There's nothing like driving a muscle car. As the rumble from a potent engine travels through the steering wheel to your hands, visceral reflexes make your heart pump fast and your right foot heavy.
But if you don't have the luxury of owning a car just for the joy of it, the compromises that you have to make to drive a muscle car can be too high. You’ll have to delete a high-performance coupe from your list if your needs include a useable back seat – with genuine leg room – or storage sizable enough for groceries and gear.
Fortunately, you don't always have to sacrifice speed for the sake of practicality. A select few cars on the market are masquerading as humble sedans and hatchbacks, but don't let their milquetoast facades fool you: These models still have the power to thrill you. Each of these six secret muscle cars were picked because their performance is comparable to a pony car, even though their appearance isn't.
2016 Chevrolet Impala
Once an oversized cruiser with a striking v-shaped rear deck, then a big-block muscle car, the Chevrolet Impala has since morphed into a family sedan. But while engineers toned down the Impala's styling and slimmed its size, they left at least one memento from its muscle car days: a brawny engine.
The base model of the 2016 Chevrolet Impala comes with a 196-horesepower, 2.5-liter engine. Upgrade to the 2LT trim, and this is swapped out for a more powerful 3.6-liter engine. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, this V6 delivers 305 horsepower and can hit 60 mph in under seven seconds.
The 2016 Impala is also priced like a muscle car. MSRP of an Impala 2LT starts at $30,435 and includes automatic climate control for two zones and an 8-inch infotainment screen. Raise the screen to expose a hidden, illuminated storage compartment.
Save money on this secret muscle car by taking a look at the U.S. News Best Price Program, which can help you find the lowest price near you. Or, if you prefer to lease, check out this month's Chevrolet deals, which include a great lease offer on the Impala 2LT.
2016 BMW M5
If you like the sound of 560 horsepower, you'll be in tune with a 2016 BMW M5. Its 4.4-liter V8 engine not only features twin-scroll turbochargers, direct injection, and electronic throttle control, but also has a growl worthy of a muscle car.
The five-passenger M5 may look like a sedan that's mild-mannered and refined, but it's still ready to rumble. A new M5 can launch from a dead stop to 60 mph in four seconds flat and has a top speed of 160 mph.
Plus, the M5's upgraded brakes, dynamic damper control, and track-tuned suspension make you feel like you're running laps on Germany's Nürburgring instead of navigating suburban neighborhoods.
2016 BMW 5-Series
If the $94,100 price tag of a 2016 M5 puts a sour taste in your mouth, a conventional 5-Series sedan from BMW can still satiate your appetite for speed. A 2016 BMW 535i similarly features electronic throttle control, a twin-scroll turbocharger, and direct injection in its 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine.
With 300 horsepower and a zero to 60 mph sprint time as fast as 5.5 seconds, the 535i has plenty of meat on its bones. It's also about half the cost of an M5, with prices starting at $55,850. You can save even more on a new BMW near you by using the U.S. News Best Price Program.
2016 Ford Taurus SHO
You may best know the Ford Taurus as a staple for rental car companies and a common pick for police cars. This four-door family car celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, with about 8 million built since its debut for 1986.But you may not be as familiar with its 365-horsepower version, the Ford Taurus SHO.
Forget the Cannonball Run. You'll set the fastest time for a Costco run with a 2016 Ford Taurus SHO. It accelerates from a dead stop to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
As a bonus, you'll be able to haul everything from your super-sized shopping trip, thanks to the SHO's 20.1 cubic feet of trunk space.
A 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 Engine gives this grocery-hauler its get up and go. Highlights of the powertrain include turbocharging, direct injection, sport mode for the 6-speed automatic transmission, and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Power is rated at 365 horsepower.
Ford has also created a signature Performance Package, which is standard equipment for the SHO. This includes larger front and rear brake rotors, high-performance brake pads, sport-tuned suspension, and an upgraded cooling pack.
As a bonus, the SHO is solid enough to race through your errands for years to come. If you need proof, take a look at how long Conan O'Brien (a fervent fan) has owned his SHO.
2016 Volkswagen Golf R
A small chrome "R" is the most conspicuous mark distinguishing a 2016 Volkswagen Golf R from the standard Golf hatchback. But once you climb inside, you'll quickly feel the difference. Powering the base Golf is a 1.8-liter engine that's fuel-efficient and peppy but pales in comparison to the Golf R's engine.
The Golf R, on the other hand, has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that's deceptively powerful. For 2016, engineers boosted output to 292 horsepower. When outfitted with VW's six-speed dual clutch transmission, the Golf goes from zero to 60 mph in only 4.5 seconds.
Opting for the six-speed manual transmission slows acceleration down a little but is satisfying for those who prefer to select their own gears. Well-bolstered leather seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel (also wrapped in leather), a low-ride height, and a sport-tuned suspension add to the Golf R's racy feel.
Volkswagen doesn't always offer deals on this high-performance hatchback (though Volkswagen deals typically include low financing or special lease offers on the standard Golf). You can still save money on your new Golf R, and find the lowest price near you with the U.S. News Best Price Program.
2016 Tesla Model S P90D
The mention of muscle cars can conjure images of a line of carburetors forming the shiny crest of a big block engine, exhaust surging from the tailpipes as the engine revs, and gasoline fumes rich enough to choke a canary. But not all speedy sedans are powered by petroleum.
The 2016 Tesla Model S P90D has no tailpipe emissions, no snarling engine sounds. As a battery electric car, its power comes from a 259-horsepower electric motor mounted in the front of the car and a separate 503-horsepower electric motor mounted in the rear.
Add the optional Ludicrous Speed upgrade to achieve an overall rating of 532 horsepower.
With this equipment setup, the Model S P90D can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. That's faster than the Chevrolet Camaro SS, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, and even the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. The Model S P90D can also achieve a max speed of 155 mph.
If you want to explore traditional muscle cars, check out our list of 12 fast cars built in the U.S.A. and our head-to-head comparison of the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang. Whether you pick a pony car or opt for something a little tamer, save time and money by using our Best Price Program. And be sure to follow us on Twitter, where we keep you up to speed on the latest car reviews and car shopping tips.