SLEEPERS
Sure, you know these cars are fast at first glance, but the rest of the motoring public will need to see a smoky, tire-screeching display of power before they have a clue.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
Never mind the Swiss Large Hadron Collider: Chrysler's engineers in Auburn Hills, Michigan, are more than capable of bending the laws of physics, as evidenced by the latest Grand Cherokee SRT8. This is, after all, a 5150-pound SUV that can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, hit a top speed of 160 mph, and pull 0.9 g in corners...at least, according to the conservative physicists at SRT.

Much of that ability comes courtesy of -- you guessed it -- a monstrous Hemi V-8. Displacement grows to 6.4 liters for 2012; output jumps to 470 hp and an equally stout 465 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system carry over. Flared fenders, a tall air dam, twenty-inch wheels, and giant hood-mounted heat extractors lend this Grand Cherokee a menacing presence.

The SRT8's acceleration and shocking levels of grip are enough to make any driver question reality, but the Jeep's off-track performance is perhaps most incredible. Previous SRT-tuned Grand Cherokees sacrificed virtually every semblance of comfort in the name of performance, but the 2012 model flawlessly bridges the gap between track-day terror and daily driver. Adaptive Bilstein dampers help curb body roll when dialed into sport and track modes but otherwise provide a compliant, cossetting ride. A redesigned exhaust system provides room for a beefier receiver hitch and a heftier 5000-pound tow rating, and if you can ease up on the go pedal, a cylinder-deactivation function on the big Hemi promises a mild improvement in highway fuel economy.

A Jeep capable of warp speeds may still be a niche vehicle, but considering the SRT8's tenacity and tractability, it's a niche worth being in.

ON SALE: Now | PRICE: $55,295 | SUBTLE: Grand Cherokee roots | ANYTHING BUT: Physics-defying handling


Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
as is its practice, AMG has kept the exterior modifications to its updated E63 AMG to a minimum so it can fly under the radar when you don't have your foot in it. The new 5.5-liter V-8 with twin turbos and direct injection matches the 518-hp rating of the old 6.2-liter normally aspirated V-8 with port injection and bumps torque up to 516 lb-ft, an increase of 51 lb-ft. The engine incorporates start/stop technology when the car is set to controlled-efficiency mode. The powertrain changes also help the E63 avoid a gas-guzzler tax, with an estimated 15/22 mpg EPA rating. As before, the seven-speed automatic uses a wet clutch in place of the torque converter.

The exhaust note with the turbo engine is a bit more subtle than the normally aspirated V-8's, but that only supports the E63's sleeper image. A $7300 performance package cranks maximum boost to 18.8 psi, up from 14.5 psi in the stock car, and increases output to 550 hp and 590 lb-ft without affecting fuel economy. The ultimate sleeper, though, is the E63 AMG wagon. It's 0.1 second slower off the line, but the rear-facing third-row seats mean your kids can wave to the audience as you perform 4.2-second sprints to 60 mph.

ON SALE: Now | PRICE: $89,775/$92,375 (sedan/wagon) | SUBTLE: A station wagon | ANYTHING BUT: Nearly 600 lb-ft of max torque


Audi A8L W12
The heart of Audi's A8 flagship, the 6.3-liter W-12 engine, has been given a bit more oomph for 2012, thanks to an increase in displacement and the addition of direct injection. It now puts out a healthy 500 hp and 463 lb-ft of torque. For all its muscle, the W-12 can't match the twin-turbocharged V-12 BMW 760Li's staggering 550 lb-ft of torque, but then, it doesn't have to. With its aluminum-spaceframe construction, the A8L W12 weighs about 4773 pounds, a good 250 pounds less than the Bimmer. Not surprisingly, it's mind-numbingly fast: the trip to 60 mph flies by in 4.4 seconds, according to factory figures. What's really impressive, though, is the smoothness with which this all transpires. The W-12 does its job in near silence until you ask for warp speed, when it responds with a refined, throaty roar.

ON SALE: Now | PRICE: $134,375 | SUBTLE: Understated luxury | ANYTHING BUT: Twelve-cylinder authority


Honda Civic Si
A larger 2.4-liter engine doesn't spin with quite the same enthusiasm as the old 8000-rpm screamer but adds 31 lb-ft of torque to combat the previous Si's weed-whacker-like character. At a relaxed pace, the Civic Si doesn't have the fun factor of a Volkswagen GTI, and in harder driving it doesn't have the bite of a Mazdaspeed 3, but Honda beautifully balances both sides of the sleeper coin if you value civility as much as you do liveliness.

ON SALE: Now | PRICE: $22,975 | SUBTLE: Economy-car origins | ANYTHING BUT: 201 hp channeled through a limited-slip diff

Boomshadow
Guys, could you please fix your layout? The tiny little thumbnail photos completely disassociated from the matching text makes this entire feature a hot mess. If you have to, give each car a completely separate page so we can just see text and photos all at once. You probably won't have to add too many page clicks, and even if you do, that's just more ad space to sell. Am I meant to believe you have a print magazine as well? I'd never know this wasn't a first-week blog from the layout.

buyer's guide

Find vehicle reviews, photos, & pricing

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price

subscribe

new cars

Read Related Articles

TO TOP