By on December 20, 2016

subaru forester

Unassuming. Conservative. Mild in appearance. All of these terms — and more — perfectly fit the Subaru Forester XT I picked up yesterday morning, bitching and moaning all the while about the miserable cold weather.

Boxy. Tall. Big greenhouse. Yes, the slab-sided Forester’s proportions haven’t changed much since arriving on these shores in the late ’90s. Even the Burnished Bronze Metallic paint is reminiscent of the ubiquitous early-2000s metallic gold of my friend’s long-gone ’02. No aggressive fender bulges, diagonal character lines, coupe-like roofline or ground effects package for this little rig. That simply wouldn’t suit the Forester’s staid-but-capable persona.

Cranking the seat warmer to 11, I drove off. Man, I thought, this thing goes like stink.

Okay, there’s faster, far more svelte rigs out there, but those models at least look fast. The Forester, bless its heart, not so much. Still, with a 0-60 mile-per-hour time of 6.1 seconds and all-wheel traction, I can see this vehicle serving a tall, cold glass of emasculation to an unsuspecting Civic or Golf fanboy.

A friend once told a story of his childhood in a less-than-glamorous corner of Quebec. Undercover cops in the 1980s, he said, hit the streets in old Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volares outfitted with older, easier-breathing 340 cubic-inch V8s sourced from wrecked Dusters and Swingers. Incognito to the extreme, the hopped-up F-bodies could keep up with anything (assuming advanced rust didn’t tear the body apart above 80 mph).

Let’s assume the story’s true. Both models could also be had with a police package and 360 c.i.d. V8, but we can’t call either variant an unadulterated civilian car. Still, there’s plenty of unassuming factory models with real power lurking under the hood — models seen most often with geriatric drivers behind the wheel, coasting along at 5 mph below the limit.

Which brings us to the question: what models count as go-fast sleepers? What overlooked vehicles harbor a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality?

[Image: Subaru]

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168 Comments on “QOTD: What’s the Stealthiest ‘Fast’ Car?...”


  • avatar
    OldManPants

    “Boxy. Tall. Big greenhouse.”

    I’ll take that, you guys keep the fast.

    “a tall, cold glass of emasculation”

    This meme is so common that I can only assume there really *are* some males who need an assemblage of metal, plastic & a skosh of glass to make them feel male.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d feel emasculated just for driving the Forester.

      For stealth, I’d go with a 2012 Impala LS with the 3.6 V6 or the SS version. The Pontiac G8 would be a good stealth car as well.

      • 0 avatar
        VW4motion

        Driving a Forester causing you to be emasculated could be sign for something that runs a little deeper.

        • 0 avatar

          Deeper only if I felt the need to emasculate other fanboys.

          Just never liked the Forester. I think it’s a tall Outback in much the same way as a AMC Pacer looked like a tall Hornet.

          • 0 avatar
            notapreppie

            But why do you feel like your male organ falls off if you drive one? I feel like there’s some Freudian material here.

          • 0 avatar
            VW4motion

            Notapreppie, I highly doubt he will comprehend your thoughts. For some, stating stupid things shows shows a sense of strength. And you are correct many people think particular autos makes them feel weak. Which in turn makes them weak. Hilarious stuff.

          • 0 avatar
            SilverCoupe

            MWebbRambler,
            Wondering if you meant the AMC Eagle? other possibilities might be the Concord or the Spirit. The Pacer was tall (and wide), but certainly did not resemble any other car on the road.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s all Freud unless you’re a Jungian. And if I were to follow either’s line of reasoning, I would argue that that both believed that the unconscious self or id acts out in the same ways it felt threatened. Therefore, if one feels the need to “a tall, cold glass of emasculation” to another driver, then that person must have in some way felt emasculated.

            @SilverCoupe: You’re right, the Concord/Eagle is a more apt comparison.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s all Freud unless you’re a Jungian. And if I were to follow either’s line of reasoning, I would argue that that both believed that the unconscious self or id acts out in the same ways it felt threatened. Therefore, if one feels the need to “a tall, cold glass of emasculation” to another driver, then that person must have in some way, at some point, felt emasculated in a similar manner.

            @SilverCoupe: You’re right, the Concord/Eagle is a more apt comparison.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            Believe it or not, totally different than an Outback. Different chassis and driving dynamics. Taller yes.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        “I’d feel emasculated just for driving the Forester.”

        I’ve heard that some fairly masculine women drive these things… :-)

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      Most emasculating car? A yellow New Beetle with flower inserts in the taillights? A Dodge Omni that isn’t a Shelbyized version? A Toyota RAV4 (highest percentage of female owners the last time I checked?

      I’m fine with driving 3-row crossovers or minivans – the latter just shows I’m practical and probably needed the extra space (vs. a 3-row CUV) for 4×8′ drywall panels for my next home-improvement project. In all, I am secure enough in my masculinity not to need to prove anything with the car I drive.

      • 0 avatar
        amoore100

        Well I can tell you that the Honda Odyssey is definitely a man’s car around these parts, especially among the Taiwanese crowd. My divorced grandfather has one, my friend’s father has one, and my AP Statistics teacher also has one. Not sure why they all DD minivans given that they all work in engineering/tech fields, but I guess having too much practicality is never a bad thing. Heck, my dad’s DD is a V70 estate since my mom needs our Odyssey to be the kid shuttle.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “there really *are* some males who need an assemblage of metal, plastic & a skosh of glass to make them feel male.”

      Heh… yea… good thing I don’t know anyone like that…

      :-/

    • 0 avatar
      ericb91

      My cousin recently picked up a 2017 Forester Premium (with the XT motor). He just sold his bought-new 2003 Acura RSX Type-S with something like 176k miles.

      The reason he bought it? He fell in love with a woman who has an 8-year old daughter. Now he’s basically that girl’s father. Nothing emasculating about buying a practical vehicle for your family.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    2GR-FE Camry LE. Preferably baby blue with a few missing wheel covers and a Camry dent.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I’d lump the previous gen Rav4 V6s into that category as well. Put some family stickers and soccer team stickers on the back for maximum effect.

      3.5L Altima, same concept as the Camry. I think you can still get it in a shade of beige.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        For awhile the V6 RAV4 was the fastest Toyota you could buy.

        • 0 avatar
          nels0300

          Yeah, for one model year, 2006, the RAV4 was the fastest Toyota. That’s pretty funny.

          • 0 avatar
            sutherland555

            My manager bought a V6 RAV4 in baby blue to replace his aging Caravan. It’s perfect for him, he likes to drive fast and it’s completely unassuming.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          Except that the larger engine made an already inherently nose-heavy design even worse. So it was clumsy.

          Practically no one knew that off the line to 40mph the peer Suzuki Grand Vitara V6, due to lower gearing, was faster. Been there done that. Much to the Rav4 driver’s surprise.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Well the Grand Vitara must feel like it hits a brick wall at 40mph because the 0-60 time is about 8.5 seconds to the Rav4’s 6.3. I somehow have a hard time believing the Vitara is still ahead at 40mph given how big the difference is by 60mph.

            The noseheavy comment is definitely valid, and I personally would prefer the Suzuki simply for its better offroad chops, but as far as sleepers go, the Rav4 V6 is one, the Grand Vitara, not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        My BIL wanted a family car/small SUV so I pointed him at the RAV4 noting that the 4-cyl had serious oiling issues, told him to get the V6. I never knew that it was quite the sleeper until I had to borrow it. I was genuinely surprised at how well it’d storm off the line and keep chugging.
        The only other surprise was my Mom’s Santa Fe with a V6; while not quite as snappy as the RAV4, it certainly would scoot if you got on it hard.
        I wonder if the normal buyers of these things ever really know just how well they can nip through traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      It’s hilarious that a rapid-escalation horsepower war was being waged in the midsize sedan sector, and that for a while the clear victor was a baby blue beluga-snouted no-frills Camry LE.

  • avatar
    LastCar

    SS!

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      It doesn’t sound stealthy. The exhaust is as loud as any sedan on the market save maybe the E63 AMG (I haven’t heard the new one yet).

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Definitely – Chevy SS. Looks like Malibu when not accelerating. I guess, BMW M was the car that did that. Taurus SHO. Civic Si?

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      SS is the first one that came to my mind.
      I want one, I’ve test driven several, I’ve nearly bought a couple. But it still takes me a second to be sure it’s an SS when I see one driving down the road.
      Normal people have no idea it exists, much less what it is.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      Definitely the SS.

      I don’t know how people on here say its not stealthy.

      99.9% of the population will think its a Malibu. that to me is definitely sleeper. 99.8% of the population will assume its slower than a V6 Camaro or a 4 cylinder mustang.

      That is definition of a sleeper in my book…

      Although if your talking about the “tuning scene”, a sleeper would be a car where the owner tried to make it look base and its really highly modified, but there’s nothing closer than the SS as a factory sleeper.

      Even the NAME is a sleeper. Can you even google “SS” without getting 98% of your returns as Camaros and Cobalts and everything else?

      The car is such a sleeper it doesn’t even have a name. The SS is a trim level on every other car, but its just the “SS Sedan”.

      It runs 12s in the quartermile. It looks like a Malibu. Even a car buff wouldn’t notice one driving through a parking lot. Even a car buff wouldn’t notice one sitting next to them at a light. Yes, if you STARE at an SS you can “tell” its an SS, but most people don’t even know the SS exists.

      I personally would die for an SS that wasn’t a sleeper. I couldn’t bring myself to spend 50 grand for a malibu. If I’m going to drive a fun and fast car, I want everyone to know it.

      So if I’d be embarassed to drive a super fast, awesome car- it MUST be a sleeper.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    That was one of the best things about my old Forester XT, which left us mostly because the EJ255 in it was only slightly better emissions-wise than one of those de-smogged Volares; since suffering a poisoning incident a couple of years ago, my wife experiences a severe physical reaction to unburned hydrocarbons.

    Styling is so extroverted in today’s market that it’s hard to think of many examples. But here are a few more that come to mind:

    – Acura RDX
    – Honda Accord V6 Sedan
    – Infiniti QX50
    – Lincoln MKC 2.3T
    – Lincoln MKZ 3.0T
    – Nissan Altima 3.5
    – Toyota Camry V6

    Another good candidate, the Benz E400 sedan, was recently disappeared and replaced with the far more aggressive-looking E43 AMG.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Prior gen Avalon ~2007. Tubby, slab-sided and geriatric in appearance, but that 2GR-FE was a revelation when it debuted.

    Now, just about any generic sedan with the uplevel engine is surprisingly quick. We’re spoiled for horsepower.

    Ford F150 Ecoboost and Silverado with 6.2L V8–I’m not accustomed to something that big moving that rapidly.

    Chevy SS probably takes the cake though. It’s handsome, but very conservative and represents the biggest delta between innocuous styling and underhood rampaging.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Chevy SS by far is the stealth performer, it has low quality rental Malibu looks and a great engine.

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Doesn’t the SS have the fake hood scoops and obnoxious exhaust note. Not to stealthy.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve_S

      It looks faster than an Accord V6 sure but its a real performance sedan yet it has the looks of a Malibu or anything else you’d get at the Hertz counter.

      If you want some completely pedestrian that happens to be quick off the line then anything with the 3.5l Ecoboost will do.

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        The 16 SS also added the dual mode exhaust from the Corvette/Camaro, so it’s not as aggressive at idle but it is the opposite of stealthy when accelerating hard. As others have said, it undoubtedly elicits more “what the f is that??” reactions than anything else for sale today, so maybe surprising is a better word than stealthy

        • 0 avatar
          never_follow

          That’s the definition of a sleeper though. Nobody knows ’til you hit the loud pedal and you’re off like a bandit.

          I suppose it isn’t stealth when you’re trumpeting past the radar, but at that point your goose is already cooked.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I’ll second the Avalon vote, except mine is a beige 2015. I love this 2GR-FE, hate to see Toyota retiring it soon.

    Those V6 Rav4s were quick, too.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    1. Ford Edge with EB 2.7
    2. Forester XT
    3. Camry v6
    4. Accord v6
    5. Any EB F150

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      The Taurus SHO/EcoBoost MKS are very quick. The Interceptor version is the quickest accelerating police car (among actual purpose-built police cruisers, not a seized Corvette lol).

      The MKS is more stealthy. The SHO has specific wheels and other differences that try to help it not blend in with, say, my mom’s SEL (which is fine from a marketing standpoint, but not for a “sleeper” look, at least not to anyone somewhat into cars). The EcoBoost MKS looks the same as the 3.7L model I believe, except for badging of course.

  • avatar
    ArialATOMV8

    BMW E38 740Li = old man’s car that is classy but quick

    Buick Enclave (1st gen) makes you rethink old GM.

    03 Highlander V6: boring grocery hauler dying for you to floor it. Gunning it becomes addicting and car coaxes you to go faster.

    100 series Land Cruiser: looks ordinary but its V8 packs a great exaust note and extrordinary pickup

    Bmw E65 760Li: another luxary saloon that(when not in shop being serviced)is slow off line but shines in its higher gears. once passed a E46 M3 driver on highway scratching head about its higher speed gearing.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “100 series Land Cruiser: looks ordinary but its V8 packs a great exaust note and extrordinary pickup”

      100 Series with the 4.7L definitely has decent get-up-and-go, but the 200 series that followed it with the 5.7L is a real brute. 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds as I recall.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        The 100 series only felt quick if you were trading in your 3FE powered 80 series. I could see the 200 having a little more punch but those rigs are heavy.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          “having a little more punch”

          They dropped the 0-60 time from about 9 seconds in the 100 series to an instrumented 6.5s. Heavy or not, the 3UR motor out of the Tundra is a beast.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            To bad Toyota never found a home for that V8 in something pony car sized. I’ve always wondered how Import fans would react to a Mustang and Camaro fighter?

            My gut instinct tells me that they have their heads way to far up their collective turbocharged inline six asses to ever fully appreciate a large displacement V8 in a modestly sized car.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            That is impressive. I am guessing that the fuel economy is still closer to my 1FZ-FE which is to say 11ish, but if you are buying a Land Cruiser you likely don’t care.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            raph just looking around at the raft of older UZ-motor swaps I see across the globe, into everything from old 4Runners like mine to Soviet Volgas, I think people definitely can see beyond the ubiquitous 2JZ and RB series turbo I6s.

            Volga 24 1UZ swap:
            youtu.be/h3ZARNKcLk0?t=29

            youtu.be/2nVoxl-uoYo?t=22

            UAZ Hunter UZ swap:
            youtu.be/E5Ha8UR7k74?t=405

            A ton of GAZ Gazelle delivery trucks with UZ swaps done by guys for pretty practical utilitarian purposes (some do lower powered 1JZ and 5VZ swaps too)

            A Gazelle with a 2JZ swap for flavor:
            youtu.be/vxEs3hHm_Lo?t=434

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            I saw a 1UZ-swapped MX83 Cressida at a car show a while back. The I6s are more popular since they were easier to come by as surplus JDM clips in the previous decade, and the turbo setups have a much higher horsepower ceiling for tuning.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      2006 Highlander hybrid was the quickest Highlander @ 6.9s
      2008 Land Cruiser was the quickest Land Cruiser @ 6.4s

      both not as fast as v6 RAV4

  • avatar
    Shockrave Flash Has Crashed

    We had 2008 Saturn Aura with the 3.6. I loved to romp on that thing. Sadly, GM just can’t make things that last.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    Pentastar Avenger
    V6 Impala (previous gen)

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “V6 Impala (previous gen)”

      The crazy TALL gearing on those totally kills the potential of the 3.6L IMO. The Epsilon Impala that followed feels (and is) sprightlier in spite of a curb weight increase, all thanks to shorter gearing in the first few gears.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The W-Impalas are slower than they should be given power-to-weight. Tall gearing is part of it but weird ratio spacing is too. It’s like you have a four-speed automatic with a couple of extra gears clustered at the top end.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        It’s very possible that they were limited to (unsuccessfully) prevent damage to the 4T60/65.

        I knew a few people with SC’ed Grand Prixes and one fellow with a V8-equipped GXP. All of them, to a fault, have had to replace their transaxles.

  • avatar

    Any Volvo with the old 6-cylinder T6 and a Polestar tune.

    The standard V60 with the T6 somehow musters a 4.9 0-60 time. Meanwhile, the truly sleeper beast that is the (now defunct) XC70 could get its brute mass from 0-60 in an impressive 6.6 seconds.

    The XC70 hasn’t got a sporting bone in its body, but at that pace (ideally in brown), it would be a quality sleeper.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      You could even say any current Volvo with the Polestar tune. Even the base T5 V60 will do a 6 second 0-60 and 15 second quarter mile. Nobody expects that from a safe, sensible family car.

    • 0 avatar
      Sjalabais

      The old R models are very fast, too. Unless painted in gold, turquoise or yellow, they remain unassuming.

      The 6.1s 0-60 of the Forester above were a time achieved by sports cars when I grew up…

    • 0 avatar
      Troggie42

      Hell, even my old 740 Turbo is no slouch, although I will admit it has a boost controller hooked up to it and a cone intake, but I’ve had it running low 15s in the quarter quite consistently, and for a car that’s 99% stock from 1990, that’s pretty respectable IMO.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ll go a little retro:

    1. Saab 93 Viggen (151 MPH top speed)
    2. Buick Regal T-type (Edmunds tested a well-maintained ’87 Grand National in 2012 and it turned in acceleration times comparable to today’s Accord V6, so in the late 80s it was mental)
    3. Pre 2009 Jaguar XJ with V12 or supercharger. (I think they are faster than their stately appearance leads on.)

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      The last V12 was 1997 and they were not super fast off the line. Around 6.5 seconds or so 0-60. Where they excelled was was the 50-80 sprint for passing.

      The 2004-09 XJ’s were aluminium bodied and in supercharged form were quite fast. I think the XJR was right around 5 seconds.

    • 0 avatar
      GS 455

      In 1987 you could even order a Buick Regal Limited with the turbo package so you could have a landau vinyl roof, your choice of color, bench seat, with the SFI intercooled turbo V6. The only clues to it’s potential would be the turbo bulge hood, aluminum wheels and 215/65 15 Eagle GTs.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        I remember noticing the unbundling of the intercooled turbo V6 in 1987 and strongly considered buying a Regal Limited with the intercooled turbo V6. Burgundy red inside and out with landau vinyl roof, opera lights, red velour loose-cushion velour bench seat, column shifter, and nearly all the available options. Basically a car that looked like my grandmother’s ride but could blow the doors off of Corvettes and Porsches. I decided against it – too impractical compared even to a Mustang 5.0 hatchback, and no manual transmission. Also a bit out of my easily affordable price range. I never would have dreamed that that car would sharply escalate in value almost immediately. Over 1,000 Turbo Regal Limiteds were sold in 1987 – I’m guessing most or all were special orders – so evidently many others had the same idea as me.

        The Skyhawk Limited J-car could be ordered similarly with the rare optional turbo mill and a 5-speed stick in any body style – also very fast for its era and equally stealthy, albeit loaded with torque steer. As with the Regal, the turbo required the T package with tire and suspension upgrades, which in the Skyhawk also included red dash lighting.

        1987 was the last year General Motors offered a la carte options. 50+ item factory option lists were not unusual, and you could mix and match to your heart’s content. Buying a new car has never been as enjoyable since.

  • avatar
    maxxcool7421

    For me right now that is my 2011 Taurus SHO. Boring grey, boring wheels, big. semi-ugly in a “i like ugly cars” kind of way. And with 600$ in a SCT tuner, 3bar and .028 gapped plugs does a confirmed dataloged 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, and a 1/4 mile 13.0 flat on Cheveron 92 octane in a 4500 pound slab ‘not-quite-ford-mobile’.

    I can’t tell you how many times the “right lane ends” crowd at the stop light look stupefied when I quietly spool to 2000 rpm and flip the brake and gas and launch hard enough to rip one wheel lose before traction pushes power back and chirp second gear in their faces.

    this seems ESPECIALLY true for MOPAR owners. Every R/T owning nub always jets up to the right lane at the stop light to floor it and get back over. Those are my favorite trollings. :)

    • 0 avatar
      nels0300

      Ah, the “right lane ends” crowd.

      I love those guys, you must have a lot of fun with that SHO.

      I’ve only done it a few times, but my favorite was an RX8 that I stomped on in my Camry. He had his girlfriend with him too.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        My favorite “lane ends” story has to be in my 1994 Aerostar Sport vs. some little ricer Honda. Yeah, a minivan just put your eBay fart can and AutoZone custom intake in the “will someone let me in?” status. I can’t remember what was behind me, but they kept the gap closed so he had to damn near stop to get in.
        I want to say it was a later 90s Regal GS, which is another great sleeper. Looks like a Century, goes like a Trans AM.

        No, the Aerostar wasn’t a sleeper, but the low end torque and cat-less exhaust (Canadian model, maybe that’s why?) made it quick off the line for a minivan. 3800 TranSport was too, too bad it was goofy looking and far more fragile.

      • 0 avatar
        maxxcool7421

        Man I STILL want a good manual RX8 for drifting… But with a 4yr old that’s a tough sell for a family car. :P

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “the ‘right lane ends’ crowd”

      FWIW, I only do this to have fun with the other driver.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I had a 2015 300C Hemi that was pretty stealthy. It was a weirdly optioned car in that it was plain looking Granite, with the 18″ wheels, no panoramic roof, non-luxury interior but had the glorious Hemi/8spd, upgraded Harmon Cardon sound (also glorious), and safety tech II with the lane keep assist and auto cruise with full stop. Totally rental spec looking car, but would run 8s in the 1/8th mile and upset a lot of old hot rodders who insisted that it was the “electronics” that made the car able to hook and go fast (even though I pulled the ABS module logic fuse).

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Agreed, many of the Dodge/Chrysler sedans have a HEMI under the hood yet they look Plain Jane.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Especially the 300 where there are few if any visual cues to let you know what engine it has from the outside, and the take rate of the V8 is so low with the advent of the 3.6L. On the 300S, the V8 cars get a spoiler where the V6 cars don’t, but on the C it’s hard to tell at all. They even have a quiet exhaust.

        I’d like to find that granite one I had and supercharge it.

        • 0 avatar
          MLS

          I don’t think there are any visual cues that distinguish V8-powered 300Cs from their 3.6L stablemates. Inside, the shift paddles and sport mode button are the only giveaways.

  • avatar
    Turbo Is Black Magic

    My current Golf R, black with standard Golf 17’s, no big stupid wings or scoops. A dealership non detectable piggy back JB1 tune and consistent 12.2 time slips over and over with 0-60 in the high 3’s thanks to a perfect launch control system.

    Just a boring looking hatchback.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      A buddy of mine has a Golf R in white. Not being a VW guy, it’s hard for me to pick it out from a normal GTI. With a tune, it’s legit fast.

    • 0 avatar
      swissfreek

      One of my buddies said: “the exhaust makes just enough noise that you know something’s different about this Golf if you’re listening.” I’m totally OK with that assessment. Most cars look faster than they are. Mine is decidedly the opposite. To everyone else it’s “just a gray Golf”.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      The Golf R was my first thought too, especially in a more muted color.

      I also would change the wheels from 18″/19″ to 17″ which is the smallest that will fit on the Golf R or performance-package GTIs.

      Turbo Is Black Magic, do you find the ride is any smoother with the 17s? Was that your prime reason using them, or was it stealthier looks or less chance of wheel damage? (or maybe you wanted to use the same wheels for summer and winter tires). And did the car originally come with 18″ or 19″ wheels?

      • 0 avatar
        Turbo Is Black Magic

        Car came with 19’s, cut two tires bad in the first month on Philly and NY pot holes. Went with lightweight 17’s with 245’s for the summer/ track set up and 225’s on Golf 17’s with winter tires for the miserable period. Ride is noticeably smoother on all but the worst roads… also I like sleepers. If I could get this drivetrain in a plain Golf sport wagon I would be in heaven.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Nice setup for bracket racing.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    The old Regal GS with the supercharged 3800. So much torque right off idle. Kind of the polar opposite of the 3.6 Impala, which is fast from a rolling start but sluggish off the line.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    I’ll give the aforementioned 300C and Golf R, as well as the GTI. It’s decently subtle these days. The MKS EB is pretty stealthy. Something like the SQ5 only has badging to tell you it’s got 354HP.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      +1 on the MKS, if only because such a huge percentage of MKS’s are airport limos with the base engine. Not that the naturally aspirated 3.7 V6 cars are slow in my world view.

      As 30-mile fetch notes above, practically every sedan with an upgraded engine, be it a 3.5ish V6 or a 2.0ish turbo I4 is fast these days.

      While it’s not as fast as its V6 RAV4 relative (RIP), I’m surprised by how quickly the NX 200t can go from “loafing off-boost in pseudo-Atkinson cycle” mode to “accelerating on-boost in Otto cycle” mode. I’d like to sample the 8AR-FTS in the IS platform.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’s such a pity that you can’t get a stick-shift in the turbocharged Forester. That was one of the draws of the original WRX-powered XT.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      One could argue that the CVT is actually an excellent partner for a turbocharged engine: it keeps it on boost at all times. But I agree, in terms of driving fun a manual would be just the ticket.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        What’s odd is that you can get a five-speed with the base Forester, but not with the turbocharged one.

        I’d imagine the base engine’s narrower powerband would benefit more from being CVT-only.

      • 0 avatar
        EAF

        x10!

        When I was serious about winning, I would often deploy my “no lift to shift” strategy. Change gears as quickly as possible while leaving the throttle mashed; it would help keep the turbo spooled – the down side was gearbox abuse.

        From this stand point, CVT & turbo are ideal partners.

        With regard to stealth; I never underestimate anything, today even your wife’s minivan can haul & is a threat.

  • avatar
    Malforus

    I am seeing a few references to the newer SHO but the original Ford Taurus SHO from 1995 could out accelerate the Mustang V8 of the time from a roll:
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/95/1st_Ford_Taurus_SHO_–_10-03-2009.jpg/280px-1st_Ford_Taurus_SHO_–_10-03-2009.jpg

  • avatar
    tlk

    FX50 / QX70 5.0

    Sure, both are out of production and neither looks particularly slow but both are much faster than a compact SUV has any business being…

    Exact numbers are hard to come by but the nearly 400 horse v8 should be in the low 5’s 0-60 and high 13s in the quarter.

    Handling is surprisingly lithe for a 4500 pound hunk of steel with a high-ish center of gravity. Unfortunately a glacially slow automatic sucks a lot of the fun out of the overall experience.

    Still, I keep threatening to run the wife’s car at the next test and tune night to firm up those numbers ;)

  • avatar
    make_light

    I have a 16 Forester XT. It’s fast and feels like a tank, the steering is nice and heavy which I prefer, and the CVT is not whiny at all. It’s also noisy. It seems they’ve fixed this for ’17, and I wish I had waited.
    But… the front seats on these things are miserable. It’s such a bummer, and inexcusable for a $30k+ car. The cushion is about as short as a bar stool, and there’s no side bolstering. Just about any car out there right now has a better seat than this I’d imagine.

  • avatar
    jhughes

    My wife has the ultimate sleeper – a Ford Flex EcoBoost. Mommymobile on the outside, 355hp twin turbo 3.5 V6 with AWD on the inside. We call it the SHO-wagon, because under the boxy exterior it’s essentially a Taurus SHO.

  • avatar

    The Altima with the 3.5 VQ motor is deceptive. I think it’s faster than the Maxima, or at least feels that way.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Base Mustang GT. :D

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    Not doing this for DW bait, I swear, but my V-6 Tempo was very quick. I surprised many “faster” cars with it. I beat the holy hell out of it. I went through front tires like my hooligan buddy did rear tires on his 5.0L 5spd 87 Mustang LX.

    They had sport bikes, and so we tested the Tempo, and it topped out at 127 mph (far beyond its 85 MPH spedo, although later I upgraded to the one-year-only 120 MPH unit, which I still have). That was 5500 RPM red line in third (top) gear.

    I was told the manual version was governed, but the only thing holding the automatic back is the red line. I wanted SO bad to swap a 5 speed SHO transaxle in it, but never got around to it.

    Its how quick it got there which was amazing. If you started off normal and just as it upshifts to 2nd, floor it. It will drop into first and it would spin the front tires and blast off like a rocket when it catches. Hold on, torque steer is a B¡tch.

    I scared the sh¡t out of a female co-worker once. She wanted to walk back from the store unless I promised not to do it again, lol.

    The car had the weakest cam of any Ford 3.0L Vulcan powered vehicle. If you put one in out of, say, a 2004-2007 Taurus, and a manual from a 88-95 SHO, oh man. Total sleeper.

    If I had disposable $$$$, I’d buy a basic automatic V-6 Tempo/Topaz and build it (5spd and cam swap, etc) for a competitive track day or something. I’ve never “tracked” but I bet it would be fun in that car.

    Or a 3800 swapped Oldsmobile Achieva. Maybe a supercharged one in an S/C coupe? If it would fit, it would be insanely fast.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      A 130hp Vulcan Tempo with a 3spd automatic…. “quick”?

      I think a GM A-body with the 3300 would stomp you out off the line.

      But yes you could probably pull ahead of an automatic Civic of the time, but probably not a manual one. A basic automatic 4cyl Camry might be a driver’s race, as would an Accord (a manual one would be quicker). Now with the 5spd to squeeze all the juices out of the poor Vulcan 3.0, yes I think a Tempo could probably be ‘sprightly.’

      • 0 avatar

        The A-body with the 3300 was a sleeper. The LG7 had all kinds of grunt and could blister tires when properly motivated. Unfortunately the transmission didn’t hold up to abuse.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        The car is very light, and the Vulcan has great low end torque. Is basically a stretched early FWD Escort platform with upgraded rear suspension and 150 lb/ft of torque at a pretty low RPM. Hondas of the era make nothing that low. A lot more than some automatic Civic DXs being driven by seniors to the early bird special fell victim to it.

        Car and Driver did call it a “mini-SHO” and it couldn’t possibly look any more sedate/slow in GL or LX trim, but yeah, I guess you’re right, I must be mistaken.

        From what I see, the 1990s A body 3300 had a 0-60 time of arounf 9.25-9.5 sec and what I could find on the V-6 Tempo (was on a Curbside Classic article): “..it yielded an entirely respectable 0-60 mph time of 7.8 seconds, and a quarter-mile run of 16.1 seconds at 85 mph.”

        It wasnt the standing start that impressed me, it was the rolling start, it was quick.

        I wish you could drive it before you passed judgement. Its quicker than the numbers suggest.

        But, oh that poor terrible 3.0L, even in this application making 30-35 hp more than the Mitsubishi/Chrysler 3.0L of the era, with none of the reliability and oil burning issues. Yep, so underpowered like when it debuted and had more hp than a V-8 Cadillac Touring Sedan that debuted the same year (a “sporty” Cadillac to compete with BMW lol). So awfully slow that it was still powering far heavier vehicles (Ranger, Gen 4 Taurus) 15 years after my Tempo was built. What a sorry slow overworked miserable engine that gets better MPG in my Taurus than a 4cyl Camry of the same year.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Note I’m referring specifically to the 3spd auto variant of yours. The fact that your street racing escapades focused on hapless old folks in automatic Civics trying to get to dinner is telling.

          I don’t doubt that with better gearing and less parasitic loss with a manual transmission, there is the potential there to break the sub-8 sec 0-60 barrier. A 3spd auto Tempo V6? I doubt it would even do a 10 sec 0-60, closer to 11 seconds if I had to posit a wild guess.

      • 0 avatar
        rocketrodeo

        They don’t call it the three-point-slow for nothing. The performance of a four, the economy of an eight. But nearly indestructible. I’ve put 177K on my Ranger so far and it barely dirties the oil between changes. 300K is pretty normal if you are lucky in the head gasket roulette.

        Tom Morana (in the GTA) is about the only source of go-fast products for this engine.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Did I miss it or has the Police Caprice been mentioned. All the SS goodness with none of the flash. My buddy has a work truck spec regular cab F150 with the 3.5 TT and a locker that will get off the line pretty good and has surprised a few takers.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    I have been playing on Ford’s web site building my own stealth vehicle
    F150 black XL regular cab 4×2
    5.0 engine, 6 speed, 101A, trailer tow package and locking rear axle
    then
    add some better wheels, do a mild drop, custom exhaust and cold air filter and a Roush Supercharger

    BAM a +650 hp sleeper work truck for $40k and cheap insurance!

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Surprised no one has mentioned the dual motor Teslas. Enthusiasts and even some knowledgable non car people might know they are “fast” but the average person’s conception of a fast car at a stop light is probably an older mustang, camaro, or BMW sedan. A sub 3 second 0-60 is so far removed from those cars that it’s the equivalent of some other sleepers vs the average CUV or pickup. Add the eerily quiet acceleration and I’d call that pretty stealthy

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      There you go.

      My Leaf was pretty quick 0-30, which Nissan even took pains to advertise. It could leap across an intersection more quickly than most cars. Most people thought it was a Versa.

      A BMW i3 is even quicker.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @SCE If you get the mod from Japan that allows the full 80kW right from 0, it’s a little quicker. Normally, there’s a limiter that only allows 60 kW when the car initially launches.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Any LS4 GM W-body.

    Yeah, I know, 3800 SC.

    But, LS motor.

    Most of these cars came with tame pushrod V6s and they all look pretty much the same, with the Impala SS looking especially rental car.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Just be aware that transmissions in those things are a time bomb.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        Yeah, I know, I was intrigued by those and looked at them a few years back.

        I saw a real clean silver Impala SS at a stoplight this summer, it had an exhaust and it sounded really nice.

        It was strange hearing that sound come from a generic looking Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Back when I was shopping two years ago, the Lacrosse Super and S80 V8 (another decent one for this list) were my original top choices until I read about all the various pricey driveline maladies that effect them.

      So I bought a new car. Which has had tons of electrical issues.

      Guess I should have held out for a GS460.

  • avatar
    RobbieAZ

    MB C450. Doesn’t have the tell-tale AMG quads and red brakes so it looks pretty much like a standard C-Class. But it really moves.

  • avatar
    B_C_R

    Stealth is one of the things I really liked about the Forester XT, but I wasn’t too nuts about the CVT, especially after driving the Honda Crosstour with the new V6 and new 6 speed auto. 0 to 60 on each car was pretty similar, so I ended up with the Crosstour. It looks just as ugly, doesn’t handle as well as the XT, but the V6 and auto combo is butter smooth and the car is much quieter as well.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    For full-on fast driving under stealth conditions, you need near silence so your right foot’s action doesn’t give away what you are doing.

    Electric cars, please queue up here….

  • avatar
    never_follow

    Older, but worth a mention are ur-S4’s. They look just like the normal, stodgy 100’s of the period, but are awd rockets with nothing but a tune. And if you keep self control and don’t uncork the 5 banger wail, it’s quiet to boot!

  • avatar
    thunderjet

    Well I’ve got two. My recently purchased 2017 Accord EX-L V6 is surprisingly fast in sport mode. It has plenty of power to embarrass many supposed “fast” cars. Plus it looks like your average family sedan so cops don’t bother you.

    Second is my 88 Thunderbird LX 5.0 (last of the Fox-body Thunderbirds). It’s got a warmed over 5.0/AOD combo making around 350hp at the crank. People get surprised looks when a big, almost 30 year old Thunderbird barks the tires on a downshift at 45 MPH. Plus the thing hits 60 in a little over 5 seconds while looking like an old man’s car. Fun times.

    • 0 avatar
      nels0300

      I really liked those fox body Thunderbirds.

      I had an LX 5.0L Mustang coupe, but always wanted to get a fox body Thunderbird with a built 5.0L and a manual transmission.

      Those turbo coupes were really good looking, especially compared to my boxy-as-hell LX Mustang coupe.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Agreed on the Turbo coupe, especially the last of the breed. Very handsome cars.

        Anyways speaking of fox car, the fox based LTD in either sedan or wagon form could be a serious damn sleeper.

        Would love to have the sedan with the drivetrain out of a wrecked Terminator coupled to that 5.2 crate engine Ford keeps teasing (based on GT350 V8 sans flat-plane crank and rated for 575 horsepower I believe).

        The Terminator IRS would bolt in but I believe to get it looking right would require a custom offset wheel.

        The manual trans would be a super easy conversion to do as well and the T56 would be plenty stout or just get the IRS and a Tremec TKO M5

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      In Sport Mode on bone-dry pavement, I’ve chirped ’em in 2nd, 3rd AND 4th. (Car starts out in 2nd.) Can do a 10-50mph pull on the roll without an upshift to 3rd!

      That T-Bird sounds like an excellent Q-Ship!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Chevy SS with the chrome delete option (actually it is a black out trim option but whatever) in white.

    Looks like a Malibu.

    If we go out of production. A 2008 Chevy Impala SS with the LS4. Slightly beaten? Even better. That is if the transmission doesn’t handgrenade when you stand on it.

  • avatar
    la834

    The SS was also one of the first cars I thought of. Other modern stealthy fast cars include the Accord coupe with the V6 and manual, and to a lesser extent the Accord V6 sedan which is only available with an automatic. Although sporty and distinctive, a Tesla Model S or X 100D with the Ludicrous Speed package is stealhy as sub-3-second 0-60 vehicles go.

  • avatar
    floating doc

    I love sleepers. Quick vehicles that don’t draw unwanted attention. My favorite was a 2000 Tacoma 4×4 I had with a v6, TRD Eaton supercharger and manual transmission.

    While it was likely only capable of a low to mid 14 second quarter mile, a full throttle launch in first gear/four high would pull a length or two on almost anything.

    Had a lot of fun with that truck.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    My car has to be among the fastest, stealthiest – 2012 Impala LTZ, 3.6, 6 speed tranny – fastest, most powerful car I have ever owned.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Zackman they’re definitely highway monsters, but the tall 1st gear really kills the potential of that 300hp LFX from a dig. Mind you it still gets to 60 in the low 6s so it is for sure a quick car.

      • 0 avatar
        Frylock350

        I thought the w-body cars were under 6 seconds to 60 with the LFX?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          No, and that’s the disappointing thing. Given the numbers (power to weight) it definitely should be able to, but the gearing just kills it. I guess we need to remember that these Impalas are more about comfortable relaxed cruising rather than street-light monsters, the installation of the LFX into the old body was more of a cost savings measure to unify their V6s into the 3.6L lineup and drop the OHV 3500/3900, which only the Impala used by that time.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I wish Toyota had gone mass-market with the 2GR-FE in the Corolla. I think they may have done some limited-production offerings, tragically.

    http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/862D9E1EFD475B6DCA2572E4000AB87E

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    I’d say the ultimate sleeper car is a Chevy SS. It looks mundane but is anything but under its skin.

    I’d also nominate the Silverado 6.2L and F150 3.5L. Both do 0-60 in under 6 seconds. And with 4×4 they both launch like a bat out of hell.

  • avatar
    vb9594

    2008 Lexus LS460. Non-descript enough to be invisible, yet its 380 hp V8 means you will usually see my taillights. You’ll also get to watch me flip it over when I try to make it corner.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I have one too, and it actually sticks pretty well (and gives up in a balanced way) if you put decent tires on it. You just have to have faith through the initial nautical-feeling body roll and lack of steering feel.

      • 0 avatar
        vb9594

        I was being semi-facetious. One of the biggest surprises for me with the car is I actually don’t think the body roll is all that bad. However, the lack of steering feel precludes this from being anything but a cruiser. But…it’s not nearly the marshmallow people think it is.

        That being said…what a cruiser! It’s nice to drive something that has an actual suspension.

  • avatar
    Carter Johnson

    R63 AMG. Minivan with 507 horsepower. 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. That gives me an idea….

  • avatar
    cutchemist42

    Buick Regal GS from the late 90s with the 3800 Supercharged engine.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    2017 Ford Fusion Sport. Wife approved, corporate lease approved, rental car anonymity, and a $400 tune away from a mid- to high-four-second 0-60. Also, magic suspension.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    2007 CTS-V. Mine is black on tan and, with four doors and a trunk, elicits zero interest from fart can A4s and Mustangs – until I stand on it. The odd guy knows what it is but he’s a rare one.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Before the latest horsepower war really took off, my ol’ 1994 Buick Roadmaster Limited with the tow package (3.08 gears instead of the stock 2.73) was one heck of a sleeper.

    Brown too!

    That LT1 made lots of power down low. 0-60 was supposed to be 6.9ish, which isn’t all that fast these days :(

    My old ’86 Monte Carlo SS was a bit of a “surprise” car. Of course there was nothing subtle about the looks. Since the SSs came with weedy 305s, no one expected a roller-cammed 355 with a beefed up transmission.

  • avatar
    desertsoldier22

    Last generation V-6 RAV-4’s. 14-second 1/4 miles…soccer mom styling. You would never know the same engine lurking in a Lotus Evora was sitting under the hood.

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