Sleepers, Q-cars, call them what you will – subtle performance is always impressive; we pick the 10 best sleepers on the market today
It’s nice to be able to defy other people’s expectations – to impress more than expected, to emerge as a dark horse with surprising performance, and it’s for this reason that sleeping cars are popular among car enthusiasts.
A sleeper, also known as a Q car (named after heavily armed merchant ship Q-ships) is essentially a car that looks relatively mundane and mundane on the outside, but delivers a speed bend at odds with its approachable design. We are not talking about Audi RS, Mercedes-AMG or BMW M models here; instead, we look at cars that run smooth but have a big stick when it comes to performance.
With ever-tighter emissions regulations, few, if any, automakers today are cramming a juicy V6 engine into a standard hatchback, instead reserving their more powerful engines for high-end sub-brands like those listed above.
That’s not to say there aren’t new sleepers if you know where to look, which is quite fitting given the subtle nature of these cars…
Here’s our pick of the 10 best sleeper cars currently on sale in the UK.
- Volvo XC40 Charging Twin
- Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TSI 280 hp
- Peugeot 3008 Hybrid
- BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 223i
- SEAT Leon Estate 2.0 TSI
- Mercedes V-Class 300d
- BMW 545e
- Toyota RAV4 PHEV
- Volkswagen Golf GTE
- Mercedes E-Class Estate 300de
1. Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin
- Twin electric motors, 408 hp
- 0-100 km/h: 4.7 seconds
- Top speed: 112mph
Volvo may have built a reputation for building safe, practical cars, and the company has also had a wildly successful push-up market in recent years. But Volvo’s engineers also sometimes show their love for performance, as the 408 hp electric XC40 Recharge Twin shows.
Because while it may weigh a little over two tons, with 408 horsepower from the two engines (one front, one rear), the four-wheel drive XC40 Recharge Twin is anything but sluggish. It is true that, as with all current Volvos, the top speed is capped at 112 mph, but with a 0-100 mph time of less than five seconds, this practical, modern SUV will surprise many with its off-the-line performance. .
2. Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TSI 280 hp
- 2.0-litre petrol, 280 hp
- 0-100 km/h: 5.3 seconds
- Top speed: 155mph
Skoda has its own VRS performance sub-brand, which comes with a sporty body kit and tuned suspension, but a true Q car requires more subtlety than this, and the Superb Estate delivers in spades.
Opt for the 280 hp 2.0-litre petrol engine and you won’t get much less power than the Volkswagen Golf R, as the Superb takes just 5.3 seconds to go from 0-100 km/h and reaches a top speed of 250 km/h. The dual-clutch gearbox and four-wheel drive system help reduce that power effectively, while the 660-litre boot makes this one of the most practical cars on the market.
3. Peugeot 3008 Hybrid
- 1.6 liter petrol + two electric motors, 300 hp
- 0-100 km/h: 6.1 sec
- Top speed: 149mph
As mentioned above, automakers today tend not to put large capacity engines in their regular cars as a matter of course, but that doesn’t mean they sometimes don’t give them enough power. The Peugeot 3008 is a good example of this, as the powerful plug-in hybrid engine delivers 300 hp thanks to the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a range of electric motors.
Power is sent to all four wheels, and while the complex combination of engine and engine may mean there’s a little hesitation when you actually put your foot down, once the computers and drive units have figured out what to do, hurry the 3008 presents itself with more brilliance than many would expect from a sensible-looking, stylish family SUV.
4. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 223i
- 2.0 liter petrol, 218 hp
- 0-100 km/h: 7.0 seconds
- Top speed: 150mph
Just because you’re looking for a passenger car doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to pedestrian driving – and the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is proof of that.
Sharing a mechanical platform with the Mini Hatch certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to handling, while the 218hp 2.0-litre petrol engine takes off from 0-100km/h in seven seconds. By most standards, that’s decent performance, and the fact that you get the same sliding rear seats, the same large, practical trunk and the roomy cabin offered on lesser Active Tourers makes this a car that you will have both your head and your heart. can choose.
5. SEAT Leon Estate 2.0 TSI
- 2.0-litre petrol, 190 hp
- 0-100 km/h: 7.4 seconds
- Top speed: 144mph
We could have gone for the sporty Cupra Leon Estate, but while that’s a relatively subtle car, it still has the trappings of a performance model, the most obvious of which is the standalone Cupra name.
No, instead we go for the less powerful but much more subtle Seat Leon Estate, but specified with the 2.0-litre 190 hp petrol engine. This gives the sensible family car a 0-100 km/h time in under eight seconds and a top speed of just under 240 km/h, along with the sharp handling we’ve come to expect from modern SEATs.
6. Mercedes V-Class 300d
- 2.0-litre diesel, 237 hp
- 0-100 km/h: 7.9 seconds
- Top speed: 137 mph
This is undoubtedly a rather left-wing choice, not least because the market for the V-Class passenger car is quite small outside the business world. But for those families who want the maximum power to carry people and belongings, the V-Class does it with a level of luxury not common in this car class.
Of course, the V-Class wouldn’t deserve a place here if it couldn’t be configured with a powerful engine, and the 237 hp 2.0-litre diesel engine that comes with the 300d meets those criteria – not least because it The idea of speeding down a German autobahn at 137 mph in a luxury MPV that seats eight is preposterous to say the least.
7. BMW 545e
- 3.0 liter petrol + electric motor, 394 hp
- 0-100 km/h: 4.6 seconds
- Top speed: 155mph
You may no longer be able to configure a BMW 5 Series 550i with the 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine, but BMW will sell you a 545e. This combines an electric motor with a 3.0-litre petrol engine for a powerful 394 horsepower, along with the ability to plug in for an official EV range of approximately 35 miles.
Choose the Touring Estate if you want to add some extra space and functionality to the proceedings, or stick with the sedan for the ultimate in highway cruising power.
8. Volkswagen Golf GTD
- 2.0-litre diesel, 200hp
- 0-100 km/h: 7.1 seconds
- Top speed: 152 mph
The Volkswagen Golf comes in so many different guises that choosing a sleeper version is difficult. But the GTI and R models are too overtly sporty to be Q cars, when we’ve already had quite a few plug-in hybrid models in this list – so why not that curious thing that’s a performance diesel hatch?
These types of cars used to be very popular, but although they are now a relatively rare concept, there is much to be said for the Golf GTD. That 2.0-litre engine may produce a relatively modest 200hp, and 0-100kph time may not be the most important thing, but with 400Nm of torque, there’s serious performance in acceleration, bolstered by the fact that the GTD officially returns 54 mpg, and can go nearly 600 miles between fill-ups.
9. Toyota RAV4 PHEV
- 2.5 liters of petrol, + electric motor, 306 hp
- 0-100 km/h: 6.0 sec
- Top speed: 111mph
Few cars are as sensible as the Toyota RAV4, but the easygoing nature of this popular SUV is at odds with the performance offered by the plug-in hybrid model.
Do that and you get a 2.5-litre petrol engine along with an electric motor, the latter producing 183 horsepower, for a combined output of 306 horsepower. That’s enough to kill the 0-100km/h sprint in six seconds, which is enough to keep up with quite a few hot hatches, and it’s certainly enough power to power the apparently sensible RAV4 into sleepy territory. bring.
10. Mercedes CLS 400d
- 3.0 liter diesel, 340 hp
- 0-100 km/h: 5.0 sec
- Top speed: 155mph
The Mercedes CLS is a subtle car by nature: its sleek, unobtrusive and rounded silhouette helps it sneak onto the road with less ostentation than its relatively high price tag suggests, and while you can have a powerful AMG version, the six – cylinder offers the 3.0-litre CLS 400d more than enough performance for most.
The power may be a solid, rather than exceptional, 340hp, but with a downright ridiculous 700Nm of torque on offer, 0-100km/h takes just five seconds, while acceleration into gear is downright relentless.
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