Think a top-shelf sport sedan is financially out of reach? You may want to think again. Surprisingly, the price difference between a run-of-the-mill sedan and a sports sedan is minimal. That's quite a statement, since midsize sedans are filled to the brim with value. However, a sports sedan will bring a level of refinement and technology that's tough to match, even for the most well- seasoned sedans. Many manufacturers first introduce features in premium segments before the features trickle down to mainstream vehicles. The sport sedans we've chosen below boast standard features like eight-speed transmissions (Audi, BMW) and seven-inch color touch-screen center displays (Infiniti). Moreover, the majority of these picks also feature driver and front passenger knee airbags. In addition, these premium sport sedan often have solid residual values, so when it comes time to trade up to something newer, the depreciation is less than expected. In short, if you have been shopping for a fully-loaded midsize sedan, give these sport sedans a once over before signing on the dotted line. The prices will surprise you.
This is the car other cars gun for, as they have for many years. The 328 defines the modern sport sedan, and with good reason. Many consider it the best handling, most fun-to-drive sedan on the market, period. Since its birth in 1977, the 3-series has won more accolades than all of its competitors combined. The current generation car proves the point by writing the textbook on poise, grip, control and balance. Go-power comes from a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with an 8-speed manual or automatic transmission. Purists would say the engine makes this a 320 and not a 328. Let them argue: we’ll go driving.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 22 city/34 highway.
In a group that's not about practicalities, the TL may be the most practical choice. As a Honda product, TL has resale values and reliability ratings to please any green-visor-wearing accountant. It is well equipped, with features like heated leather-trimmed seats, a premium audio system and moonroof all standard. It offers technology features to match any of its rivals. Chassis-wise, the standard front-wheel drive setup has balanced handling; for spirited driving, look to the “Super Handling” all-wheel drive version. FWD TLs use a 280-horsepower, 3.5- liter V6 with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The AWD uses a 305-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 with automatic or available manual transmission.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 19 city/28 highway.
The A4 is the real deal: a reasonably priced (for this class) sport sedan that can run with the biggest of dogs. Inside and out, this car is a looker. A resculpted front end with improved jewel lamps sets off the exterior, while the interior architecture is such a cohesive whole it’s hard to identify a major aesthetic flaw. Handling is superb even with front-wheel drive and the available quattro all-wheel drive just takes it to another level. The A4 is powered by a 211-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a CVT; the S4 boasts a 333-horsepower, 3.0-liter supercharged V6 mated to a 6-speed manual or optional 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 23 city/32 highway.
Cadillac is on a mission to conquer the luxury-sport world. Case in point: the new ATS, rolling into the crosshairs of the BMW 3-series. While ATS doesn’t dethrone the Bimmer, it legitimately plays in the same league, and that itself is high praise. Forget the base 202-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine. Please. Consider instead the 272-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 6-speed manual transmission (automatic available). That combination sings, and the lively chassis responds in harmony. For autobahn burning, choose the optional 321-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 with 8-speed automatic transmission. ATS continues Cadillac’s “Art and Science” design language that is both understated and striking. Job well done, Cadillac.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 20 city/29 highway.
Counting the varieties of G37 almost requires a degree in higher math. There is a sedan (of course) and a coupe and a folding hardtop convertible. All-wheel drive and rear- wheel drive. Don’t forget the IPL (Infiniti Performance Line) coupe and convertible for hard-core sports drivers. All of this variety would be for naught if the basic G weren’t a good car. Fortunately, it’s more than good: it borders on spectacular. The sedan’s 328-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 ranks among the best and is well matched to a 7-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission, all contributing to grin-inducing handling. While cabin materials and execution are good, they would benefit from an update.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 20 city/28 highway.