Eight boring cars that are crazy fast

15th March 2024
Russell Campbell

In the old days, cars tended to go like they looked. Svelte and low to the ground? Then it's probably quick. House-like aerodynamics? Slow's how it goes. However, EVs shatter conventional wisdom with compact motor powerhouses that frankly can embarrass anything the fossil fuel world has to offer. It would be too easy to fill this list with EVs, though, so instead, we've compiled a list of ICE and electrified sleepers – these are the best boring cars that are also crazy fast on sale.


Cupra Leon

With lurid paint jobs and heavy body kits, the Seat Leon Cupra stuck out like a sore thumb next to the mechanically identical but far more conservative Volkswagen Golf GTI and Skoda Octavia VRS, but a spot of brand engineering – it's now called the Cupra Leon – has turned things full circle.

Now, the Cupra's quad pipes and subtle bronze badging are the only obvious clues that this car can keep a Honda Civic Type R honest. Appealing because if you've ever driven a Type R, you'll know it attracts oiks in ratty M3s like moths to a light bulb. Thankfully, the Cupra's looks are the only boring thing about it. Its point-to-point performance is likely the best on this list thanks to its Golf R underpinnings and surprisingly mobile rear end.


Volvo EX30 Twin Motor Performance

You have to wonder what's being pumped into the saunas of Volvo's Swedish motherland because we'd hazard a guess – it's not steam. Why? Because the EX30 is the most un-Volvo car we've ever encountered.

Once a given, safety has been flung out the window in favour of a single-minded obsession with infotainment screens that demand a dangerous amount of attention better spent, you know, looking where you're going. The EX30's performance makes this point all the more pertinent. With the crippling acceleration of an aircraft carrier's catapult, it flings you from 0-62mph in just 3.6 seconds – something you'd never guess from its looks.


Volkswagen Touareg R

The Volkswagen Touareg R might not be boring per se, but in the context of flashy SUV rivals – the likes of the Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne – its ability to wither into the background makes it a genuine Q car.

The combination of a turbocharged petrol V6 backed by an electric motor is enough to get it from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds, meaning this lardy SUV has the measure of most hot hatches away from the lights. Officially, it can run for 28 miles on electric power alone, but let the battery go flat, and the fuel gauge will drop almost as quickly as the Touareg accelerates.


Smart #1 Brabus

The Smart #1 Brabus doesn't just look slow, it comes from a company famed for building tiny-engined city cars, not SUVs that can monster sportscars off the line. But it's true, four-wheel drive and instant electric power get the Smart from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds – three-tenths quicker than a Porsche 911 Carrera... feel the warmth of those blushes.

Other parts of the Brabus' repertoire are more relevant to the family types who will buy it. It's posh inside, very safe, and fun to drive beyond just the raw performance, but its small boot is a big no-no if you need to carry a buggy, and the suspension struggles to contain the car's mass over bumps. Its range isn't that great either, even for an EV.


Mercedes E-Class 450d estate

Big diesel motors are going extinct quicker than the T-Rex in an ice age, but they're still excellent if you want to cover huge chunks of land mass in a oner. The 450d is a case in point. Its 80-litre tank and 44mpg fuel economy potential are good for a range of more than 774 miles, yet it also does 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and has to be electronically restrained from nutting through its 155mph limiter. If you want to smash continents, this posh but unassuming huge estate hits the spot.

You'll undoubtedly agree from inside. Posh doesn't quite do the Merc's interior justice; it's a beautiful mixture of infotainment screens and lush materials, spoiled by the odd surprisingly cheap-feeling plastic when you look close. Forgivable, but perhaps not what you'd expect from a car that costs nearly £90,000.


MG4 EV Xpower

The MG4 surprises on many levels. It's good for a kick-off, which might be contrary to expectations for a badge-manufactured budget brand. The bigger surprise comes when you push your foot on the, er, ‘loud’ pedal because this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it EV can hurl you from 0 to 62mph in a frankly ludicrous 3.8 seconds in eerie silence. As a point-and-squirt machine, it’s seriously capable.

Okay, from the inside, it feels like a cut-price VW ID.3 with cheap and shiny plastics, but then the MG costs a lot less than the supposed car of people. The MG's biggest rival comes from within. The standard rear-wheel-drive MG4 is plenty quick enough and is more fun to drive than the four-wheel-drive Xpower.


Land Rover Defender V8

Alright, so the Land Rover Defender isn't boring, but would you expect it to be quick? Didn't think so. In all honesty, the Defender – which is built like a 19th-century latrine weighed down with every off-road gubbin you care to think of – has no right (or indeed need) to be quick, but that didn't stop Land Rover from shoving a dirty great supercharged V8 under the bonnet. As a result, the behemoth can hurl itself towards the horizon like a speed boat coming on plane, getting from 0-62mph in a smidgen over five seconds on pretty much any surface Earth has to offer.

Downsides? There are two. The Defender will set you back well over £100,000, and if you think that's bad, just wait until you see the fuel costs.


Skoda Superb 280

The Skoda Superb Estate is quite an outrageously good family car with a clean acre of rear legroom and a boot big enough to go on holiday in. It's the last car you'd expect to be quick. Muttering "hold my beer", Skoda stuck a slightly detuned version of the VW Golf R's 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet for 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and a 155mph limited top speed combined with a four-wheel drive chassis that makes it as quick in the wet as it is in the dry. This, friends, is the ultimate sleeper.

True to form, Skoda hasn’t bothered with any of the stiff suspension nonsense of a genuine performance car. The Superb wafts and wallows where a Golf R points and squirts, but big wheels and ground-scraping suspension would only ruin the Q car look and we’re glad Skoda wasn’t tempted. Buy them while you can because we expect the 280 will die with the current stock.

  • Cupra

  • Volvo

  • Volkswagen

  • Smart

  • Mercedes

  • MG

  • Land Rover

  • Skoda

  • Leon

  • EX30 Twin Motor Performance

  • Touareg R

  • #1 Brabus

  • E-Class 450d estate

  • EV Xpower

  • Defender V8

  • Superb 280

  • Road

  • List

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