Sport without Sacrifice: Sedans You Can Have Fun In
Want something fun to drive, but need seating for four, reasonable cargo space and decent fuel economy? Don't despair. With plenty of sedans that put just as much emphasis on performance as cabin comfort, there's a sporty option for everyone. Here are a few options at different price points that offer sensible interiors and exhilarating drive experiences.
#1 in Upscale Midsize Cars
MPG: 20/29 city/highway
Topping our list of upscale midsize cars, the BMW 3-Series is the king of sport sedans. Its six-cylinder base engine can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and achieves impressive fuel economy. A high-quality interior with a symphonic Harman Kardon sound system completes the package. Note, however, that the rear seat is on the small side.
#6 in Upscale Midsize Cars
The Lexus IS has a somewhat underpowered base model, but its sportier sibling, the IS 350, is in a performance league of its own. In Edmunds' comparison tests, the 350 beats class favorite BMW 330i in 0-to-60 time. Gas mileage could be better, but its sophisticated suspension, powerful brakes, and V6 engine make it a true contender in its class -- and its quiet, hi-tech interior makes for a luxurious driving experience.
#7 in Upscale Midsize Cars
Want BMW-like performance without paying BMW-like prices? Check out the Acura TL, which offers impressive power and luxury at a more affordable price. Highlights include sharp handling, a base engine with plenty of pull, and roomy seating for five. And for those who want ultimate power, Acura has brought back the high-performance Type-S model, which rivals its BMW and Infiniti competitors at the track. Just remember that the TL can't match the 3-Series in fuel economy.
#8 in Upscale Midsize Cars
The Audi A4's base turbocharged four-cylinder engine and manual transmission are so frugal with fuel that you'd have trouble believing they offer such spirited performance. The sedan also stands out for its available Quattro all-wheel drive -- an option that isn't offered by most class competitors. In fact, many credit the traction-inducing system for the car's incredible handling. On the inside, the A4 provides unusually bolstered first-rate front seats, along with a well-constructed, rich cabin. Best of all, you can snag this entry-level luxury sedan for prices similar to that of a loaded Honda Accord just as long as you're choosy about options.
#8 in Upscale Midsize Cars
The award-winning Infiniti G35 won't save you much fuel, but it offers ample space for four (but tight quarters for five) along with a high-quality interior and excellent stereo system. However, the trunk isn't large enough to fit luggage for a family of four, which may explain the G35's middle-of-the-class ranking. On the plus side, its peppy performance ranks near the top of the class and you can buy one for a little more than the price of a loaded Toyota Camry.
#1 in Upscale Small Cars
The Audi A3 ranks first in its class for its unique combination of hatchback utility and sports-car performance. Test drivers say both the four-cylinder and V6 engines offer plenty of pull and excellent fuel economy. Plus, the A3's luxurious interior is roomy enough for four six-footers. Though cargo space is good with the rear seats folded down, it's a bit disappointing with all seats in use.
#2 in Upscale Small Cars
Ranking just behind the A3, the Volkswagen GTI delivers similarly exceptional performance in a hatchback design. The GTI's peppy turbocharged engine gets excellent numbers at the pump, especially when matched with the six-speed manual transmission. Interior comfort gets mixed reviews, though some testers love the seats' heavy side bolstering. A big plus is the GTI's generous cargo space and numerous small storage spaces.
#2 in Upscale Small Cars
The Acura TSX, the TL's more affordable sibling, is a fun-to-drive sedan with a high-quality interior. Nimble handling is a plus, but some test drivers wish for more power from the standard four-cylinder engine. However, that little engine means that the TSX gets very good fuel economy. On the inside, the rear seats are roomy by small-car standards, and cargo space is small but still very usable. The TSX is redesigned for 2009 with even better driving dynamics.
#5 in Affordable Small Cars
One of the more affordable cars on this list, the Mazda3 ranks well for its excellent handling, likable exterior and surprisingly luxurious interior. The cabin features comfortable front seats, though many test drivers say rear-seat legroom is disappointing. Still, the small Mazda3 makes up for shortcomings with its peppy engines, impressive fuel economy and refined driving feel. In fact, its small size and relative comfort earns it a place on Forbes' 2008 list of "Ten Best Cars for City Dwellers."
#5 in Affordable Large Cars
The Dodge Charger's muscle-car styling and powerful performance are a welcome rarity in its class. The spacious five-seater also offers family amenities, including a roomy back seat and generous cargo space. But test drivers say the base V6 engines can be sluggish, so be sure to trade up to the V8-powered R/T or SRT8 models for maximum performance. Just remember that you'll pay for the Charger's powerful engines at the pump.
For a closer look at these sporty and sensible sedans, see our slideshow.