Top 5 Sports Sedans for 2010-2011 under $100,000

Audi RS4 Rear View

We all know a true sports car has only 2 doors. Coupes go faster, stop quicker, corner better and generally look better (unless Mansory has gotten to it). But people usually have more than one friend. I’m sure Hannibal Lecter could find a couple of people to take out on a Friday night. Whether they all got home safely is another story. So whether you have friends, a family, or lots of stuff, a 2 door sports car won’t cut it.

A sedan is the next logical step, but that doesn’t mean you have to drive around in a Lithium-infused, 8 ton 4 door that’s more likely to be confused with a Tempur-Pedic mattress than a sports car. The battle of sports sedans has been growing each year, with car-makers giving us more choices, better looks, beter handling and of course, better engines. Selection is great, but it can also be overwhelming. Shopping for paper towels now requires 4 pre-emptive Advil, so shopping for a sports sedan should come with an emergency vial of Vicodin. To help you out, I’ve made a list of the Top 5 Sports Sedans Under $100,000. Make the jump to see the list…

These are not in a particular order. There’s no first place, 3rd choice, or last resort. Even though these sedans may share some attributes with one another, these 5 were chosen because they are also unique and fill a specific need, be it performance, luxury, or design.

Cadillac CTS-V

Cadillac CTS-V

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise to see America’s best current sedan in this lineup. Since its introduction in 2004 the CTS-V has had journalists and enthusiasts alike praising its amazing and unexpected abilites as a true super sedan. Its supercharged V8 puts out 556hp and 551 tq, giving it more than enough credentials to get into the super sedan club. Even with an automatic transmission, the car will hit 60mph in under 4 seconds. But what really made the world take notice is the CTS-V’s grip and balance through the corners. American cars had the horsepower game figured out decades ago, but our brains were incapable of understanding the word “Apex.”

Clearly evolution has done its job, because the CTS-V set a new record at the Nurburgring for production sedans on stock tires, with a lap time of 7:59.32 (It was beaten later by the Porsche Panamera Turbo). To give you an idea how fast that is, it beat the BMW M5, its clear target, by almost 14 seconds. It’s also faster than a Nissan GTR, Porsche GT3, and anything with the last name “Martin.”

2010 Cadillac CTS-V engine

Its also nicely appointed inside, and perfectly at home meandering through the neighborhood at 25mph. It has 4 doors, a sizeable trunk, and all the modern comforts we want in a luxury sedan. And with a price of $61,545, it’s way cheaper than anything else with the same combo of performance and luxury. But it’s not the Alcantara trim and NAV screen that got this Caddy into the Top 5 club, it’s that supercharged V8 and track-ready chassis. Few cars with four doors will give immature hooligans as big a grin as the CTS-V.

This is the car I would buy if I wanted a high performance coupe, but absolutely had to have 4 doors. This is the car that I would take to get groceries, and then take the 40 minute canyon road detour. This car would have my wife saying, “Why does that car go through tires so quickly? They must have built it wrong.” It looks intimidating and has the chops to back it up. It’s a 4-door muscle car that knows how to turn, and it’s just awesome.

2010 Audi S4

2010 S4

What would a sport sedan wish list be without an Audi S4? Few cars can walk the fence between luxury and sport at this price. The last generation S4 wasn’t on par with the previous B5 model. The B5 twin-turbo S4 was an agile, boosted fun machine equally capable on highway blasts and mountain curves. It made almost 300 ft lbs. under 2000 RPM, and was one of the fastest sedans in the world. Engine mods were easy and the cars were coveted by owners and admirers alike. Then the B6 came. Sure it had a V8 in it, but little else set it apart from the A4, and it wasn’t even that fast. Its 0-60 time was no faster than the previous car, neither was the torque. A torque-less V8 is not ok with me, and it made the car plow like a mini van.

Well glory and hallelujah, the B8 is here. Gone is the heavy V8 powertrain, replaced by a supercharged 3.0L V6; all hail the return of forced induction. Thanks to the FSI (Fuel Stratified Injection) the aluminum powerplant makes only 6 less horsepower (333hp) than the V8, and also makes 22 more ft. lbs of torque (325tq), while returning a respectable 18/27 mpg city/highway. 0-60 happens in 4.9 seconds, and of course the top speed is limited to 155mph. Basically it’s faster in a straight line, has more grunt, and gets better gas mileage. What’s not to love. The new engine is certainly exciting, but that’s only the beginning. Look deeper into the S4, and you find there’s far more to this car than just a new engine.

2010 Audi S4

You can choose the 6-speed manual, which delivers crisp shifts and optional heel-and-toe. Or you can spring for the new 7-speed dual clutch transmission. I prefer the manual, but if you have a 60 minute commute everyday, the 7 speed will be a blessing. Audi’s Quattro system is standard, and can send as much as 80% of the torque to the rear wheels (read:fun). But the icing is the optional Quattro Sports Differential. Check this box on the order form, trust me. Without it the S4 is a perfectly fun sports sedan, but with it it becomes a capable track car. While cornering, the diff. sends more torque to the outside rear wheel (instead of using brakes like the Porsche system), pushing the car around the corner. Do it just right and you can even step the tail out just enough to raise a passenger’s heart-rate (Click for a video of 4 wheeled madness).

2010 S4 interior

Of course inside is a first-class interior, what else would you expect from Audi? The layout is intuitive, the touch points are great and fit/finish is exceptional. There are plenty of packages and options available inside, and they can get expensive. So while you may start with a $45,000 ($47,000 with the AT) car, it can quickly break the $50k ceiling. But what you get for that money is an incredible car. With some sticky tires, a Sport Diff. equipped car will easily keep any track junkie happy. The interior is nicer than cars costing double, it makes great power, and it comes with AWD.

This is a great “do everything” car. A4s are now the size of previous A6s, so there’s more than enough room in the back without feeling like I’m driving an RV. AWD keeps you moving no matter what the season, and the gas mileage ensures you don’t have to sell your body to pay for you kid’s college education. I could drive it in CO any time of year without hesitation, and should I encounter a dry road on the way to work, the “S” pedigree would ensure I arrived smiling. Plus, aside from some badging and subtle bodywork, it doesn’t look that different from a normal A4, so you won’t feel like you’re driving a car with a giant “Hey cop, over here!” flag sticking out of the roof.

2011 BMW 550i

2011 BMW 550i

They say it’s the ultimate driving machine. When that slogan was written it may have been true. Porsches were death traps, Mercedes were heavier than plutonium, and American cars were…American. Now the competition is stiffer and there’s more challengers battling for this throne. Every year the 3 seris ends up on someone’s Top 10 list, but the cars in spot 11 through 15 can be damn good as well. Intent on maintaining it’s place at the top, BMW has designed a whole new frame for the new 5 series. It’s slightly bigger than the outgoing model, putting it somewhere between the old 5 and 7 series sedans. The new frame is said to be the “sportiest” platform yet, and is 55% better at resisting twists. The wheelbase is longer, making it more stable at speed and also more comfortable. And despite using aluminum for a lot of the body panels, it’s gained almost 400 lbs. So it’s longer, wider and heavier. How is that “sporty?”

550i engine

When you have a 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8, that’s how. Gone is the old 4.8 liter unit, replaced with this direct-injected nuclear reactor. The old engine made 362hp. This one makes 402hp, as well as a metric tonne of torque, 450 ft lbs to be exact. With the power sent through a new 8 speed automatic transmission, this 2-ton Bavarian missile will reach 60 mph in under 5 seconds. And thanks to tall gearing the 550i uses 5% less fuel than the old model. If you ask nicely (with your wallet) the dealer can add the BMW Sport Package, complete with paddle shifters and 4 driver-selectable modes which change the usual suspension and throttle settings. You can also get the car with 4-wheel steering, helping the car move about in both low and high speeds.

If you own an M5, this car will probably piss you off. While the M5 has a horsepower advantage, it’s got 70 fewer ft lbs of grunt, meaning the 550i will probably beat it off the line, and generally feel faster. And if you’re like me, the words “TT V8” have a subtitle that says “aftermarket playground.” How de-tuned do you think this car is? I’m sure a simple software “investment” would produce an insane return of power and torque. I wouldn’t be suprised if DINAN or G Power get 600hp; I can’t wait. Although you won’t have excuses for tardiness anymore.

550i interior

And if you like gadgets, this is the car for you. This car laughs at Bluetooth, iPod jacks and the phrase “SAT-NAV.” It probably has all those things on the inside of the muffler, just because it’s that awesome. You can get 3 backup cameras in this car, giving you more eyes on the world than Morgan Freeman in Dark Knight. If the 7 inch standard MMI screen is a little too “Game Boy-ey” for you, there’s an optional 10″ screen. And forget parking assistance, this thing basically has a parallel parking assistant. While you drive along at 22mph, it scans spots to find one that is big enough with 4 feet to spare. On top of the power and usual BMW cushiness, I think this is the best looking 5 series yet; clean, clearly BMW, with just enough muscle in the right places.

550i front

This is a car for the business person that needs to be somewhere yesterday. It has every computer you want, and some you didn’t but will soon depend on. It will handle like…a BMW, with more grip and agility than you expected from a big sedan. It will gobble highway like Kirstie Alley at a bakery, and if you’re stuck in traffic, no problem, it’s more comfortable than your house. Thanks to the economy (never said that before) it starts at $65,600, a hair more than the outgoing model.

That’s all well and good, but the engine and 8 speed transmission are what set this car off for me. How many cars have twin-turbo V8s standard? None. The last RS6 had one, and it was incredible. Now the 550i has one. The 550i has RS6 power, BMW driving, enough gadgets to keep a 12 year old asian gamer happy, all at half the price of an RS6. I think this is a super sedan hidden under a Snuggie. It will be a comfy place for professionals to commute, but it also has the heart of a hooligan. It may not have an “M” badge, but it’s wearing “M” underwear.

2010 Jaguar XFR

2010 Jaguar xfr

This is on the list because, well, look at it. It is the beauty contest winner of this group, and it’s hardly a competition. The 2010 Jaguar XFR may be winning hearts and minds with it’s M5-ish performance (and recent CTS-V squabbles) but it won me over without ever turning a tire. Jaguars have always been beautfiful, and this one takes the modern “sedan coupe” design to a whole new level. It’s got brawn for sure, but it looks sexy at the same time. The lines flow from nose to tail in a wonderful pen-stroke of smooth muscle. The long, formidable hood shows off the power of the big cat, but the soft C pillar and rounded deck advertise the soft comfort that lies within. It’s just a fantastic looking car.

2010 XFR

The warmth continues on the inside, with soft leather, high quality aluminum and even a feaux-suede headliner. The touch points are as good as they look, and there’s plenty of blinky parts to keep you informed and entertained. Small touches, like the transmission puck (?) rising out of the center console on startup, or the vent covers disappearing, add to the allure of this car; it looks and feels special. All the other cars in the XFR‘s ring pack plenty of power and wizadry, but none of them have as much soul as the Jag.

And before you forget, this is not a tame housecat. This is a predator, ready at any moment to chase down oblivious prey. Be it a small import cutting you off in traffic or a cocky S600 trying to beat you to the valet stand at Morton’s, the XFR has 510hp (461 lb ft.) that will set them straight. This enormous power comes from a boosted 5.0 liter V8, propelling the Jag to 60mph in only 4.7 seconds. And despite having only 510hp, the big Jag will beat Mercedes’ new E63AMG to 150mph. Unexpected, unexplicable, bravo.

2010 Jaguar XFR

The handling is the worst attribute of this car, but that’s only because it’s competitors are such good dancers. It won’t beat the other cars on the ‘Ring, and it’s soft over bumps and in the corners. Up against the E63AMG, M5 and CTS-V, the XFR was basically trying to fit in Krusty the Clown’s shoes. While it wasn’t a perfect fit, there wasn’t a lot of room left.  And I honestly don’t care. This is not a car to race in, it’s a car to enjoy. Crack the windows, mash the gas, and watch the people’s heads turn as you roar past. No matter where you look-back seat or C pillar-it just makes you smile.

It may start at $80,000, but finding a car that looks this good-and goes this fast-is not easy. The Aston Martin Rapide may draw a few more low whistles, but it starts at $200k, hardly a bargain. The shape of this car is one of the best I’ve seen in recent years, be it a coupe or a sedan; I actually prefer it over the XKR. If you want a car that looks good, inside and out, and can put on a pretty good front of hanging with the big boys, this is it.

Lexus LS460L

2010 Lexus 460L

Welcome to the Tempur Pedic mattress of Sedans. Yes Lexus cars-LFA aside (duh)-are as exciting as a ladybug, but they are comfortable, reliable, quiet and smooth. If I had to pick a car to be driven across the country in, it would be the Lexus LS460L. The Overall Winner of Consumer Reports’ “10 Best Cars” it may not be exceptional to drive, but it is an exceptional place to be. When you’re covering lots of miles, you don’t care about 0-60 times, skid pads, exhaust notes or Dynamic modes; you just want peace and quiet. That is exactly what Lexus does best.

Starting at $64,000, the 460L is priced competitively with the BMW, but it’s options list is much more reasonable, maxing out around $74,000. It has a 380hp V8 engine, mated to an 8 speed automatic, so it’s clearly out-gunned on this list. But this car never set out to win a 0-100-0 contest. It was made so Japanese businessmen could travel in total tranquility. And because it’s a Lexus, you could drive in tranquility for hundreds of thousands of miles without so much as a hiccup.

2010 lexus ls460l

The true gem of this car is the interior, specifically the back seat. This is business class with 4 wheels. A poor man’s (-ish) Maybach, a Rolls Royce that flies under the paparazzi radar. The seats pictured are part of Lexus’ Rear Seat Upgrade Package. The package gives you power seats, foot rests, and headrests (with memory settings), 4 zone climate control (great if you have bi-polar feet), power sunshades, a cooler box and of course, seat massagers. If you see one of these in a junk yard, call me. I will rip out the rear seats from this car and replace my couch with them. I don’t know if my body can handle 4 different climates, but I want to find out. Adjust the lumbar support, and you are sitting a soft-leather cloud, getting a heated massage on the way to your destination. Check the box for the 19 speaker Mark Levinson DVD/CD audio system, and you will be going to the garage for movie night.

2010 LS460L

Sure it’ has a ho hum design, but it’s so serene it makes your common limo feel like a KISS concert. I think the smooth, unassuming shape is actually a blessing. If an Aston Rapide drives by, everyone will turn and want to know who is inside. But Obama could ride in an LS460L down Santa Monica Blvd, and no one would look at it twice. You don’t buy this car to win a race or drift the cul-de-sac (although it’s the star of the burnout photo at the top), you buy it to relax in after a hard day at work.

This is day spa on wheels. Relax into the ultra-soft leather, open the center console and grab a cold drink, let your favorite CD fill the cabin, and as the seats work out all the day’s tension you won’t care that the Cadillac has almost 200 more horsepower, or how much faster an E63 lapped the ‘Ring. In fact, you won’t care about anything, because life is too comfortable to care about such trivial things.