Many people want to buy quick cars with solid performance and impressive specs, but not everyone wants to be the center of attention with their new rides. If you’re buying a Lamborghini, Ferrari, McLaren, or other exotic, there’s a good chance you know that you’re going to grab some attention when you drive down the street. However, if you want strong performance and don’t want everyone to know about it, there are plenty of new cars out there for you. These cars, known as sleepers, will give you the thrills you want without drawing all the eyeballs in town. The best sleeper cars aptly blend performance and sleek styling to keep their true potential a secret.
What is a sleeper car?
Sleeper cars have exceptional performance and handling while looking like sedate everyday drivers. They may have more aggressive styling and sound a bit different than the standard vehicles, but sleepers do not shout their credentials from the rooftops like supercars, muscle cars, and other high-performance models.
The best sleeper cars of 2023
2023 Hyundai Elantra N
The Hyundai Elantra N sports a rowdy turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with either a six-speed manual or the automaker’s excellent eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Acceleration to 60 mph from a standstill takes around five seconds with the dual-clutch and six with the manual. Hyundai equips a trick front differential to help get that power to the ground through the front wheels, and the car comes with a temporary horsepower boost feature that adds ten ponies for a short period.
Interior finishes are so-so, but the Elantra N’s cabin is nice enough, especially for the price. It comes standard with leather and synthetic suede upholstery that grips passengers’ bodies in place during sporty driving, and the rear seats are accommodating for adults. A 10.25-inch gauge cluster and 10.25-inch touchscreen come standard, bringing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, SiriusXM, and more.
2023 Honda Civic Type R
Honda revamped the Civic for 2022, and the hot Type R returned for 2023, bringing 315 horsepower, an excellent six-speed manual transmission, and less outlandish styling. The front-wheel drive car scorches the run from 0-60 mph in around five seconds, and it’s got a limited-slip front differential that helps prevent torque steer and put that power to good use. Though rough at times, the Type R’s suspension absorbs all but the worst road imperfections while maintaining sharp, responsive handling.
While not as luxurious as its European rivals, the Type R has comfortable seating accommodations for four people. Red upholstery gives the space a striking, sporty feel, and the back seat is more than comfy enough for adults. Honda equips a 9-inch touchscreen and a 10.2-inch digital gauge cluster, and the Civic Type R comes standard with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
2024 Acura Integra Type S
Acura introduced the Integra Type S for 2024, which brings five more horsepower than the related Civic Type R. It’s also got a neat front differential that improves traction, and the six-speed manual transmission is its only gearbox choice. The car maintains a good ride while offering excellent handling and responsive steering, and its exhaust cranks out a nice growl in the process.
The Integra offers comfortable seating and microsuede upholstery that holds bodies in the seats. It’s a comfortable space that feels more upscale and luxurious than the Civic Type R while bringing similar utility and room. A 9-inch touchscreen comes standard, bringing wireless smartphone mirroring, HD radio, SiriusXM, and more.
2023 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C 43
The standard C-Class is a somewhat sedate midsize luxury sedan, but Mercedes has long offered AMG-massaged versions of the car that have insane performance and power numbers. The C 43 gets a handcrafted 2.0-liter four-cylinder with mild-hybrid assist and an electrified turbocharger. It makes 402 horsepower and sends it to all four wheels through an AMG nine-speed transmission. Acceleration from 0-60 mph takes just 4.6 seconds, and the car’s 369 pound-feet of torque makes it feel brutally quick off the line.
The five-seat C43 gets synthetic leather upholstery, memory seats, heated front seats, and ambient interior lighting. The front buckets are deep and heavily bolstered for performance driving, and the rear bench offers good shape and support. Mercedes equips a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and an 11.9-inch touchscreen with wireless smartphone mirroring, HD radio, Bluetooth, USB-C, and voice controls.
2023 BMW X1
The BMW X1 entered its third generation in 2023, which brought more power to its turbocharged four-cylinder engine and standard all-wheel drive. The SUV now has 241 horsepower, giving it surprising acceleration, and its handling is more responsive and confident than expected. Though it’s not the quickest vehicle on this list, the X1’s standard all-wheel drive gives it excellent traction in bad weather and corners.
The X1 seats five people on synthetic leather upholstery. Power front seats are standard, and buyers can add heating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Front-seat passengers enjoy spacious, well-padded buckets, but the back seat isn’t as roomy, especially for adults. The X1 gets a 10.7-inch touchscreen and a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and several other desirable features.
2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The gas-powered GTI’s days are numbered as VW shifts to electrification, but the car is a fantastic performance value that deserves a spot on any enthusiast’s shopping list. It comes with a turbo-four, making 241 horsepower, and the car comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. VW’s excellent seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available, and the automaker gave the car a limited-slip differential to improve traction and reduce torque steer. As expected from a GTI, the hatchback delivers precise handling and responsive steering, and the brakes can quickly bring the show to a halt.
The GTI seats five, and plaid cloth upholstery comes standard. Higher trims get leather, and heated/ventilated front seats are available. Though a small car, the GTI has more rear legroom than its competitors, and there’s an impressive 19.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats upright. An 8.25-inch touchscreen comes standard, but most models get a 10-inch unit with wireless smartphone connectivity. Though VW’s infotainment system is responsive and good-looking, the lack of physical controls can be frustrating and may require a larger-than-expected learning period to adjust.
2023 Mercedes-AMG E 53
Mercedes offers several configurations of the 2023 E-Class, including a wagon and high-performance sedans. The E 53 gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with a mild-hybrid system that produces 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a lightning-quick nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 4.4 seconds, and the car’s mild-hybrid system gives it a fantastic kick off the line. The standard all-wheel drive system provides excellent traction in bad weather conditions, and it helps the E 53 claw its way through curves and corners with ease.
Sport seats with heating come standard, and they bring supportive, comfortable accommodations. The rear bench isn’t as comfortable, but there’s enough room for adults to ride in comfort. A 12.3-inch touchscreen comes standard, along with a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and more. Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment system is easy enough to figure out, and it offers touch, voice, gesture, and touchpad control inputs.
2023 Audi S4
The Audi S4 has long taken the automaker’s plush compact sedan to new performance heights, and the 2023 model is no exception. Its turbocharged V6 produces 349 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, delivering a 4.4-second 0-60 mph time. A swift eight-speed automatic sends power to all four wheels, and the S4 feels planted and confident in most driving situations.
Audi’s interiors are typically nicer than those of competing vehicles, and the S4 is no exception. It seats five on standard leather upholstery and heated, power-adjustable front seats come by default. The back seat is slightly less roomy, but the car is comfortable for adults in any seating position. A 10.1-inch touchscreen comes standard, along with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto.
2023 Toyota GR Corolla
Toyota brought the storied GR name to America and has used it on a range of performance cars that pump considerable excitement into the Japanese auto giant’s catalog. The GR Corolla has the rally-inspired all-wheel drive system from the GR Yaris, a rowdy turbo-three making 300 horsepower, and beefed-up styling that gives it a slightly meaner look than the standard car.
The GR Corolla’s cabin feels solid and well-built, but it lacks the visual pizzazz of some rivals, and there are plenty of hard plastics throughout. Synthetic leather comes standard, and buyers can add heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. An eight-inch touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster come standard, and all GRs get wireless smartphone mirroring. Toyota’s infotainment has improved in recent times and is far easier to use than in previous model years.
2023 BMW M340i
BMW’s M car line has expanded recently to include “M-ish” vehicles, such as the M340i. Though it’s not a full-fat M model, the car gets a turbocharged inline-six with 382 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque. Paired with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, the powertrain is strong enough to propel the M340i to 60 mph from a standstill in around four seconds.
Four people can ride comfortably in the M340i, though seating the advertised five feels cramped. Synthetic leather and heated front seats come standard, and buyers can add styling and upgrade packages to the interior. A large 14.9-inch touchscreen comes standard, along with a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and ten speakers.