Do you want to dust supercars at the stoplight? Make that guy in the Maserati’s eyes grow wide? Make that fool in the Ferrari jump out of his seat? Then you’ve got to get one of these 8 badass sleeper cars that’re built to rival any hundred-thousand-dollar supercar.
These cars are guaranteed to surprise with all the unexpected power they’re bringing to the table. And for a fraction of the price of what a supercar will cost you, you could have one in your garage. These are the 8 cheap sleeper cars that will surprise supercars.
Mazdaspeed6 – Zoom Zoom
Your typical conversion about high-powered street vehicles usually doesn’t include the name Mazda. This Japanese automaker is best known for making budget entry vehicles that’re fairly reliable. But there is one badass member of the Mazda lineup that just can’t be overlooked: the Mazdaspeed6.
It may not look like much from the average commuter car exterior, but believe me, it’s got a scary secret under the hood: a 2.3-liter direct-injected turbocharged four that spits out 274 horses. And when that power gets the all-wheel drive system running, the Mazdaspeed6 can hit 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds. Plus, the Mazdaspeed6 is just asking to be tuned up into a rally-ready beast.
A prime example will run you about $7,000, and with a tune and maybe a few performance mods, you could have supercar power for under $10,000. Not bad, Mazda.
Volvo V70R – Swagger Wagon
Alright, alright, I know what you’re thinking, there’s no way that this super-safe mom wagon could possibly compete with a supercar. But that’s why it’s a sleeper, baby! No one’s going to expect it when you slam on the gas and start burning rubber in your unassuming V70R. Sure, you might not score any points with the ladies in your Volvo wagon, but if you’re all about performance, the V70R might just be for you.
Available only in front-wheel drive, the V70R’s hiding a 3.2-liter inline six under the hood that does 235 horsepower. And with a 0 to 60 time of 7.5 seconds, the V70R is… well… respectable. Maybe we exaggerated by saying the V70R would dust a supercar, but it’s certainly not bad for a Volvo wagon. And the good news is you’ll be super safe even at top speeds of 130 miles per hour, because the V70R was built on the same sturdy platform as the S80, and well, it’s a Volvo!
You could have your own 2008 V70R with around 100,000 miles for under $6,500. That’s some serious value.
Mercury Marauder – My Marauder
At first glance, you might mistake the Mercury Marauder for a Ford Crown Vic. But once anyone sees that Mercury badge on the front grill, they’re going to assume you’re packing as much horsepower as a Mitsubishi Mirage. The 2020 Mirage has just 78 by the way… But joke’s on them, the Mercury Marauder got a naturally-aspirated 4.6-liter DOHC V8 in 2003 and 2004 that made this car an absolute beast with 302 horsepower and 318 pound-feet of torque!
The 2003-2004 model years also received traction control and improved shifter response, and with a couple aftermarket mods, you can make your Marauder into a drag demon that actually rivals supercars.
But you better get your 2003-2004 Marauder soon. Apparently people are realizing the sleeper potential of these cars, and the market price has been jumping in the last few years. You can still get a nice 2004 with a little over 100,000 miles for under $10,000 though. A pseudo-cop car with sick horsepower that might actually appreciate in value. What more could you ask for?
Eagle Talon TSi – Talon’s Claws
No, the old-school Eagle Talon TSi isn’t quite as stylish as a modern Porsche 911 or a classic Challenger. It kind of got caught in the 90’s where most mid-priced cars were pretty boring to look at. But if I may say so myself, I think the Talon TSi has some style points on the other cars on this list, especially if you can get one with pop-up headlights. Oh man, I miss seeing those more often.
The Talon was basically the result of Chrysler Corporation rummaging through its parts bin and throwing together a car that was, well… just awesome. Ok, maybe not the base Talon, which had a wimpy 92-horsepower 2-liter 4-banger, but the Talon TSi with its 2-liter turbo four and all-wheel drive was a serious piece of machinery, especially when the first generation was unveiled back in 1990.
The TSi trim was offered with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission, and put 195 horses under your foot in the first few model years, and then boosted that number up to 210 in later models. The TSi can hit 60 miles per hour in 6.6 seconds and hits top speeds of 150 miles per hour. This car’s got some serious racing chops, and the solid engineering on the Talon TSi makes it so you can tack on performance mods until supercars are tasting your pipe exhaust.
Now, how much does a Talon TSi cost? Well, they’re out there in the range from $12,000 to $15,000, give or take. Unfortunately, they’re nearly impossible to find. So, if you do find one, which you probably won’t, you won’t have to pay a hefty fee for it.
Pontiac Grand Prix GXP – Truly Grand
The Pontiac Grand Prix has been around forever. The first model, that rolled out in 1962, is the perfect embodiment of classic car style, and the models that were coming out in the mid-70’s were pretty slick as well with that pointy nose added on. In 1988, they rolled out the fifth-generation, which was considerably less cool-looking. But we aren’t here to talk about style, we’re talking performance, people! And the Grand Prix GXP, which first came out in 2005, has plenty of that!
One peek under the hood and you’ll find the legendary LS4 V8, a 5.3-liter active fuel management engine based on the LS1 block. The GXP was capable of sending 303 horsepower through a four-speed automatic transmission with paddle-style TAPshift. This car might honestly be overpowered, which makes it feel slightly unstable. But if you can get over that, it’s pretty nimble for a front-wheel drive.
The GXP isn’t too hard to find online, and it’s certainly not expensive. We found a 2006 GXP on AutoTempest for $5,500 with under 100,000 miles! Plus, these cars have great aftermarket support if you’re looking for more power. But I’d suggest getting a new suspension first…
Ford Taurus SHO – SHO ‘Nuff
If you were getting worried that all of the cars on our list were super old, don’t worry. The Ford Taurus SHO is from this decade and is still an affordable sleeper! And no, it doesn’t look like a supercar slayer per se, but i definitely wouldn’t call it ugly!
And the SHO isn’t your typical Taurus, it’s got a 3.5-liter DOHC V6 with a twin-turbo and cranks out a whopping 365 horsepower! That’s a horse for every day of the year! In terms of its handling, yes, it’s a large and tall sedan, but the all-wheel drive traction system keeps this car glued to the ground and makes it feel super stable. The SHO has wheel-mounted paddle-shifters hooked up to its automatic, and impressive interior luxury and tech features.
As you probably expected, the Taurus SHO is a bit more expensive than some of the other cars on this list, but it’s still pretty affordable! We found a 2014 model with under 100,000 miles for $15,000!
Saab 9-5 Aero – Land Jet
Saab, the Swedish automaker that went bankrupt in 2011, didn’t fade out of existence without contributing one awesome sleeper to the world. The Aero is the performance version of the base 9-5, and this car was built to embarrass cars that are way more expensive.
The 2003 version has a whole 250 horsepower emanating from a 2.3-liter straight four, but these numbers kept getting boosted in subsequent versions. In 2006, the Aero gained another 10 horsepower. And in the final version of of the Aero in 2011, which featured a 2.8-liter V6, this Swedish sleeper got upgraded to 300 horses.
The 9-5 Aero is also notoriously one of the safest cars built in the 2000’s, because, as we learned from Volvo, the Swedes don’t mess around when it comes to safety. The 2003 Aero was front-wheel drive with a 5-speed manual transmission, which would be replaced by an automatic in later years. Every version of this car is an absolute blast to drive, and best of all, no one will ever expect that much power from a Saab!
You can find a prime example 2003 model, if you can drive manual, that is, for just $4,500 with under 90,000 miles. If you want a newer model, the price is obviously going to go up, with 2011 models going north of 10,000 for low-mileage examples.
Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 – VR Trooper
Now, here’s a car you could pass a million times on the road, and still not have a clue what it is. It’s got some old-school style, if you’re into that sort of thing, and it kind of just looks like a generic car from a 90’s movie. Don’t get it twisted, though, the VR-4 is anything but average. This range-topping version of the Galant was offered from 1988 to 2002, and was originally built to comply with Group A homologation regulations in the WRC. Eventually, this Japanese beast was released to the streets as a way for Mitsubishi to flex their performance capabilities, and the result was a humble-looking sleeper that you can have for cheap.
VR-4 stands for viscous-realtime four-wheel drive, and I don’t really know what that means, but it’s got something to do with the Dynamic Four steering system that Mitsubishi introduced to make the VR-4 rally-ready. The Galant VR-4 is capable of revving up 237 horsepower and hitting top speeds of 130 miles per hour. And since it’s a rally car, you know it’s ready for some performance mods that’ll boost those numbers even higher. While the Galant VR-4 may look basic and homely, this is a badass Japanese dragon ready to burn some supercars,
Unfortunately, this car is pretty rare, but if you manage to find one, it’ll probably run you around $12,000.