Open Road

Top five sleeper cars [video]

I flat-out love sleeper cars. I love the way you can slip under the radar with something that nobody notices, and anyone who does notice becomes an instant co-conspirator. It makes me feel smart. And I need all the smarts I can get.

My early cars were conspicuous sports cars: bright colors, making lots of noise, very extroverted. My first car had an enormous “TURBO” on each flank to announce my presence. The police used to just follow me around, waiting for me to let my guard down.

But at some point, I grew up (not really, but stay with me here). I came to appreciate the virtues of speaking softly, but carrying a big stick. Like a 500 hp stick.

Seriously cool people drive sleepers. In the movie Ronin, Jean Reno drives a rare Mercedes-Benz 450SEL that came with a 6.9-liter engine, and the team uses an Audi S8 too. Jason Statham in the Transporter series drives a plain black BMW 750i, and even James Bond uses the same model in Tomorrow Never Dies (although driving it from his phone while lying in the back seat – ultimate stealth).

This last car captures the real essence of a sleeper: not only should it be fast and not stand out from the crowd, but there should be the possibility of some kind of high-tech weaponry aboard. It should, in short, be a possible car for James Bond.

Any list of sleepers is going to be subjective, but the video above gives you five of my current favorites.

Hyundai has come out with some really interesting and well-styled cars lately, including the Veloster and the Genesis 2-door. But one thing that sets the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec apart is that it blends in. Add a 429-hp direct-injected V-8 and you have the right formula for a sleeper. Hyundai is edging into BMW 5-series territory here, and that car has been a great sleeper since 1972.

The only problem? The Hyundai’s name. Adding in the “5.0” and “spec” feels like it’s trying too hard. Note the other names in our picks that distinguish the nutso version of each car from the base model: “R,” “SHO,” “SRT,” and “V”. See also BMW (“M”), Audi (“S”), and Jaguar (“XJR”). Those are all very subtle, self-assured monikers for some very fast, very stealth cars.

Ultimately, a sleeper is all about quiet confidence. Eventually I gained a little confidence and peeled those “TURBO” logos off the side of my car. I’m hoping there’s someone at Hyundai who’ll do a similar thing to “5.0 R-Spec.”

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