Elegance, athleticism, and practicality are desirable features that all merge to form our list of the best sports sedans of 2021.
The supposed decline of the sedan and the attendant rise of the SUV while a seductive narrative to fall back on fails to account for the reality of the current US automotive market. Between the polarities of “driving excitement” derived from the classic sports car, the Mustangs and Miatas of the world, and the soul-crushingly utilitarian experience of driving, say, the Chevrolet Suburban there lies the sports sedan. Sedans, the once premier people movers, have indeed been supplanted by larger crossovers and SUVs, but those vehicles, with rare exception, cannot come close to the road hugging, heart pounding, rollercoaster trills of a true sports car. A sports sedan can come closer, a lot closer. Our list of the best sports sedans of 2021 showcases some of the most engaging cars on the road, regardless of body style.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is perhaps the quintessential Mercedes product. A gorgeously wrought interior filled to the brim with the latest in automotive tech combined with the perfect balance of a silky-smooth ride and powerful, meticulously engineered engine options. The E-Class starts out with a fairly modest 2.0L, which, while small still offers a peppy 255 horsepower and ascends all the way to the AMG E 63 S and its 4.0L twin-turbo V8 with a whopping 603 horsepower. The E-Class, in whichever form you chose, perfectly blends the often-opposing goals of comfort and sportiness. Handling is superb, the ride is sublime, and the acceleration can send you to the chiropractor.
The performance minded BMW M3 and M3 Competition top off the already sporty 3-Series with all manner of performance goodies and a very aggressive and somewhat controversial grille. The styling maybe a matter of taste, but it’s hard to argue against the M3’s 3.0L twin-turbo inline-6 that puts out a thundering 473 horsepower and 406 lb.-ft. of torque. The M3 Competition ups the ante to a staggering 503 horsepower. The not-so-subtle M Drift Analyzer is a clear suggestion that the M3 wants to be tossed into corners. Just know that with all those smoky drifts, you’ll need to up your tire budget with this one. The BMW M3 puts strong emphasis on the sport in sports sedan.
Hyundai, once best known as the plucky Korean bargain brand, has made a bold and impressive shift up market over the last half-decade. Part of that effort has been successfully spinning off their Genesis brand. The Genesis G70 is a potent competitor to German marks like Mercedes and BMW, offering similar levels of refinement and performance but for less money. In fact, once you’ve driven it, it’s hard to get over the bargain proposition of the G70. The interior impresses with its high-quality materials, thoughtful design, and high-end tech. The optional 3.3L twin-turbo V6 produces 365 horsepower and plenty of thrills. A sport-tuned suspension and Brembo brakes further improve the drive while a long list of standard safety technology (like blind spot detection, emergency automatic braking, and adaptive cruise round) and an impressive 10-year warranty round out this new powerhouse player in the sprot sedan scene.
The Kia Stinger GT may carry the same 3.3L as the Genesis G70, but it’s got a character all its own. Its hatchback design not only lends a stylish rake to the rear of the car it adds considerably to the cargo capacity and rear seat room. The Stinger also receives minor cosmetic updates for 2022 including the new, futuristic Kia logo. Overall, Kia decided to stick with the already attractive, sporty design including arguably the best application of their “tiger nose” grille. The Stinger also offers Brembo brakes, 19-inch wheels, and a new 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen.
The gold standard for fully electric cars, Tesla’s cars combine the latest and greatest in automotive tech with neck-snapping acceleration and impressive range and efficiency. Their entry-point Model 3 is a convincing introduction to the brand and the #EVlife. The austere and elegant interior design is punctuated by a massive central infotainment screen that houses pretty much everything from climate control to in-car entertainment (to while away the time at charging stations). The impressive 0-60 times in the RWD Model 3 run from the Long Range’s 5.1 seconds to the Performance trim’s 3.5 seconds. Even more notable are the range numbers which are 263 miles, 315 miles, and 353 miles for each of the Model 3’s battery options. The oodles of safety technology in the Model 3 make it a safety all-star garnering plaudits and top ratings from the IIHS (Insurance Institutes for Highway Safety) and the NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration).
Audi makes lots of great, sporty sedans, but our favorite is the A7. The standard turbocharged V6 makes a healthy 335 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque channeled to all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic. That last item, the seven-speed, is a particular highlight offering smooth, responsive shifts. The A7 also features a plug-in hybrid pairing a 2.0L engine with an electric motor for 362 horsepower. For maximum output you’ll also want to consider the RS 7 variant with it’s twin-turbo V8 making 591 horsepower. Whichever powertrain you chose, the A7 is nimble as a deer while maintaining a glass-smooth ride regardless of road surface. Standard features include ambient lighting, leather upholstery, and a panoramic sunroof.
The Honda Accord, the once humble commuter, has matured into a real athlete in this, its 10th generation. The 2.0L turbocharger 4-cylinder engine offers a perfect balance of power and efficiency with 252 horsepower and 22 city / 32 highway mpg. The spry handling is complimented by responsive, light steering and well-controlled body roll. The Accord cements its all-rounder status with a great driving experience complimented by attractive styling, a roomy and comfortable cabin, and enviable safety and reliability scores. The Honda Accord really is the total package and tops out at under $40,000.
The Dodge Charger asks one question: how crazy do you like it? The base 3.6L V6 offers a rather sedate 292 horsepower. But let’s be honest, who’s considering a Charger with a V6 when there’s the R/T’s 5.7L V8 with 370 horsepower, the Scat Pack’s 485 horsepower 6.4L, or the SRT Hellcat Redeye and it’s absurd 6.2L supercharged V8 making the most horses of any sedan on the market at 797. The Redeye rips from 0-60 in just 3.6 seconds. Sure, there’s a decent interior, the intuitive Uconnect infotainment software, and, gasp, actual buttons on the center console, but really, if you’re even considering the Charger, its because of the outlandish engines Dodge is putting in them.