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Friday, March 18, 2011


"sleeper: something or someone that becomes unexpectedly successful or important after a period of being unnoticed, ignored, or considered unpromising or a failure"
Ever since the first police car rolled out of the factory, motorists have been trying to avoid the eye of "the man."  Everything from radar jammers to just plain slow driving have been employed by the general population.  While radar jammers and detectors have their place and driving slowly doesn't, the best way to avoid the 5-0 is by simply not drawing their attention in the first place.  In other words, drive a sleeper.

To further explain the definition above, a sleeper is a car that can blend in with normal traffic.  There are no outrageous wings, vents, or scoops.  The only telltale sign of the car's sporting potential is usually the badge that denotes what model the car is.  That is more often than not overlooked as well as these cars are slightly off the radar.

Due to discrepancies about this topic in the FPH office, here's my list of sleepers by category and in no particular order.

Coupe: 2004 Pontiac GTO
America has a love/hate relationship with the coupe.  Two doors always seem to symbolize "sports car" to the general public.  Then cars like the Cobalt and G6 are bought by the thousands and the enthusiasts wonder what the hell just happened.  However, for once in my life, I'm thankful for those cars because the respective SS and GXP versions of those cars are absolutely disgraceful with their boy racer air dams and ironing board rear wings.  While they get the stink eye, this 2004 GTO passes by unnoticed due to its conservative sheet metal.  Under that sheet metal resides the most popular motor in automotive history, the Chevy small block.

Powered by a 350hp LS1, the GTO takes its time getting to 60 in 5.3 seconds.  While this isn't anything to be ashamed of, the anorexic 245 width tires could definitely be super sized or fed some more Vegemite to help with grip.  More rubber would also help the slalom and the already respectable .88g skidpad performance.  With 2004 examples starting at $10g on Ebay, it would still be a bargain to throw on some wider wheels and tires especially since there should be very few speeding fines to worry about.

Sport Compact: 2007-2009 Mazdaspeed3
I'm going to get this out of the way before somebody else calls me out on it.  Yes, this is my actual car.  I like sleepers and I stand by my statements.  That being said I can attest to this car's stealth abilities.

Just as the coupe is by default a sports car, the hatchback is strictly utilitarian.  It's meant to take trips to wholesale clubs and transport some furniture.  There are no panty dropping credential for a hatchback.

The performance credential are there though.  Sixty can be achieved in 5.3 seconds with high fives being more the norm.  The quarter mile is gone in around 14 seconds.  Did I mention this front driver claws its way to .91g on the skidpad?  Add in tuning options that range from simple intakes to forged internals and your friends won't be embarrassed riding shotgun in a wagon.

SUV: 2006-2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8
Power: 420 hp
Torque: 420 lb-ft
0-60: 4.6 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.2 seconds at 104.1 mph
skidpad: .92g

Take a look at the picture.  Now take a look at those stats.  Something shouldn't compute.  Something should be telling you that there's a glitch in the matrix.  That's exactly the reason this Jeep qualifies as a sleeper.  It looks like it should be bracket racing with Pintos and Gremlins.  In actuality, it can run side by side with the Camaro SS.  Oh yeah, it's got a Hemi too...

Luxury: 2003-2008 Jaguar S-Type R
flickr: Alhoaimel photography
Ever see the Queen Mum hauling ass to or from Buckingham Palace?  I've never been to England but I would assume that's never the case.  In fact, I've never seen anything that old in a hurry which is why a Jaguar deserves to be on this list.  This S-Type R (STR) looks like it was designed in the 1960s and every trip is a leisurely Sunday drive until you put your foot in it.

This geriatric is no slouch.  It still has a good heart, a 4.2 litre V8, but needs a little help breathing in the form of a Roots type supercharger.  The combination cranks out a healthy 400hp and 403 lb-ft of torque.  Like most older gentlemen, a few pounds have been tacked on over the years.  This two ton retiree runs to sixty in 5.2 seconds and through the quarter in 13.6 seconds.  Brembos haul down this saloon from sixty in just 109 feet while the slalom is completed at a respectable 65 mph.  This car is like a retired British SAS soldier.  It's impeccably proper but can rip your face off when needed.

Miscellaneous: 2009-current Ford Taurus SHO
Sometimes you just can't beat the man.  When that's the case, join 'em.  The old fleet of Crown Vics are on their way out and the Taurus SHO along with the Dodge Charger seem to be the heir apparent.  While the Dodge is all shouty with its fastback styling and cross-hair grill, the SHO is being employed as the unmarked cruiser.  Unmarked...isn't that what this post is all about?

This car is packing some serious firepower too.  There are six cylinders, two turbos, three and a half liters, 365 horsepower, 350 lb-ft, and four drive wheels.  Like a beat cop, this thing is out there for all four seasons posting 5.2 second 0-60 times and 13.7 seconds quarter miles.  4300 pounds of brawn can still hold on for .87g.  Fords have been on the force for a pretty long time but this one is fresh out of the academy and is rearing to go.


  1. I was admiring a new SHO parked outside of my office this morning. Nice numbers, and pretty car for a sedan...but I couldn't get over how BIG it is.

  2. Ya, it is a huge car. I read somewhere that the Charger didn't have enough interior or trunk space for all the gear that police officers need and a Dodge Magnum would be used as a support vehicle. So, it would make sense that police departments would want such a big car in the SHO.

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