$46K Sport Sedan Shootout
When you talk sports sedans, eventually one name comes up, and that’s the BMW 3-series. With good reason, as it has long been the global benchmark that all others have aimed at. Well there’s been a lot more aiming recently, and some brands have gotten a lot more accurate. So we put 6 of the latest sports sedans to the test and see which ones hit the bulls eye.
Yeah, we know; it’s a tough job. But it’s not like we didn’t have plenty of offers to help from the folks at Cars.com and USA TODAY in where else, but sunny Southern California.
The rules of this challenge were simple; bring us a sport sedan costing less than $46,000. These 2013 models could have any drive train as long as it came in under the price cap. Six brands stepped up to the plate, and here’s what they brought…
…from Acura, it’s the stylish and high value TL…
…Audi jumps into the fray with the polished but potent A4…
…and of course there’s a BMW 3-series, a 328i to be precise…
…and MotorWeek’s Drivers’ Choice Best of the Year, the Cadillac ATS…
…Mercedes-Benz is well represented by the C250…
…and our final entry, Volvo’s oh so understated Swede, the S60.
We wasted little time in getting to the track, so we won’t waste any here either, here are the results…
Speed may be relative, but it’s also measurable; and someone had to be the slowest of the bunch. And that would be the Mercedes-Benz C250 with an 8.2-second 0-60, but its 1.8-liter turbo I4 was also the smallest in our test.
Beating the Benz by 2-tenths is the Cadillac ATS, despite its 2.0-liter turbo-4 having the second highest horsepower at 272.
JIM HEALEY: The Cadillac ATS has a lovely chassis. It’s just really responsive, you turn; it turns. There’s not a lot of lean, not a lot of weighting. It’s right there for you.
JOHN DAVIS: The Audi A4 also sports a 2.0-liter turbo and hits 60 in 7.7-seconds.
JOE WIESENFELDER: I really like the way the A4 drives, it’s really good on the street, and actually pretty good on the track, too.
JOHN DAVIS: Our third fastest, the Acura TL sprints to 60 in 7.1-seconds thanks to the only V6 in the group.
JIM HEALEY: The Acura TL makes a really good first impression because it’s comfortable, it has a nice smooth feel, the V6 is a great argument for getting rid of turbo-4’s actually… …overall a pretty nice car.
JOHN DAVIS: Our silver medal speedster is the Volvo S60 with a 0-60 time of 6.8-seconds, with its turbo power, the inline-5 variety.
BRIAN ROBINSON: It’s hard for me to look at the S60 as a true sports sedan because it is so comfortable to drive, but it actually holds up very well on the track and offers more performance than probably any of its buyers will ever need.
JOHN DAVIS: And our straight line champ, blasting to 60 in only 6.6-seconds, is the BMW 328i, also with 2.0-liters worth of I4 turbo power.
KELSEY MAYS: The 3-series is all about driving as you might expect. The turbo-charged 4-cylinder has tons of torque and it really picks up strong as soon as you get off the line. It’s the car that you want to drive faster and faster.
JOHN DAVIS: But, we all know that it takes more than track numbers to make an ultimate Sport Sedan, and to help us pick a winner we enlisted a local couple in the market for a sport sedan that also had to serve as an all-around family car.
And after all was tested and tried, we had a winner. For a complete run-down of scores and specs, head to Cars.com, but for now here are our top 3 finishers.
The Acura TL earned third spot in our challenge, with its 305-horsepower V6 the proverbial gun in this knife fight. But it was more than horsepower that garnered it the bronze.
BRIAN ROBINSON: The Acura TL is a bigger car than most here. It’s also got all-wheel-drive and the only V6 here; so it clearly has a few advantages, but its price is only mid-pack, so you do get a lot for the money.
JOHN DAVIS: Our second place finisher was a surprise, the Volvo S60. What it lacks in on-track performance, it more than makes up for in non-traditional sport sedan attributes like extreme comfort and cargo room; and a price leading $38,170 sticker that was almost 8-grand under our cap.
JOSE & JIMMEE MEDINA: Overall to us, it was probably our favorite, just because the interior and the handling experience were great, and we had a good time driving that car, too… …I wasn’t expecting that kind of power out of that car and the handling was very tight.
JOHN DAVIS: That leaves us with our winner, and we’re sure it won’t come as a surprise, as the BMW 328i is the benchmark of this segment for a reason. It’s not only the fastest and best handling, but also has a generous interior, the biggest trunk, and the best fuel economy at 26-combined.
DAVE THOMAS: The 3-series dominated at the track, but I was really surprised at how great it was around town, too. I think it’s a big winner here.
JOHN DAVIS: But, here’s the point. While each car in this test represents a unique take, all six candidates were impressive to drive and scored inside the sweet spot of what we expect from a world class sport sedan. That’s something we could not have said less than a decade ago. So, while the BMW 3-Series continues its reign, the challenge for this benchmark to remain so, will only grow stronger.
Photo credit: Joe Bruzek/Cars.com
2013 Acura TL
2013 Audi A4
2013 BMW 328i
2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Mercedes-Benz C250
2013 Volvo S60