You’d think that a list of powerful front-wheel-drive cars would include plenty of hot hatchbacks and inexpensive performance cars. But today’s mainstream sedans and crossovers are more powerful than ever, even though engineers and drivers are well aware of the compromises in handling that result from routing this much power through the front wheels. Even though they might not be sporty, here are the most powerful front-wheel-drive vehicles you can buy today, ranked from most horsepower to least.
2016 Lincoln MKX: 335 hp, 380 lb-ft
The 2016 Lincoln MKX debuted at this year’s Detroit auto show, but what we didn’t know then was that Lincoln would offer the powerful, twin-turbo 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 in combination with front-wheel drive. Ford uses this engine in both the Edge crossover and the new F-150 pickup, but clearly Lincoln wants to differentiate itself by increasing output in the MKX—the 2.7L makes 10 hp and 5 lb-ft more in this luxury crossover than it does in the much larger F-150, not to mention its 20 hp and 30 lb-ft advantage over the related Ford Edge.
2015 Ford Edge: 315 hp, 350 lb-ft
Though the 2015 Ford Edge is down on power compared with its aforementioned luxury stablemate, the Sport model’s 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 is nothing to sneeze at. Its 315 hp and 350 lb-ft make it significantly more powerful than the rear-wheel drive Ford Mustang’s new four-cylinder EcoBoost that’s getting all sorts of attention. Though we haven’t actually driven the front-wheel-drive version, we’re willing to bet that the Edge Sport is much more capable of living up to its name when equipped with the optional all-wheel-drive system for this high-powered turbo V-6.
2016 Acura RLX: 310 hp, 272 lb-ft
Acura’s largest sedan is one of the only front-wheel-drivers competing in a class of established rear-wheel drive luxury sedans from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and others. Its 3.5-liter V-6 puts 310 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels, making it the most powerful Honda/Acura product barring the new 2016 Acura NSX supercar. Luxury buyers don’t seem convinced that the RLX has the goods, as this slow-selling sedan has only moved a measly 737 units in 2015 so far.
2015 Cadillac SRX: 308 hp, 265 lb-ft
The Cadillac SRX is a strong seller despite its age, and comes standard with GM’s ubiquitous 3.6-liter, direct injection V-6 engine. It makes 308 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque in this application, and though all-wheel drive seems like a more natural fit for a luxury crossover like the SRX, front-wheel drive is standard for those in milder climates. The SRX name won’t be around for much longer, as a new Cadillac naming scheme means the updated version of this crossover will likely be called XT5.
2015 Chevrolet Impala: 305 hp, 264 lb-ft; 2015 Cadillac XTS: 305 hp, 264 lb-ft; 2015 Buick LaCrosse: 304 hp, 264 lb-ft (tie)
General Motors has a storied history of large, front-wheel drive sedans, and today’s lineup is no exception. These three sedans from Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick share an Epsilon II platform and a 3.6-liter V-6 engine. The Chevrolet Impala is the least expensive of the three, while the Buick LaCrosse serves the mid-level spot and the Cadillac XTS occupies the luxury position. Interestingly, the XTS is the last remaining front-wheel drive sedan in the Cadillac lineup: As America’s preeminent luxury brand continues on its quest to chase the Germans, its ATS, CTS, and the new CT6 sedans all use rear-wheel drive architectures for sharper handling and more classic proportions.
2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E; 2015 Volvo XC60 T6 Drive-E: 302 hp, 295 lb-ft (tie)
The Volvo S60 sedan and XC60 crossover are the only four-cylinder vehicles on this list, and that’s because of the T6 Drive-E powertrain’s unconventional setup. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder is both turbocharged and supercharged for better response throughout the rev range, which makes for an impressive amount of power and torque for the engine’s small size. There isn’t too much of an efficiency tradeoff, either, as the S60 is rated at 35 mpg on the highway, significantly higher than any other car on this list.
2015 Lincoln MKS: 304 hp, 279 lb-ft; 2015 Lincoln MKT: 303 hp, 278 lb-ft (tie)
The aging Lincoln MKS sedan and MKT crossover are based on the Ford Taurus and Ford Flex, respectively, and probably won’t be around for much longer. For now, though, both come standard with a 3.7-liter V-6 and front-wheel drive. We’d still go for the optional EcoBoost upgrade, which includes all-wheel drive and a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 365 hp and 350 lb-ft that makes for surprising acceleration from these otherwise unassuming vehicles.
2016 Chevrolet Equinox; 2016 GMC Terrain: 301 hp, 272 lb-ft
Refreshes for the 2016 model year resulted in big visual updates for the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain twins, but the crossovers’ powertrains remained unchanged. The standard 2.4-liter inline-four engine makes just 182 hp, while an optional 3.6-liter V-6 packs 301 hp and 272 lb-ft. Although all-wheel drive is optional, it’s possible to equip a 301-hp Equinox or Terrain V-6 with front-wheel drive — which is more power than the new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro‘s turbo engine directs through its rear wheels. Thanks in part to that power, GM rates the Equinox and Terrain V-6 to tow as much as 3,500 lb, up from just 1,500 lb for the four-cylinder models.
2015 Lincoln MKZ: 300 hp, 277 lb-ft
Based on the Ford Fusion midsize sedan, the more upscale Lincoln MKZ offers the same 3.7-liter V-6 engine as the MKS and MKT also on this list. Though it’s powerful, the V-6 is quite thirsty: A front-wheel-drive 2015 Lincoln MKZ so equipped manages 18/37 mpg (city/highway). For buyers who want to save on gas bills, the MKZ also offers a 240-hp, 2.0-liter EcoBoost inline-four that bumps fuel efficiency to 22/33 mpg with front-wheel drive.
2016 Nissan Maxima: 300 hp, 261 lb-ft
Nissan has referred to the Maxima as its “Four-Door Sports Car” since 1987. While we’re not fully convinced a front-drive sedan with a continuously variable transmission deserves to be called a sports car, its 3.5-liter V-6 engine certainly offers up a lot of grunt. The 2016 Nissan Maxima, introduced at the 2015 New York auto show, is an all-new version of the storied nameplate that first debuted in the U.S. in 1981. The raciest version of the new Maxima is the SR trim level, which packs a sportier suspension tun, 245/40R19 tires on unique 19-inch wheels, and paddle shifters for the CVT. With all that horsepower running through the front wheels, an internal Nissan test found that the 2016 Nissan Maxima SR was slightly quicker around Buttonwillow Raceway than a BMW 328i, an Acura TLX, and an Audi A4 2.0T Quattro.