Moore’s law states that computer processing power will double every two years. An unwritten law of the automotive industry states that high-volume family sedans will achieve the performance of sports cars from the previous decade—and even supercars from two decades before that.
This allows for drivers of current best-sellers like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord to feel what it was like to drive the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of their childhoods, minus the massive depreciation and quad-bustingly heavy clutch pedals. Or, on the other hand, they can imagine what the expensive luxury grand tourers their affluent neighbors were driving 10 years ago felt like.
However, the performance gap between the lowly Accord and many current sports cars, hot hatches, and luxury GT models has also shrunk dramatically or even disappeared. The engine output of the tenth-generation of Honda’s largest sedan with a 2.0-liter turbo-four is 252 ponies, a far cry from the 70 or horsepower of the first generation model released in 1976. The 2.0-liter unit is new, replacing a V6 in the previous generation that actually put out more horses (278), but the new car is still faster due to less weight, more torque, and a new 10-speed automatic transmission.
Granted, this list concentrates on horsepower and zero-to-sixty mph figures—and more or less ignores handling—but the four-door family haulers have to contend with cargo carrying and safety considerations. And yet they still handle quite well doing so. Without further ado, here is a list of 25 sports cars, luxury cars, and even supercars that are slower than the 2019 Honda Accord’s 5.7-second zero-to-sixty mph time.
25 1976 LAMBORGHINI COUNTACH LP400
When Marcello Gandini penned the Lamborghini Countach, he was creating the car that would adorn tens of thousands of bedroom walls in poster form. The radical wedge shape, the distinctive shoulder intakes, the steamroller tires, and the scissor doors gave it an exotic look that made anything that came before look positively bland. A 3.9-liter V12 sat amidships underneath a louvered engine cover and produced about 370 horsepower. This was enough to launch the supercar to sixty mph in the mid-sixes but these days, even a Honda Accord can easily beat that.
24 1981 BMW M1
Before the i8 and 1M, BMW had the M1, which was originally meant to be built by Lamborghini. When that agreement fell through, BMW built the mid-engined sports car themselves (with help from some Lambo engineers), with 453 examples constructed between 1978 and 1981. Originally intended for racing, the road-going M1 featured a 273-horsepower inline-six and a fibreglass body designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. It could accelerate to 60 mph in just over six seconds. Great for the time but that’s not even Honda Accord territory today.
23 1984 LOTUS TURBO ESPRIT
The Lotus Esprit was the car that James Bond would drive in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me, albeit modified to become a submarine on command. Two model generations later, the Esprit would sprout a turbo to give it the power enthusiasts has always thought it needed. While Bond’s generation of Esprit made do with only 160 horsepower, the 1984 Turbo Esprit made a more healthy 215, giving it a zero-to-sixty mph time of about six seconds. Today, the Accord is faster, although we won’t see Bond in a Honda any time soon.
22 1984 CHEVROLET CORVETTE
When the C4 Corvette was released in 1984, it was a generational leap ahead of the beautiful but aging fourteen-year-old C3. Car and Driver called it, “hands-down the fastest [US-built] automobile” and sang the praises of its 0.90 g skidpad ability and sub-seven-second zero-to-sixty mph time, exclaiming, “In fact, these figures qualify the Corvette as one of the half-dozen fastest production automobiles in the entire world!” What great progress we have made since, given that the average family sedan gets fairly close on the skidpad (0.88 g) and trounces the C4 to 60 mph.
21 2005 PORSCHE BOXSTER
Released in 1996, the mid-engined Boxster was Porsche’s move away from the front-engined 928 and 968, to complement the timeless 911. With an inherently better engine position than the 911, the Boxster has always been held back by Porsche’s desire to keep it below the rear-engined 911 in the lineup, so it has always made less power. The second-generation model from 2005 utilized a 2.7-liter flat-six putting out 240 horsepower, enough grunt to propel the convertible to sixty mph in about 6.2 seconds, but that’s not enough to keep it out of the claws of a new Accord. At least until the road gets twisty, that is.
20 1990 FERRARI 348 TB
When Tom Selleck drove onto television screens in 1980 on Magnum PI in a red Ferrari 308 GTB, both the character and the car became icons of popular culture. In 1986, the 308 was upgraded to become the 328, which was, in turn, replaced three years later by the 348 TB. Sporting side strakes similar in style to the celebrated Testarossa of the time (star of Miami Vice), the 348 produced 306 horsepower, 54 more than Magnum’s, propelling it to sixty mph in 5.9 seconds, just a few ticks behind the current Accord. I think I just saw Tom in a Honda dealership.
19 SUBARU WRX (CVT)
Many Subaru performance aficionados will scoff at the idea of an automatic transmission-equipped WRX but Subaru still saw fit to offer their CVT in the latest generation of their rally-bred sedan. Granted, Subaru’s latest CVT is not quite as horrible as most on the market but the fact is that the presence of a torque converter in the WRX adds more than a quarter of a second to the car’s 0-60 mph time, putting it a step behind the Honda Accord. At least, on pavement—gravel would be another story.
18 2016 MUSTANG ECOBOOST
Granted, early Mustangs with the base engine configuration were considered “secretary cars” with more flash than dash but the newer models have had much more performance credibility. With 310 horsepower on tap from its 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, the 2016 Mustang Ecoboost automatic scoots to 60 mph in about six seconds, which was Mustang GT territory in the early 2000s. Today, however, the base ‘Stang, as quick as it might be, still gets left behind by the Accord family hauler when the stop light goes green and the Honda’s front wheels burn rubber.
17 2010 AUDI TT
When the first Audi TT was released in 1998, it was hailed for its avant-garde styling and fun-to-drive characteristics, and some considered it Audi’s first true sports car. Typical comparisons had the TT up against Porsche’s Boxster or BMW’s Z3 of the time and the second generation TT was no different. Yes, the “S” and “RS” versions of the TT will blow the Honda Accord away, but the base model’s 200-horsepower 2.0-liter TFSI engine leaves the small Audi coupe a tick behind the Accord in the Stoplight Grand Prix.
16 MAZDA RX-8
The Mazda RX-8 was conceived as a four-seat sports car with rear-hinging rear doors. Like many others on this list, the RX-8 was a handling champ and would easily drop the Accord in a nice set of twisties or on a road course. However, on the day-to-day grind, when the road ahead merges from two lanes to one, and the RX-8 and Accord sit side-by-side at the stoplight, the Mazda will be three-quarters of a second behind the Honda to 60 mph, and no amount of cornering ability will help it out.
15 2018 BMW 430I COUPE
The BMW 430i is an aggressively styled coupe featuring a bulging hood sloping down to the signature BMW kidney grille, sporty fender vents, and twin tailpipes out back. The central vent along the bottom of the front bumper is a gaping maw reminiscent of “M” cars of the past, flanked by two blacked-out vent-like areas that carry the fog lights. Being the less practical option, coupes are often the sportier choice in the lineup, geared towards those who value athleticism over the convenience of their passengers. Choosing a 430i over a 3 Series will not, however, keep you from the maws of a certain four-door from Japan.
14 FIAT 124 SPIDER ABARTH
Like the 124 Sport Spider of the 1970s before it, the current Fiat 124 Spider Abarth is a sports car that craves the corners and delivers a satisfying driving experience below the ten-tenths threshold. Based heavily on the ND-generation Mazda MX-5 chassis, the Spider uses different bodywork and a Fiat turbocharged inline-four engine making 160 horsepower in base models, and 164 in the Abarth. With a convertible top, two seats, and very little storage space, the 124 driving experience can be called motorcycle-like, minus the wheelie-inducing acceleration. Even an Accord out-accelerates it.
13 2002 FORD MUSTANG GT
At the turn of the century, if you wanted affordable performance, the Mustang GT would be high on your shopping list. It offered V8 power and torque in a drag-friendly, rear-drive, solid-axle chassis, plus two doors, and a galloping horse on the grille. With the Chevrolet Camaro about to be axed and the Dodge Challenger another six years away, the Mustang would soon have no real competition in the muscle car class. Today, however, it would be bested by the current crop of pony cars and even fall behind the lowly Honda Accord.
12 2015 MINI COOPER JOHN COOPER WORKS
Minis have never been neck-snappingly fast but they have won races based upon their small size, light weight, and decent handling. The newest BMW-engineered generation of Minis includes a model called the “John Cooper Works” edition, named after the racer and F1 car builder, so one might expect a decent degree of speed to go with the handling. But 228 horsepower launches the small but portly (relative to the original) Mini JCW to sixty mph in under six seconds and that’s not enough to put an Accord in its mirrors.
11 2017 LEXUS IS350
The Lexus IS350 is the brand’s BMW 3 Series fighter, a sports sedan with a rear-wheel drive chassis and six-cylinder power. Stir in luxury features and legendary Toyota reliability and you have the perfect vehicle for any young executive or junior partner. Power comes from a naturally-aspirated V6 putting out 306 horsepower and all-wheel drive is available in the US and standard in Canada. With either drivetrain configuration, however, the standard IS350 is still a few ticks behind the current Accord, with Car and Driver recording a six-second 0-60 mph time.
10 2011 PORSCHE PANAMERA V6
When Tom Cruise uttered those famous words, “Porsche, there is no substitute,” he was driving a 1979 928 with the V8 engine in the front and a hatchback in the rear. Fast forward to 2011, and the Porsche Panamera V6 has the same engine location and hatchback configuration, but adds two doors and subtracts two cylinders. The two cars actually make similar horsepower and accelerate to sixty mph in almost identical times, yet neither out-drags the best-selling family sedan from Honda, proving that now, there might actually be a substitute.
9 FORD FOCUS ST
Ford’s foray into the hot hatch segment starts with the diminutive Fiesta ST and ends with the romping Focus RS. In between, the Focus ST provides 252 turbocharged horsepower violating the front wheels in a similar fashion as the Honda Civic Si and VW GTI. With only a manual transmission offered, ST buyers are a breed dedicated to performance over convenience. However, if they want to better the acceleration performance of the ST but in an automatic-equipped family sedan, the Accord is next door at the Honda dealership.
8 SUBARU BRZ
Does an automobile need face-ripping power to be considered a sports car? How about face-tingling power? Should it at least be able to beat an Accord to 60 mph? Some sports cars definitely value handling over horsepower in their design equation; the Subaru BRZ and its Toyota 86 twin certainly do. Some, okay, many enthusiasts have begged Subaru to infuse the BRZ with more power but the original formula that Subaru and Toyota came up with for the car was for light weight, a very low center of gravity, and sublime handling, even away from the limit. Just don’t drag race those pesky Accord family sedans.
7 2017 BMW 530I
BMW has billed itself as the maker of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and the 5 Series is their executive luxury mid-size sedan, which exudes an aura of power and performance. The 530i does look great and features all the luxury amenities one would expect from a $60,000 automobile, but with a 2.0-liter turbo-four under the hood producing 248 horsepower, the car’s acceleration abilities are sub-Honda Accord. Blame the 530i’s 3,900-pound curb weight for not getting the Bimmer up to speed faster, and that’s after a 123-pound weight loss compared to the previous model.
6 2019 HONDA CIVIC SI
When the Honda Civic Si was re-released on these shores in 1999, it had the venerable B16A2 revving its naturally-aspirated pistons to 8,000 RPM and producing 160 horsepower. The Accord V6 of the era produced 200 horses but was slower to 60 mph due to its heavier weight. Fast forward to today and both the Si and Accord feature turbocharged four-cylinders—putting out 205 and 252 ponies, respectively—but despite the Accord’s extra heft, it now out-accelerates its little brother to sixty by over half a second.
5 2010 CHEVROLET CAMARO V6
When the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro was released, the Camaro nameplate had been dormant for over eight years, so Detroit muscle car fans rejoiced. The new design was a far cry from the 2002 model, with a far more advanced chassis and retro-modern styling based on the Camaro Concept shown as early as 2006. The 426 horsepower SS trim’s V8 was the true muscle in the lineup but the base V6 made a stout 304 ponies, enough to better the V6 versions of the Mustang and Challenger of the time. The current Honda Accord, on the other hand? Not so much.
4 GOLF GTI
The Golf GTI was arguably the progenitor of the hot hatch segment when it was released in 1975 and has been near or at the top of the category ever since. Originally a bare-bones economy car with an upgraded engine, the GTI has become the adult of the segment, with a refined demeanor and the best interior in its class. Currently making a healthy 220 horsepower from a 2.0-liter inline-four, the GTI launches to sixty mph in a respectable six seconds, not far behind the current Accord.
3 2019 GENESIS G70 2.0T SPORT
Hyundai’s Genesis brand is their luxury fighter, with the G70 lining up against cars like the BMW 3 Series. With a mix of luxury amenities and sports sedan performance, the G70 looks to dethrone the existing monarchy and put Korea on the luxury sedan map. The base model’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four puts out 252 horsepower, much like the Honda Accord’s similar powerplant, which results in similar acceleration performance. With the Accord selling for thousands less, the G70 better have the luxury chops necessary to satisfy the upscale customer this segment attracts.
2 2017 MERCEDES E 300
Like the BMWs and Genesis mentioned elsewhere in this article, the Mercedes-Benz E 300 is a luxury sedan with sporting pretensions. Smaller and sportier than an S Class, larger and more luxurious than a C Class, the E Class competes with the BMW 5 Series for luxury sports sedan status, backed by Mercedes-Benz’s longtime involvement in Formula 1 racing. However, no amount of F1 experience will keep this mid-sizer from being held back by its underpowered, 2.0-liter turbo-four putting out a disappointing 241 horsepower. Even the Honda Accord makes more power than that.
1 HYUNDAI ELANTRA GT
An upgraded hatchback with a six-speed manual transmission, red stitching on black leather seats, a 201-horsepower turbo-four, and a GT moniker is music to the ears of many a performance compact car enthusiast. The Hyundai Elantra GT looks to compete with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Si but it comes up a little short in a few respects—most notably, acceleration. Getting to sixty mph in 6.6 seconds doesn’t cut it when family sedans do it almost a second quicker.
Sources: Motor Trend, Wikipedia, Top Speed, and Car and Driver.