Who said you can’t have supercar performance and enough space for the family? Here are ten of the best Autobahn-storming super saloons
Although sporty saloon cars have been around for generations, the current breed of super high-performance four-door saloons have come on a long way in a short space of time. Boasting performance figures that can humble even the quickest sportscars, these full-sized vehicles can do it in comfort, while carrying the family and a week’s worth of luggage.
It has always been slightly difficult to place a finger on the the car that really kickstarted the super saloon revolution. While there were various powerful saloon cars from the likes of Jaguar, Maserati, Aston Martin and many others during the 1960s and 1970s, some argue that the original supercar-engined E28 M5 was the first car to genuinely earn the title. Others say that it was the 177mph Lotus Carlton
. Both of these cars have a valid stake to the claim, and thanks to these early pioneers, we now live in a world where the dream of a 150mph-plus super saloon is a reality.
Here are ten of the fastest, most useful and fun super saloons you can buy:
Audi RS6 - V10 model From £23,000 to £55,000
All of the Audi RS6 generations, from the first C5 to the current C7, display an amazing breadth of skills. Hugely powerful and immensely fast in a straight line. Perhaps the most absurd is the previous generation V10 model, which utilised the same V10 engine found in the Lamborghini Gallardo – plus a pair of turbochargers to boost power and torque to 572bhp and 479lb ft. Although that might sound adequate, there are tuning firms that offer power upgrades to 700bhp with a simple remap. Exhaust and turbo upgrades can push that figure to about 850bhp too…
BMW M5 V10 - From £10,000 to £35,000
Another V10-engined German machine, but that’s just about where the similarities end. The BMW M5 is a different beast altogether, and the highly-strung naturally aspirated engine and sharper rear-wheel drive dynamics provide a more driver focused experience. It was the first M5 not available with a manual transmission (except in North America), but BMW’s SMG set-up is actually pretty decent once you get used to it.
Many actually prefer the earlier E39 M5, complete with V8 engine and six-speed manual gearbox, and prices for good examples of these are actually overtaking those of the more difficult to maintain V10.
Some might say the Lotus Carlton was the original super saloon, and with a top speed of 177mph held the record of being the fastest four-door car for many years. When it was launched in 1990, there was actually a huge controversy surrounding its mega performance, and the de-restricted top speed, with calls from the UK press to ban the car. The standard Carlton, a highly-regarded performance saloon in its own right, received a significant amount of development from Lotus – most notably a 3.6-litre long-stroke and twin-turbo version of the straight-six 24v Carlton GSI engine. Despite its advancing age today, it is still more than capable of delivering serious performance.
Mercedes E63 AMG - 5.5 Bi-turbo from £35,000 to £85,000
The twin-turbo 5.5-litre engine introduced in the 2011 E63 AMG is probably one of the most impressive engines ever fitted to an AMG, and that is saying something. The evolution from naturally aspirated to turbocharged engine made the car even more dominating, and will have you reaching the 155mph limiter as quickly and effortlessly as any normal car hits 80mph. If you find yourself being gentle on the throttle, it’ll actually be pretty frugal too.
Alternative choice: If Mercs are your thing but you fancy something even more ridiculous, there is always the W220-generation S65 AMG. This twin-turbo V12-powered limousine came with more than 600bhp and 700lb ft of torque.
Maserati Quattroporte - From £12,500 to £45,000
The Maserati Quattroporte offers something that only one other car in this list can, and that’s genuinely fashionable looks. Although the stylish looks are a big part of the appeal, the Ferrari-derived naturally aspirated V8 engine is a thing of joy, and it’s a true slice of owning an Italian super GT with four doors.
> Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds for a used Maserati Quattroporte
Although it might feel humdrum inside, the Australian Holden-based underpinnings are significantly more sophisticated that the earlier Monaro, making this Vauxhall worthy of your attention. Very much like the MG below, the VXR8 really deserves to be fitted with a supercharger kit before it can really wear the super saloon badge of honour. It’s also the only cars in this list that can be bought in pick-up truck form – the wild Maloo.
Alternative choice: The MG ZT 260, with its Ford Mustang V8 and rear-wheel drive was a long way from the Rover 75 on which it was originally based, and is very similar in ethos to the bargain Vauxhalls. With 260bhp as standard, it’s actually fairly tame, but there are many off the shelf supercharger conversions that can do wonders
Love or hate the looks, you can’t dismiss the Porsche’s ability to get from A to B extremely quickly. Like the 911 Turbo, it’s not the most involving, but it is exceptional at delivering speed. If you’re after a more enjoyable drive, seek out the Panamera GTS. This offers naturally-aspirated thrills and is a much more enjoyable B-road blaster.
Aston Martin Rapide - From £70,000 to £140,000
Behind the wheel, the V12-engined Rapide feels like a slightly larger and heavier DB9, and comes with one of the finest automotive interiors ever produced. Outside it also carries over the DB9’s gorgeous looks, with the high rear haunches, to the detriment of rear cabin space. When a car looks, sounds and feels this good, you can learn to forgive some of the practicalities…
> Read the Rapide buying guide, and find cars for sale here
When Jaguar bolted a supercharger onto its straight-six engined XJ, it gave this classy leather and walnut saloon BMW M5-rivalling performance. Despite what you might think, they’re actually pretty reliable, the later V8-engined X308 cars even more so. The main problem is rust, so buy the best you can find and enjoy!
Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed - From £100,000 to £150,000
If you want the ultimate in comfort, then the Bentley has you covered. It’s a luxury car at heart, but the 602bhp Speed model in 2008 was the first to crack 200mph, making it the fastest four-door saloon on the planet.
> Take a look at used Bentley Continental Flying Spurs in the classifieds