ft of torque.
These are the top 20 ordinary but fast performance sedans you probably forgot. And the good news is, most of them are available to buy and still cruising the roadways today. But you should act fast since it is only a matter of time before their prices soar.