Ten Cars That Look Fast, But Aren’t
If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck … it still may not be a duck.
We live in a world in which we're constantly being sold lifestyles. Some companies want you to buy their sports drinks, others want to sell you their activewear, though neither really cares if you actually live the way their ads suggest. The car world is no different. Ninety percent of pickup trucks you see on the road have naught in the bed, nothing being towed, and nobody in the back seats of the crew cab. Not all hybrid drivers are as concerned with the environment as their green badges may imply. Likewise, not everyone necessarily wants to go fast as much as they want to look fast—hence the cars in this list. Many of these cars may not have been particularly slow in their day, but even when new their styling was writing checks that their performance couldn't cash, and interest has only accrued in the ensuing years.
Toyota MR2 (SW20)
In its day, the Toyota MR2 Turbo was a quick car, managing 0-60 in 6.1 seconds. The turbo cars, though, made for only a small minority of sales, with naturally aspirated cars outselling them handily. The 2.2L 5S-FE engine that powers most second-generation MR2s was shared with the Camry, and made a paltry 135 horsepower, propelling the naturally aspirated cars from 0-60 in 8.4 seconds.
Mitsubishi Eclipse (4G)
Yes, the fourth generation (4G) Mitsubishi Eclipse is not a sports car. In fact, it’s hardly even a shadow of the Eclipse’s former glory. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop people who remember the Eclipse GSX from dashing to the 4G Eclipse in the used car lot, choosing it as their first “fast” car when they get their paycheck. Unfortunately for them, they will find themselves doing 0-60 in as much as eight seconds. Even an Accord V6 is faster than that by an order of magnitude.
Mitsubishi 3000GT/Dodge Stealth
The Mitsubishi 3000GT, pictured right, was nearly the hero car in the original Fast and the Furious, instead of the Supra. Since the scene called for a car with a T-top, though, the Supra was cast instead, and the rest is history. The 3000GT VR-4 was by no means a slow car, reaching 60 from zero in as little as 4.7 seconds, but the VR-4 has become rare due to its unreliability, complicated maintenance, and failure-prone four wheel steer system. These days, most 3000GTs you will see are the naturally aspirated, front wheel drive car, which are good for a lengthy 8.4s 0-60 time.
A Porsche on the list? Yeah, sorry. Let’s be honest, though: when you think of Porsche, you expect something quick. They have never really made cars incapable of whipping the competition in whichever racing series they’re a part of. The 924 was a departure from this heritage, with some of the later models making it from 0-60 in 8.4 seconds, which disappoints when you remember that this is a Porsche we’re talking about here.
Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
General Motors has some real head-scratchers when it comes to their naming scheme. Who but GM would name a car after after the location of a world-famous rally stage and the crown jewel of grand prix racing, Monte Carlo, put an SS ("supersport") badge on it, and then release a NASCAR Pace Car version, only to let it saunter from zero to 60 in 8.5 seconds? It would be like me naming my firstborn Elway Manning and letting him become the world’s greatest couch potato. At least GM was making the Z06 at the same time, which was capable of reaching 60 mph more than twice as fast.
Nissan 300 ZX (Z31)
The first generation of the 300ZX, known to Nissan diehards as the Z31, was the Z-car’s descendant when the 280Z got long in the tooth. Whether or not the looks improved between the 280Z and 300ZX is debatable, but undebatable is the performance gain. The Z31 made more power and had less aerodynamic drag than its predecessor, but you would never have guessed, since the naturally aspirated 2+2 version of the car did 0-60 in a lame duck 8.7 seconds.
Toyota Celica (5th Generation)
The fifth generation Celica has some significant sporting history that would make you *think* that it’s a fast car. There were successful WRC cars built upon its platform, after all. The fact that it was always pitched as a sports coupe didn’t help its case when drivers found themselves doing 0-60 in as long as 10.4 seconds. The GT-Four and Alltrac models shaved multiple seconds off this time, but have become so rare that they can be considered brethren with the 3000GT. The only cars left are the slow ones.
The Smart Roadster, even though it looks like the offspring of a Miata and an arachnid, was meant to take after classic British Leyland sports cars, such as the MG B. Unfortunately, Smart decided to leave most of the sporting credentials of the cars that inspired it in on the table, and gave it a 698cc, three cylinder engine. Because of this accursed engine, it grumbled from 0-60 in 10.5 seconds.
The Opel GT was another oddball GM creation. Opel as a marque existed in North America for only a brief period before retreating homeward to West Germany. It left behind the GT, a car that is, in essence, half of a Chevrolet Corvette C3. It has similar body styling, tail lights, and bizarre flip-over headlights activated with some elbow grease. They weren’t quite a sports car, more a compact GT car (hence the name), but they would pass for one on the roads any day. It just makes the 0-60 time of 10.6 seconds more disappointing.
Pontiac’s only mid-engined sports car had great potential. Unfortunately, the management at General Motors feared that the Fiero, originally designed with the use of a V6 in mind, would cause infighting with the Corvette, and cannibalize sales. Thus, the Fiero was handicapped with the reliable, fuel-efficient, and DULL “Iron Duke” 2.5L inline four engine, which kicked and screamed the whole way from zero to sixty, which took 10.6 seconds. Even the later Fiero GT, which finally received the V6 engine that was the car’s birthright, only managed to do its own 0-60 in 7.9 seconds. The gods of the aftermarket have smiled upon the Fiero, though, because an LS4 swap into a Fiero is easier than making ramen.