It’s a tricky thing, trying to meld the dynamics of a sports car with the practical requirements a four-door Sedan. This is true because in many ways, those two characteristics are diametrically opposed to one another. The best sporty cars with four doors must find a way to bridge this gap. A sports car, by definition, is a small, highly agile automobile, usually fitted with but two seats, configured to provide exceptional driving pleasure. On the other hand, people expect a four-door sedan to provide space for at least four people and a comfortable ride. Often though, to make a car live up to the highly agile aspect of the equation and handle well, ride quality must be somewhat sacrificed. The cars on this list have been engineered specifically to function reasonably well as a sedan, while still delivering thrills for the driver when called upon to do so.
Freshly redesigned for the 2015 model year, Audi’s A3 lineup now contains a sporty new variant; the Audi S3. Fitted with a 292-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the S3 places some 280 ft-lbs of torque at its driver’s disposal. All-wheel drive and Audi’s responsive six-speed automated manual (S-tronic) transmission complete the drivetrain. The company quotes a zero to 60 time of 4.7 seconds for the diminutive sedan; which places it well within the ranks of some of the most coveted sports cars. With Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system working for it, terrific handling is also assured, while also helping to maintain a comfortable ride quality. Pricing starts at $41,100.
For most driving enthusiasts, all of BMW’s cars enjoy top of mind positioning. This makes sense because the company pretty much invented the sporty four-door, and its cars are the category’s benchmarks. While the standard BMW models are exciting enough, the company’s M-badged products are truly thrilling. The one most people think of when the term sporty four-door is bandied about is the M3. All new for the 2015 model year, BMW’s M3 offers 425 horsepower and 406 ft-lbs of torque from a twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine. As if to prove how serious BMW is about performance, the seven-speed automatic transmission fitted to the rear-drive M3 offers a Smoky Burnout function. Naturally, a six-speed manual is offered too. Pricing starts at $62,000.
Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat holds the distinction of being the most powerful four-door sedan ever offered in series production by a mainstream manufacturer. Its 6.2-liter supercharged V8 generates an amazing 707 horsepower and 650 ft-lbs of torque. Conducting this power to the rear wheels is an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Charger Hellcat has been clocked at 11 seconds in the quarter mile, 3.7 seconds to 60, and it boasts a top speed of 204 miles per hour. The suspension and braking systems are suitably fortified to be up to the task of helping the driver maintain control of this exceptionally capable automobile. Pricing starts at $63,995.
Honda Civic Si
Rolling proof an engaging driving experience needn’t involve megawatts of power, nor a huge capital outlay, Honda’s Civic Si has long been a favorite of driving aficionados. Among its attributes are a comfortable ride, a spacious interior, and a broad array of comfort and convenience features. For the driver(s) in the family, the Civic Si offers an exceptionally free-winding 205-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline four with 174 ft-lbs of torque. Be apprised you’ll do your own shifting, as the front-drive Honda Civic Si is a six-speed manual transmission proposition only. In addition to the delightfully revving engine, Honda has upgraded the Civic’s braking and suspension systems with an eye toward maximizing driving pleasure—without destroying ride quality. Pricing starts at $23,090.
Mercedes-AMG CLS63 S-Model 4MATIC
The gracefully styled all-wheel drive Mercedes-AMG CLS63 S 4MATIC is home to one of the sweetest sounding V8 engines ever to bark an exhaust note through a set of twin tailpipes. The handbuilt 577-horsepower 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 is capable of producing 590 ft-lbs of torque. This is conducted to all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. Zero to 60 is quoted at 3.6 seconds. The AMG adaptive sport suspension system is stiff when it needs to be for handling and compliant when it needs to be to ensure ride quality. Further, sumptuously luxurious comfort and convenience features are bountiful in their abundance. Pricing starts at $106,550.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution has been hailed as being the best handling four-door sedan in its price range. As its name suggests, the Lancer Evolution evolved out of the Mitsubishi Lancer economy sedan. Sharing many of that car’s styling elements, the “Evo” (as it is affectionately referred to) takes everything mechanical about the Lancer and dials it up to 11. Brembo brakes, a performance-oriented all-wheel drive system, and a twin-clutch automated manual transmission are among the upgrades offered with the Lancer Evolution. A 291-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 300 ft-lbs of torque supplies power. Zero to 60 is quoted at just under five seconds. Pricing starts at $34,495.
Subaru WRX/WRX STi
All new for the 2015 model year, Subaru’s WRX is something of a cult car, and deservedly so. Based upon the company’s legendary all-conquering World Rally Championship models, the Subaru WRX is indeed descended from greatness. Its top-performing version, the WRX STi, gets 305 horsepower and 290 ft-lbs of torque out of a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is employed to route power to all four wheels. The STi’s quoted zero to 60 time is just over five seconds. The standard WRX gets 268 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque out of a turbocharged 2.0-liter flat four. A six-speed manual is standard, a continuously variable transmission is offered as an option. WRX pricing starts at $26,295; STi pricing starts at $34,495.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S
The top-performing version of Porsche’s four-door sedan is absolutely stupefying in its capabilities. First of all, the model is just as luxurious as it is powerful, which is saying a lot when you consider the all-wheel drive Porsche Panamera Turbo S packs a twin-turbocharged 570-horsepower, 4.8-liter V8 capable of producing 590 ft-lbs of torque. The big four-door sedan (again, loaded from stem to stern with luxury features mind you) sprints to 60 in 3.6 seconds and goes around curves like a car a quarter of its size. If any four-door sedan could ever be said to be a sports car in disguise, the Panamera Turbo S is actually an exotic super sports car in disguise. Pricing starts at $180,300.
Volvo S60 T6 R-Design Polestar
Your first glimpse of the Volvo S60 T6 R-Design Polestar, tells you this car was built with performance in mind. The fluidly undulating styling, the large wheels and aggressive looking low-profile tires, and the tastefully subtle aerodynamic tweaks all add up to a promise of exhilarating performance. And, the S60 T6 R-Design Polestar lives up to its promise. Power comes from a 325-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine with 354 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission routes the engine’s output to all four wheels. Volvo quotes a zero to 60 of 5.4 seconds. Pricing starts at $43,550.