They’re the complete opposite of sleepers: cars that look fast, but aren’t.
You can’t blame an automaker for wanting to design a car that looks fast, even if it doesn’t have what it takes under the hood. But some cars are so stylish and sporty-looking that it can be surprising to find out just how sluggish they are.
SEE ALSO: 10 Speedy Sleepers Under $20,000
So we decided to take a look around and pick out the top 10 cars that look fast, but you would just be surprisingly disappointed once you get behind the steering wheel. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.
If you see a Porsche badge on a vehicle, it’s perfectly understandable that you would believe it packs plenty of performance under the hood. But that’s really not the case with the Porsche Macan, which looks fast for an SUV. But here’s the thing, the standard model does the 60-mph deed in 6.0 seconds and has a top speed of 144 mph, making it slow by Porsche standards. The entry-level Cayenne is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 261 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, which might sound like enough, but it really isn’t if you consider how heavy it is. If you really want to go fast in a Macan, the S or GTS will do the trick.
Hyundai once offered the Tiburon, another car that looked faster than it really was. That car’s spirit lives on in the current Elantra. In fact, the base Elantra uses an engine similar in size and power output to the original Tiburon—which debuted in 1997. The Elantra’s naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter spits out 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft, and it all funnels through a continuously variable transmission. That puts it near the bottom of the compact class in terms of power. If you want some oomph to match those dramatic looks, you’ll need to step up to the warm N Line, or genuinely hot, 276-horsepower Elantra N.
Mazda’s Kodo design language has resulted in some very attractive, sporty-looking cars and the MX-30 is no exception. The funky little EV crossover looks like nothing else on the road, but its sleek styling makes it appear much faster than it is. With an 80.9-kW motor drawing power from a 33.5-kWh battery, the MX-30 produces just 143 hp. It has a healthy 200 lb-ft, but that isn’t enough to get the MX-30 up to 60 mph in much less than 10 seconds. That’s a bold choice for the Zoom Zoom brand.
Wait, what’s a minivan doing here? Everyone knows they’re not fast, right? Yes and no. The previous Toyota Sienna was a low-key speedster, capable of cracking 60 mph in under seven seconds thanks to a powerful V6 engine. The new model is styled after Japanese bullet trains, but swaps out the thirsty V6 for a fuel-efficient four-cylinder hybrid setup. The Sienna is now the pokiest minivan, as the rest of the field has stuck to V6 power. You’ll still pass ’em all though—just at the gas station.
We’re not trying to pick on Toyota here, but the C-HR needs to be on this list. The dramatic styling isn’t to everyone’s taste, but we’re fans of it here at AutoGuide. What we aren’t fans of, however, is the sole powertrain option: a 2.0-liter engine producing a shrug-worthy 144 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque, all funnelled through a CVT to the front wheels. Other parts of the world see AWD models and hybrids, all of which would make the C-HR more interesting in our eyes.
This is a problem of Subaru’s own making: it may have split the WRX off from the regular Impreza a few years ago, but they still look similar. Because of that, the Impreza’s measly 2.0-liter engine, sans turbo, can’t cash the checks its styling writes. 152 horsepower? 145 lb-ft of torque? A five-speed manual? It’s better if you focus on the Impreza’s other virtues, like standard AWD and good fuel economy.
The latest iteration of the Mazda MX-5 Miata is one attractive looking roadster. And it can be fast, but just not in a straight line—corners are where the Miata shines. With a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, the MX-5 Miata isn’t going to blow the doors off any other cars on the road, but its advantage is when the roads get twisty. It would be difficult to find someone that argues the MX-5 Miata isn’t fun to drive. The MX-5 doesn’t need to be that fast because it is so light and engaging.
If there is a single car on this list crying out for a higher-performance model, it’s the Nissan Sentra. Redone for the 2020 model year, the latest Sentra is now quite good, with a stiff platform, good steering, and classy looks. Unfortunately there’s just one powertrain available right now: a 2.0-liter inline-four, producing 149 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. A CVT transmission is the default choice. C’mon Nissan, build a Nismo version again!
The second generation of the Acura TLX looked super sharp when it showed up on the scene for 2021. Longer, lower, and wider than before, it has excellent proportions for a luxury sedan. It even has a powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, producing 272 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Those are numbers on the higher side of the class. All that power has to contend with one of the heavier curb weights in the class, too, and in front-drive form, the TLX simply can’t keep up with its sport sedan contemporaries. You’ll want to upgrade to the Type S if real speed is what you’re after.
When it comes to modern sports cars, there are very few that look as fast as the Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ. The Toyobaru twins saw a substantial change for 2022, with a bigger 2.4-liter Boxer-four upping power to 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. That’s good for a quicker run to 60 mph, but these svelte two-door coupes still look far faster than they actually are. Fortunately, just like the Miata, these are fun cars that drive and handle great, so there’s still plenty to enjoy in this reasonably-priced package.
December 7, 2021 – Revamped list based on current rankings and new cars.
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