Typically, the phrase 'sport sedan' evokes the image of a BMW, an Audi or a similarly pricy Teutonic four-door automobile. In reality, there are a number of fun-to-drive sedans that rise above the standard commuter car fare while maintaining an MSRP of below $40,000. The mix of German, Japanese, American and yes, even Swedish sport sedans at this price point make for an intriguing alternative to traditional options inhabiting the segment. It also gives buyers the chance to get behind the wheel of something truly different from what their equally successful colleagues might be driving.
Let's take a look at 10 sporty sedans that won't break the bank.
01. 2012 Buick Regal
The 2012 Buick Regal, when found in GS trim, is the formerly staid premium brand's first legitimate foray into sport sedan territory in decades. The Buick Regal GS introduces a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood that generates 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, matched with a standard six-speed manual transmission (a six-speed autobox is available as an option). The GS trim level also brings with it a stiff suspension system, bigger Brembo brakes and front seats with more aggressive bolsters to help keep occupants in place during high speed maneuvers. As a finishing touch, Buick has tuned the Regal GS' adaptive suspension system to offer three different modes, including a Sport setting.
02. 2012 Honda Civic Si
The 2012 Honda Civic Si compact sedan is the hottest edition of one of the most popular entry-level cars on the market. The Honda Civic Si sedan is built around a high-revving, 2.4-liter four-cylinder motor that has been tuned to provide 201 horses and 170 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission sends this output to the vehicle's front wheels, which are aided and abetted in their mission to put power to the ground by way of a limited-slip differential. Sporty suspension components, aerodynamic improvements, and a boy-racer interior treatment help to round out the sedan's most appealing features.
03. 2012 Chrysler 300C
The 2012 Chrysler 300C is a wolf in wolf's clothing, a big, bad, full-size sedan that certainly looks the part of a quick and competent automobile. The Chrysler 300C is gifted with superior body control for a vehicle of its size, and its suspension never sees it loafing through corners at higher speeds. The real advantage of opting for the 300C trim level, however, is access to the vehicle's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine, which develops a hearty 363 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque. The 300C can be had in both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive editions, and a five-speed automatic transmission is included with either layout.
04. 2012 Ford Taurus SHO
The 2012 Ford Taurus SHO adds a level of performance to Ford's flagship sedan that elevates it from comfortable cruiser to legitimate track-day threat. The Ford Taurus SHO's secret is a healthy dose of technology, starting with the vehicle's EcoBoost drivetrain that makes use of twin-turbochargers to grind out 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque from a 3.5-liter V-6. The Taurus SHO is also equipped with all-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic transmission (featuring paddle shifters), a suspension system that isn't afraid of a few corners and the availability of a Performance package that includes more aggressive steering settings and fade-resistant brake pads.
05. 2012 Volkswagen GLI
The 2012 Volkswagen GLI represents the most fun-to-drive member of the compact Jetta sedan family. The sporty Volkswagen GLI features a chassis that has been designed to offer a more responsive ride than that of the standard Jetta (thanks in part to a multi-link rear suspension system) and it also comes with sport seats and a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. With 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque on tap the GLI offers lively acceleration as well as the availability of a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual that provides even quicker gear changes than the traditional unit.
06. 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX
The 2012 Subaru WRX sedan is one of the most impressive performance bargains currently available. Wearing the bones of the standard Impreza, the Subaru WRX adapts the Japanese brand's wealth of rally-won racing experience into a street package that is both fast and nimble. The well-sprung WRX features grippy rubber, standard all-wheel drive and a five-speed manual transmission, and power is derived from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor. Capable of producing 265 ponies and 244 lb-ft of twist, the Subaru Impreza WRX is no slouch when it comes to blazing down the quarter mile or kicking up dust on an abandoned logging road.
07. 2012 Volvo S60
The 2012 Volvo S60 is an often-overlooked sport sedan competitor, but when found in T6 AWD trim it delivers an equivalent level of thrills wrapped in a practical package. The Volvo S60 T6 AWD is a stylish entry into the mid-size sedan segment, and on top of its host of premium features it provides the grip of all-wheel drive and a 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine that is turbocharged to provides 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque - more than a match for vehicles like the less well-endowed Audi A4. A six-speed automatic handles the gear shifting duties for the Volvo S60 T6 AWD.
08. 2012 Acura TL
The 2012 Acura TL has a secret weapon: the SH-AWD trim level. This particular edition of the mid-size Acura TL transforms it into a legitimate sport sedan contender thanks to a number of improvements over the entry-level version of the automobile. The TL SH-AWD features a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that is not only larger than the base model's six-cylinder but also pushes out more power - 305 ponies and 273 lb-ft of torque. The TL's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system manages torque in real-time to provide optimum cornering and traction in all manner of driving conditions, and a stiff suspension system and a six-speed automatic transmission are included free of charge. A six-speed manual tranny can also be ordered with the TL SH-AWD.
09. 2012 Infiniti G37
The 2012 Infiniti G37 sedan was designed from the ground up to compete with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, so it should come as no surprise when it delivers a high level of sporty performance to go with its curvy good looks. The Infiniti G37 sedan provides a 3.7-liter V-6 that is good for 328 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, and while all-wheel drive is optional a seven-speed automatic transmission is standard. The G37's platform has been specifically designed to balance luxurious comfort with precise road-holding ability, placing the affordable car in the upper echelon of compact premium sedans.
10. 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X is a compact pocket rocket that, like the Subaru Impreza WRX, owes much of its sport sedan flair to a history of World Rally Championship competition. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X can be had with features such as Recaro sport seats, Bilstein shocks and either a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. All-wheel drive helps to plant the vehicle's 291 turbocharged horsepower, drawn from a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder mill that also produces a hefty 300 lb-ft of torque. The Evo X is as close as most four-door automobiles get to a true sports car experience.