Powerful, nimble, and fast, sports cars embody the meaning of “fun to drive.” Not limited to a certain segment, however, these models can be found throughout any lineup, making them available in a wide price range. Here’s an overview of vehicles driven by Latino Traffic Report that meet as well as defy expectations of what a sports car should or can be.
Mercedes Benz E400 Cabriolet
A Mercedes-Benz can’t help but “look” sporty. Happily, the E400 Cabriolet brings power under its sheet metal, namely a 3.0-liter biturbo V6 matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission, to support that impression.
Oh yeah, it accelerates from zero–60 miles per hour (mph) in 6.3 seconds.
The two-door cabriolet (convertible) version of the E400 (it’s also available in a hardtop) can accommodate four, technically, with seating made of topstitched leather fitted by hand in any of 16 leathers and a choice of eight colors, like the optional Red and Black Nappa leather on the test model. The triple-layer fabric top reclined with the push of a button in about 28 seconds on the test drive.
Sustainably forested, hand‑finished wood trim accents the dash, doors and console. The E400 also came with dual-zone climate control and heated front seats, among other features.
While nice to look at, sit in, and drive, the E400 places a premium on technology.
Equipment usually included at this price point, like a blind spot monitor or rearview camera, were optional. In fact, there were five option packages on this model that added $10,510 to the base price of $62,275.
The as-tested price for the 2015 E400 Cabriolet came to $76,225.
Range Rover Sport HSE
Land Rover first introduced this trim level in 2005 as a sporty alternative to its iconic Range Rover. Why would someone want a sporty SUV, one might ask? The simple answer is, why not?
Redesigned in 2014, the new Sport model reflects an 800-pound-cutting process to lighten the new model for better on-road agility, performance and fuel economy, from the new suspension to the aluminum unibody architecture.
Equipped with the second generation Terrain Response System that allows the driver to choose among five settings depending on road conditions, full-time four-wheel drive, and enhanced electronic air suspension, the Range Rover Sport also retains its off-road capability.
The supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine with 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque gives it more oomph, with a zero-to-60 mph acceleration of 6.9 seconds. A supercharged V8 is also available.
The EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy is 17/22 mpg. I averaged 20.8 mpg.
This trim level adds $5,145 to the price tag as well as additional luxury features like Oxford perforated leather with heated and ventilated fronts seats, a sliding panoramic sunroof, 20-inch split spoke alloy wheels, Shadow Zebrano wood trim, and branded aluminum tread plates.
As tested pricing on the 2015 Range Rover Sport HSE came to $82,027.
Lexus RC 350 F Sport
Diving deeper into the sport sedan market, Lexus introduced the RC 350 for 2015.
The rear-wheel drive (RWD) two-door coupe bears a resemblance to the latest design DNA from Lexus, including the spindle grille, but with a more aggressive, lower stance as if ready to pounce.
As an F Sport trim level, the test-vehicle took the sporty experience even further.
Engineered as a stand-alone model, rather than as a two-door derivative of a sedan, it’s powered by a standard 306 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 paired with an eight-speed automatic with steering wheel shift paddles. It has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. I averaged 23.8 mpg.
The transmission also includes Sport, Normal, and Manual modes to improve performance, plus a Drive Mode Select dial for setting the suspension, steering wheel, powertrain, and air conditioning response to better suit a driver’s preference, including Normal, Eco, Sport S and Sport S+ on the F Sport for maximum handling performance.
Aside from performance technology, the F Sport package ($3,985) also adds a blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, and ventilated front leather seats. On the test model they were a beautiful shade of burgundy.
Pricing for the 2015 RC 350 starts at $43,715. The as-tested price came to $54,220.
Hyundai Genesis 5.0
Winning the North American Car of the Year accolade when it was introduced in 2009, the Hyundai Genesis gets redesigned for 2015 and the second generation is just as bold as the first.
With a refined version of Hyundai’s fluidic sculpture design DNA on the outside, the Genesis reaffirms its sporty intentions with a RWD configuration. For the first time, however, an all-wheel-drive version is also available.
The spacious interior affords the Genesis best-in-class front headroom and rear shoulder room.
What’s more impressive, however, is the suite of features included on the Genesis 5.0, from the panoramic sunroof to the smart cruise control with stop and start capability. I especially appreciated the haptic warning in the steering wheel as part of the blind spot and lane departure warning systems.
Powered by a 5.0-liter V8 with 420 horses and 383 lb–ft of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic simulated manual shifting and steering wheel paddle shifters, the Genesis performed like a champ. A 3.8-liter V6 is also available.
Continuous Damping Control suspension, included on the test model, allows drivers to choose between Sport and Normal modes to increase control of body motions and body roll, allowing sportier road holding.
Pricing for the 2015 Genesis starts at $38,950. The as-tested price came to $55,700.
Acura TLX 2.4L Tech
All new for 2015, the Acura TLX replaces the TL. Part of Acura’s re-envisioned performance-luxury sedan lineup, the TLX fulfills its objective via two available engines, two new transmissions, and new technology to improve ride and handling.
The test model came equipped with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder matched to an eight-speed dual clutch transmission. A 3.5-liter V6 matched to a nine-speed transmission is also available. It was also upgraded with the Technology Package that included navigation, the Acura-link Communication System, premium audio with haptic touch, perforated leather seats, a rear cross traffic monitor, forward collision warning, and a blind spot monitor among other features. Oddly, there was no parking sensor.
Precision All-Wheel Steer improved handling while the Integrated Dynamics System and paddle shifters improved performance.
As an added bonus, the four-cylinder improves fuel economy with an EPA estimated city/highway mpg of 24/35. I averaged 26.5 mpg.
Standard features include a moonroof, dual-zone climate control, keyless access with smart entry, heated front seats, a multiview rear camera, and push button start.
Offering one of the best bangs for the buck in its segment, pricing for the 2015 Acura TLX starts at $32,340. The as-tested pricing for the Acura TLX 2.4L Tech came to $35,920.
MINI Cooper S Hardtop 4 Door
The MINI Cooper has been bringing smiles to anyone who drives it since it first crossed the pond in 2002, I mean, just look a that front fascia, it’s a cutie patootie! Many models have tried to emulate it ever since.
The Cooper S adds another dimension to this diminutive hatchback, sportiness, while the all-new 4 Door adds roominess and versatility.
The specially tuned suspension and engine give the Cooper S improved performance and acceleration.
The 2.0-liter twin turbo four-cylinder that powers the Cooper S produces 189 horses and 207 lb–ft of torque. This engine plus a six-speed manual transmission made the Cooper S exceptionally fun to drive. A six-speed automatic is available.
The added power, however, doesn’t come at the cost of fuel economy. The EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy is 24/34 mpg. I averaged 32 mpg. You can also choose among Mid, Green, or Sport mode for a more customized performance.
All new for 2015, the 4 Door’s oversized circular center display is now devoted to the infotainment system rather than the speedometer on previous MINIs, which just makes more sense.
Equipped with multiple packages added sport striping across the top of the car, 17-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, and a panoramic sunroof.
Pricing for the 2015 MINI Cooper starts at $21,550. The as-tested pricing came to $34,350.
Dodge Challenger SXT
Muscle car enthusiasts heralded the return of the Dodge Challenger in 2008. The retro styling only added to the excitement.
Redesigned for 2015, Dodge decided not to mess with a good thing, opting to simply tweak the look by splitting the tail lamps and front grille.
The Challenger derives its power from a roaring 24-valve 3.6-liter V6 engine that generates 305 horses and 268 lb–ft of torque. Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission helps push city/highway fuel economy to an estimated 19/30 mpg. I averaged 22.1 mpg.
This muscle car also offers a choice of two HEMI V8 engines, a 5.7-liter and 6.4-liter.
Selecting the Sport mode can further enhance the sport suspension and ride.
With eight available trim levels, there are sportier Challenger models available, e.g. R/T, R/T Scat Pack, but even the base model that I drove reflected its performance DNA. I would pass, however, on the dull as dishwater Granite Crystal Metallic exterior paint.
Added equipment from the Sound Group ($495) and the Super Sport Group ($1,400) included 20-inch Satin Carbon Aluminum Wheels, steering wheel paddle shifters, a body color rear spoiler, and performance brakes.
Pricing for the 2015 Challenger starts at $27,990. The as-tested price came to $29,885.