Sleeper cars are performance-oriented tricksters that you would never expect to move quite like a sports car. These cars can be hatchbacks, large sedans, or even wagons. Sleepers sometimes feature big, powerful engines, aggressive brakes, weight savings, and suspension upgrades. You’ll lose if you snooze next to many of these old-school sleeper cars that can still put a modern sports car to bed.
- BMW M3 E30
- Bentley Turbo R
- Volkswagen Corrado VR6
- Lotus Carlton
- BMW M5 E28
- Mercedes-Benz 500 E AMG
- Volvo V70 R
- Audi RS2 Avant
BMW M3 E30 is an M car icon
Built between 1986 and 1991, the M3 is very much an old-school sleeper. There is something special about the little M3. In typical sleeper fashion, it looks like any member of the E30 family, but with a twist. The M3’s flared rear arches, front splitter, and spoiler should be enough to get a challenger thinking. It might be too late, though, considering the little M car wielded 203 hp while weighing only 2,650 lbs.
Bentley Turbo R is a plush means of embarrassing sports cars
The Bentley brand is synonymous with comfort, class, and refinement. That status does not mean that the legendary British manufacturer hasn’t made some deceptively fast cars. The Turbo R is a big, heavy machine, but it does a great job hiding its party piece. The beating heart of the monster is a 6.75L V8. According to CarBuzz, the engine is capable of motivating the big Brit to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds.
Volkswagen Corrado VR6 is a classic hot hatch
With styling that calls to mind a more aggressive Volkswagen Golf, the Corrado is a desirable hot hatch. After a four-year run, the Corrado was endowed with an angrier six-cylinder engine and badged the VR6. The car was a true sleeper, moving to 60 mph in well under 7 seconds and featuring a deployable rear spoiler that raised at speeds exceeding 45 mph.
Lotus Carlton is a sleeper with pedigree
At a glance, the Carlton seems a bit lackluster. It wears a Vauxhall badge and bears the name Carlton, neither of which is particularly exciting. In other markets, the Carlton was badged the Opel Omega but didn’t look any flashier. However, the Lotus Carlton had a trick up its sleeve in the form of a twin-turbo 3.6L straight six-cylinder engine making 377 horsepower.
BMW M5 is a sleeper car sedan staple
The E28 generation was the first to feature a BMW M5. Perhaps the best feature of the E28 M5 is its subtlety, with just a badge and small spoiler to distinguish it from any other E28 5 Series. The BMW’s performance is anything but subtle, with 286 horsepower on tap.
Mercedes-Benz 500 E AMG is a marriage of refinement and power
According to CarBuzz, a collaboration between Porsche and Mercedes-Benz resulted in the fitting of a 5.0L V8 into a W124 sedan. The Porsche and Mercedes-Benz team-up created the 500 E AMG, a four-door sedan with 326 hp that could reach 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds. In true sleeper fashion, the 500 E AMG is subtle until provoked.
Volvo V70 R is a sports car in a sensible wagon suit
Volvo cars are typically pretty unassuming vehicles. That goes doubly so for wagons. However, challengers won’t underestimate the V70 R twice. The big wagon packs a 2.4L inline-5 engine that makes 269 horsepower and an option for a 5-speed manual transmission. Pair that with AWD, and you’ve got a deceptively agile grocery-getter.
Audi RS2 Avant is a sleeper car wagon with Porsche DNA
To the initiated petrol head, the label RS is associated with performance. However, if you’re unfamiliar with Avants, it looks like any other Audi. The 1994 RS2 was the first to bear the RS badge and earned the right to do so. The Audi RS2 Avant concealed a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine that made an admirable 311 horsepower. In addition to the horsepower, the RS2 is the product of a collaboration between Audi and Porsche.