Friday, June 12, 2015

Coffee Brake: Factory Sleepers

In the 1960s most folks would walk into a dealer and just pickup a V8 powered sedan, but if you were in the know, you could slip the dealer a secret code and get yourself a sleeper.  COPO Camaros, tri-power GTOs, Olds 442s were cars that we celebrate as factory built sleepers.  The automotive industry has changed a lot in the past few decades, and OEs lump cars into hyper focused segments -- a Toyota RAV4 is for the young moms, and the Venza marketed for empty-nesters, despite the two cars having much overlap in terms of size/useability and sharing many components.  This hyper-segmentation has turned each model into an exaggeration of its requirements -- cars that go fast should look fast, and cars that get great fuel economy should look like spaceships.  There are, however, cars that break that mold.  Cars that are fast, but look slow, or cars that handle well, but look like tanks.  These are the cars that speed junkies desire -- but they are hard to find. 



Gone are the days where a buyer could configure his car to have a big engine without the high end trim or gaudy wheels, but can you still buy a new car that is fast, but doesn't scream fast? I'd say the best example of this is the Pentastar V6 powered 2015 Chrysler 200 S, where you can get a 295 horsepower 3.6 liter V6 mated to an all-wheel-drive sedan with a 9-speed automatic gearbox that is just a bar code sticker in the window away from being mistaken for a rental car starting around $26k and decently optioned at $32k.  Hitting 60mph in 6.0 seconds according to C&D isn't something to write home about, but mid speed passing should be surprisingly brisk. 


What car do you think is a sleeper on the dealer lot today?

Images courtesy of FCA media.

39 comments:

  1. Can't tell.....is this a Malibu, an Impala, or the SS sedan?

    [img]http://postimg.org/image/r7h8wf2np/[/img]

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    1. These internets!

      [img]http://s10.postimg.org/3t99khkqh/image.jpg[/img]

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  2. Can't stand em (they seem to have replaced BMW's as the car du jour for people who drive like flaming aholes), but I'd consider the Nissan Altima 3.5 to be a reasonable sleeper.

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    1. they sure are! Coworker's wife has one and its a highway onramp racecar, passes people in a blink too!

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  3. When grandma's automatic V6 Accord sedan can pull a 0-60 and the 1/4 mile faster than a stock 1970 SS 396 Chevelle, I'm not sure what qualifies as a "sleeper" anymore.

    For this article however, A Mercedes Benz R63 AMG probably qualifies.

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    1. I agree with RyanM, everything is so damn fast now that it's tougher to find a sleeper.

      When I was first noticing cars in the 80s, my benchmarks were the 1985(ish) Dodge Shelby Charger GLH-S with a 0-60 time of 6.7 secs and a 1987 Mustang GT at 6.2 secs. Now every automaker has a family sedan that can beat those. A true sleeper was the regular cab first gen Dakota with V8 and five speed. Today the best you can do is the 2WD Colorado with 3.6L V6 with the 6-speed auto. Fast, but pedestrian today.

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    3. +1. Even in terms of chassis competence things have moved a long way.

      The Chevy SS is something special, a sort of Antipodean endangered species. Not sure I'd consider it a sleeper, though.

      My sleepers? Chevy Sonic LT Turbo. Chevy Spark EV (yeah, you read that right.) VW Golf wagon w/whatever gas turbo motor you can chip to within an inch of melting its turbine housing.

      With the resurgence of hairdryer motors and readily-available tune software the 'sleeper' thing comes down to which ones can be chipped to significantly higher power levels without blowing up.

      The basic Ecotec turbo four in the Cadillac ATS had a factory bump-kit worth 40HP when it was sold in the Cobalt SS and the Solstice/Sky, do they still have something like that for the ATS?

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    4. I have read about the Spark EV and it sounds like a hoot. 400 lb/ft. of torque at 0 RPMs. Too bad you have to live in Oregon or California to get one. It would be great in NE where the interstate commute would make it a wise economy choice and there is not a curved road in sight.

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    5. Those v6 accords are no joke.

      I had a 991 carrera that my buddy was gaga over and wanted to borrow so I gave it to him for a week in exchange for his accord 6sp. I'm not kidding when I tell you that car was no-lie faster than my 991 off the line and up to about 20mph. First gear was nearly useless since anything other than perfect modulation would let the clutch spin the tires at every stoplight.

      We traded keys that Saturday and he was smitten...with a new s5 he saw in Delray that week. I told him if the dealer tried to screw him on the trade-in to give me a call...

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  4. I would say that any low-trim, 2WD domestic diesel pickup is kind of the modern sleeper. One millionty torques, super fast in a straight line, plain-jane wrapper that doesn't attract any attention. And I'm NOT talking about lifted Bro-Dozers here - just stock diesels that pull like freight trains.

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    1. Admit it, you're a coal-roller aren't you?
      [img]http://i.ytimg.com/vi/gyMM8hU0kCQ/hqdefault.jpg[/img]

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  5. Did you say sleeper? Oh YEAH! This one sleeps...well, a bunch of people. I'm not sure exactly how many.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8E7ti1U-7U

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  6. I have to agree with most folks here that cars today are so fast that many normal family sedans could embarrass a 60's GTO. Having said that, since I'm seemingly the only one on the planet that isn't a drag racer, I wish they would make sleepers of a different definition.
    As brilliant as the Fiesta ST is I would love to see a Fiesta LX. In my twisted world it would be a plain Fiesta, no stripes or spoilers running Focus 2.0 liter engine, steel wheels, ST brakes, manual roll up windows, cloth seats, and the Fiesta ST suspension.
    It would be great to have a light-weight, basic car with 40 more normally aspirated HP over stock, a brilliant suspension, and performance brakes all on a budget. I'll take mine in white without air con and radio delete please.
    This car would not be for drag racing but for corner carving, solo racing, and other amateur short track racing and shenanigans.
    Many other manufacturers could do this as well, the old fox bodied Mustang LX theory, rebooted.

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  7. Ford Flex

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/EEorJnp.jpg?1[/img]

    Because

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/uECopAi.jpg?1[/img]

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/rJ6qtSz.jpg?1[/img]

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    1. You know I think you guys are awesome, right? But I think you're missing the point. Yes, today's cars are faster than ever in general. But which are your favorites? That is the question.

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    2. That fit the sleeper description, that is. A 'Vette is not a sleeper.

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  8. sleepers are stupid. Why would you lust after a basic looking car?
    If I couldn't have a fast car that looked fast, then I would rather have a slow car that looked fast ( or good to to me) because who cares what other people think? If someone were to try and race me in a crapbox and beat me, who cares?

    Now if you wanted a light weight stripper car because you were going to track it or wanted a car for top level autocross, then that is different. But to drive a car all the time with manual windows and no AC so you can be slightly quicker at the stop light drags is crazy.

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    1. everyone is different, sleepers can be the perfect only car, or a great choice for a 2nd car and so on. sleepers don't have to be crapboxes, they can be nice cars, just not something youd consider fast.

      Ive always been a fan of the Eseries AMG wagons!
      silly fast for a 7 passenger family hauler.

      http://media.caranddriver.com/images/media/35732/2007-mercedes-benz-e63-amg-wagon-photo-38767-s-986x603.jpg

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    2. My definition of a sleeper is a completely stock looking vehicle with performance and handing options that can fly completely under the radar.

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    3. ^this right here. Like Gossling in the white fwd Impalla (again, help me Mt.Kilamanjaro).
      Getaway car, blend in car, just lik

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    4. +1, ESK!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBiOF3y1W0Y

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  9. Someone doesn't understand WHY about sleepers... OK. You move. You have a job that requires a commute. You are are a motoring enthusiast and like to use cars that perform well. You have a nice Porsche that you can drive when you want but every time you pass an on ramp you note the CHP officers head swivel watching you.. and just waiting for you to have it nailed. You guy a compact, innocent turbocharged sedan [this was in 1987] in a dull color and allow it to be dirty all the time so NO one notices it as long as you aren't into screaming crazy full boost. You are suddenly able to make time without all the grief in a nice handling, fast, comfortable, and innocuous looking car. You still have the 930 for when you want to enjoy things on a different level. All is good.. and that is the point of a .. sleeper car.

    BTW, my current fun sleeper cars: 1998 Lexus LS 400 [I kid you not] with later Lexus 18" wheel and tire package. SO much faster than anyone might imagine. If you ever see one with the wheels off, take a look at the enormous brakes! and... 2003 Infiniti FX 45 with Technology Package. Not as fast as the LS, but plenty fast, sports car growl and performance from an SUV! Goes, handles, brakes, and all around performs well enough to humiliate Cayenne drivers unless they have the Turbos. Both cars are wonderfully reliable, durable.. and can be fun. I enjoy these older cars as they are much lower key and save the $$$ to afford silly expensive sports cars.

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    1. Does owning a sleeper require you to post as anonymous?

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    2. Don't the two go hand in hand...?

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/k4v24Ok.jpg?1[/img]

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    3. "Goes, handles, brakes, and all around performs well enough to humiliate Cayenne drivers unless they have the Turbos" Um, no, no they don't. I refuse to answer how I know this on the grounds it may incriminate me.

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  10. I'm thinking we probably could have come up with a lot more Q-ship options from recent years past if the criteria of this questions wasn't "on the dealer lot today".

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    1. Apparently, it was a really tough question (it wasn't). Either that or everybody's already away on summer vacation.

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    2. Yeah, but we are sort of in the weird scenario where, if everything is a sleeper, nothing really is. It would be a shorter exercise to come up with cars that can't break sub-7.5 second 0-60 times these days. If we opened it up to any car (new or used), you would have plenty of fun stuff like Regal T-types, Ford LTD LX's, and Peugeot 405 Mi16's just to name a few.

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    3. The purest sleeper ever built was the Merc R63.

      Of course, total sales of < 100 units proved that too much of the buyer market for > 500HP vehicles want to wave their neon dick around.

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    4. Dunno, I might peg the G65 a little higher on the sleeper chart than the R63.....621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque in a rolling refrigerator box is unexpected, to say the least.

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  11. H3lls bells. Cripes, live a little. Nobody even cares if you and I are "right". Just post the ones that surprise you! That's the true definition of a sleeper. They're the cars that grandparents and people who aren't "into" cars drive that are more powerful and capable than those folks want or need, like the aforementioned Accord; another example, the Toyota Camry XSE.

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/7VZ3ZPu.jpg?1[/img]

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  12. Pump up the volume with the Buick Regal Base.

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/LVQzSvM.jpg?1[/img]

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  13. Because soccer moms need to haul more than just butt...Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T.

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/RLDsWo4.jpg?1[/img]

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  14. No cop will ever look at you in a Toyota Venza XLE, regardless of whether it has 268 hp or not.

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/BJ6zDZn.jpg?1[/img]

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  15. The boat that it is, the Toyota Sequoia needs the 381 hp it has.

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/N2KbFPp.jpg?1[/img]

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  16. Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class CLA45 AMG...just make sure to skip that gadawful wing.

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/7g11FG8.jpg?1[/img]

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  17. Your neighbors will envy you in your 201-hp Kia Forte5 SX...sure. They'll just think you're a cheapskate and you bought a crappy economy car with no kick to it. But they'd be wrong. Is it an (insert fancy-shmancy car name here)? No, of course not. If they smooth out the engine, up the interior quality a bit, do something about the steering feel and hang onto the rock-bottom pricing...look out. Even so, this is a sleeper.

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/oXmfYPP.jpg?1[/img]

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  18. The 365-hp Lincoln MKS Ecoboost.

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/U4tZvMt.png?1[/img]

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