Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3
Back in the late â60s, Mercedes took a big leap forward by introducing the 300 SEL 6.3 version of their luxury sedan, the W109. This was the first power sedan for the company since the mighty 6.3-liter V8 engine with 250 HP and 434 lb-ft of torque sat under the hood. From the outside, this formal Mercedes sedan looked ordinary apart from its twin tailpipes. However, when you kicked the accelerator pedal, you could leave a Porsche 911 in the dust.
The Iso car company produced some of the most elegant and powerful Italian GT models of the â60s like the Rivolta and Iso Grifo. But in the late ’60s, Iso entered the luxury sedan market with the fantastic Iso Fidia. It was a big four-door sedan with a Chevrolet V8 engine and a luxurious interior.
However, the Fidia was more of a high-speed cruiser than a four-door sports car with around 300 HP on tap. Also, it came with a precisely sorted suspension and brakes, so it could hold its own on twisty roads, as well.
Monteverdi 375/4 Sedan
Monteverdi was a Swiss company that produced bespoke sports and luxury cars using Chrysler engines. However, in 1970, owner Peter Monteverdi wanted to compete with Maserati, Mercedes and Jaguar by introducing a sublime sedan they called the 375/4. Interestingly, they designed the car in Italy.
It featured a long and low silhouette, perfect comfort and a big American 440 V8 they rated at 375 HP; hence, the name. With such firepower under the hood, the Monteverdi was one fast sedan capable of reaching speeds well over 140 mph.
Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9
The mid-70s were dark times for performance models all around the globe. The muscle cars were almost gone thanks to the tighter restrictions. They reduced the output of sports cars to ridiculously low levels, making performance sedans almost extinct. However, in 1974, Mercedes introduced the 450 SEL 6.9.
The car continued the idea the 300 SEL 6.3 started several years prior. However, the 6.9 was a bigger, heavier, more advanced model with impressive performance hidden in a formal body. And with 268 HP and 405 lb-ft of torque, it was one of the most powerful automobiles you could buy in the mid-70s.
BMW M5 E28
The â80s brought a slight rise in power and liberty to experiment even further. So, in 1984, BMW made motoring history with the introduction of the first M5 model. They named it the E28 and it was the ultimate version of the popular 5-Series sedan. Under the hood was a highly tuned 3.5-liter straight six engine producing 265 to 288 HP, depending on the market.
Although this doesn’t sound like much today, for the mid-80s, it was unbelievable power. And better yet, they paired it with an M-Performance tuned suspension and brakes. And all that turned this docile family sedan into a proper sports car.
Back in the early â90s, Mercedes produced the successful but docile W124 E-Class. But the elegant sedan was famous for its comfort and refinement rather than its performance and speed. But the team of crazy German engineers wanted to change that. So, in 1991, they presented the mighty 500E model. This was a high-performance version of their main sedan featuring a different drivetrain, suspension, brakes and engine.
Interestingly, the 500E was so hard to produce, Mercedes asked Porsche to assemble the car. The most impressive feature of the 500E was the 5.0-liter V8 engine that developed 326 HP. That may not be an impressive number by today’s standards, but it was a crazy figure for the early â90s, especially in a formal sedan. The 500 E could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just six seconds, which was almost as fast as a Ferrari 348.
Ford Taurus SHO
Back in the late â80s, Ford caused a revolution with the introduction of the Taurus model. This was the first truly modern American sedan that ditched the heavy ladder-type chassis and big engines. In fact, Ford went in a different direction with a sleek and aerodynamic body, new technology and front wheel drive.
The Taurus sold in volumes, but the most interesting is the famed SHO version. The SHO or Super High Output was a performance model in the Taurus lineup. It featured a Yamaha-sourced 3.0-liter high revving V6 that produced 220 HP. Today, this doesn’t sound like much, but in 1989 it was a lofty figure. Best of all, the performance was outstanding with just 6.7 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph.
Maserati 430 BiTurbo
The BiTurbo lineup of cars started with the 222 model, which was a handsome two-door coupe. And it continued with those 420 and 430 sedans they built on the same base. Even though this was an extremely boxy car, it still looks cool. Even today, this elegant Italian still turns heads.
Despite the problematic quality, those compact but luxurious sedans were fast, capable cars that had the performance of an â80s exotic with the comfort of a four-door. The late versions of 430 4V sedans produced up to 270 HP with 0 to 60 mph times of fewer than seven seconds.
Dodge Spirit R/T
The Spirit was a Dodge economy model they introduced in the late â80s. But, then Dodge presented the R/T version and things got interesting. The base 2.2-liter four-cylinder which only developed only 90 HP got a turbo upgrade to put out an impressive 224 HP and 218 lb-ft of torque.
For the 1991 model year, this was a hefty power level from an economy car. Although it was fast, it retained the â80s boxy look. But that is what makes it an even more surprising performance sedan and unusual Mopar performance sedan.
These are 20 of the best classic performance sedans ever made. While some are still famous, others are just forgotten models. But all of these sedans set the stage for big performance cars that are affordable and look like everyday family sedans.