Fastest saloon cars
For performance and comfort, check out our list of the fastest saloon cars you can buy right now.
Buyers of fast saloon cars have plenty of choice today; there’s arguably a wider range of high-performance four-door machinery than ever before. You’re not just limited to the normal German suspects, either, with cars like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio able to provide rapid acceleration and a beautiful interior.
You’re not even limited to petrol engines any more. Many Audi ‘S’ models pack a punchy diesel engine, while the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan show that electric power is the way to go if you want the fastest possible acceleration.
But the beauty of these cars is that when you’re not wanting to drive hard, they can settle down into more comfortable cruisers. A majority of performance saloons are based on executive models, with models like the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E 63 looking broadly similar to their standard petrol and diesel counterparts. As flagship models, they all come with a vast tech selection, plush seats and a prestigious badge on the steering wheel.
The Tesla Model S has been around since 2012 but it’s still unmatched in some respects. Rivals are catching up but Tesla’s regular over-the-air improvements mean the Model S is still near the top of the class. In fact, its 0-60mph time of 2.3 seconds exactly matches that of the Bugatti Chiron hypercar. That figure is even more impressive when you consider it’s a spacious five seater with lots of tech and heavy batteries. When you’re not using the new ‘Cheetah Stance’ mode that allows such fast acceleration, the Model S Performance promises up to 367 miles between charges - just a few miles off the Long Range version. The Tesla’s touchscreen setup has influenced a lot of cars since, including the upcoming Mercedes S-Class and Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Porsche benchmarked the Taycan against the Model S during its development, but we’d say the German car surpasses the Tesla. It’s the car that shows electric cars can be just as enticing for keen drivers as those with petrol engines because it’s spaceship-quick and drives like a Porsche should. The least expensive 4S version reaches 0-62mph in four seconds but the range-topping Turbo S packs 750bhp (when launch control is engaged) and offers a 2.8-second 0-62mph time. Opting for the bigger battery pack promises a range of up to 287 miles, and recharging to 80% takes around 20 minutes if you can find a charger that’s powerful enough.
Porsche has recently announced the facelifted Panamera, which now comes with a very powerful Turbo S model. At nearly 80bhp more than the outgoing Turbo, the 621bhp Turbo S launches from 0-62mph in just 3.1 seconds. It’s now faster than the Turbo S E-Hybrid plug-in hybrid, and several Panamera models hit 0-62mph in under four seconds - there isn’t a slow model in the range. The Turbo S also manages a 196mph top speed, and every Panamera is available as either a saloon or a Sport Turismo ‘shooting brake’ estate version. Both get a stunning interior, especially with the new, wider touchscreen, while the driving experience ensures it feels like you’re in a stretched 911.
Mercedes would like you to think this car’s based on the AMG GT coupe but in reality the 4-door has more in common with an E-Class. So it doesn’t tread on the Mercedes CLS’ toes, the GT 4-door only comes with a 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine, which produces 585bhp in ‘normal’ form and a huge 639bhp in the more expensive ‘S’ version. The latter zips to 62mph from a standstill in just 3.2 seconds, and is actually the fastest four-door to lap the Nurburgring racing circuit. You might think the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door looks a little bulky, but that means there’s space for four people (a fifth seat is an optional extra) and a big boot.
The Tesla Model 3 might be the company’s most affordable model but Tesla couldn’t resist giving the 3 a hugely fast ‘Performance’ version. It lives up to the name, with 0-60mph taking just 3.2 seconds. Four-wheel drive (from a motor on each axle) helps it get away so quickly, while even this speed-focused version will manage 329 miles of zero-emission driving. The Long Range version gives you another 20 miles or so, and still accelerates as fast as the most powerful version of the BMW 3 Series. Inside the Model 3, it’s like nothing else on the road, as nearly everything is controlled by the 15-inch touchscreen mounted right in the centre of the dashboard.
The BMW M5 is an iconic supersaloon, and Competition spec (the only one offered to UK buyers) ensures it can keep pace with the fastest saloon cars on sale. A 4.4-litre V8 with 616bhp allows the flagship 5 Series to scorch from 0-62mph in 3.3 seconds, and on to 190mph if you pay to have the limiter removed. But the M5’s appeal lies in its dual personality; when you want to take it easy the M5 is as comfortable and luxurious as any 5 Series. Comfort mode takes the sharpness out of potholes and speed bumps, and the M5 even has a big boot. It’s expensive, as you’d expect, but it looks reasonably good value when you consider the very similar BMW M8 is at least £20,000 more.
Arch rival to the BMW M5, the Mercedes-AMG E63 is another exciting and thirsty supercar-rivalling saloon. The top E63 S version, which is now the only version offered, squeezes 604bhp from its 4.0-litre V8, and manages 0-62mpht in 3.4 seconds. The whole E-Class range was facelifted in 2020, bringing Mercedes’ very latest tech and a new steering wheel, and you no longer have a choice of E63 trim levels to pick from. That means you get all the equipment on offer, like a panoramic sunroof, a racetrack pack, lots of driver aids and augmented reality navigation. The E63 also succeeds in being both a rocket and a comfortable lounge, depending on which you’re in the mood for.
If you want a fast four-door that looks incredibly aggressive, you might want to head to an Audi dealership. The latest RS7 has so much presence with its wide grille, gaping air intakes and intricate LED headlights. It’s not all for show, though, as 592bhp means the RS7 barely trails the cars above. Zero-to-62mph takes 3.6 seconds and 189mph is possible if you pick the Dynamic Package. The interior carries Audi’s top-rung equipment and design, with plenty of screens and superb seats, so it’s a very plush environment. We’d like a little more steering feel in the RS7; its rivals can provide more driving excitement.
It’s always played second fiddle to the Mercedes S-Class in the luxury limousine class but the Audi A8 is well worth a look. The tree-topping Audi S8 combines the opulence with the RS7’s 4.0-litre V8, allowing a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds despite the car’s weight. Its heft is quite well disguised by predictive air suspension that can lean into bends, while the S8 is surprisingly agile given its size. You can only get the S8 in short-wheelbase form, but there’s still plenty of space to relax, work or enjoy the ride. Any huge, powerful and expensive car like this is arguably best bought as a nearly new car, as you can avoid an eye-watering amount of depreciation.
With no BMW M3 currently on sale, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is one of the fastest and best sports saloons to buy. Top speed stands at 191mph, and at full throttle you’ll reach 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds. The engine is relatively small - a 2.9-litre V6 - but it’s developed by Ferrari, has two turbos and produces 503bhp. That’s exactly the same as the next-generation M3 Competition will produce. We’d recommend the Giulia Quadrifoglio based on its looks alone, but it’s also exquisite to drive, with quick steering, lots of grip and a feeling of lightness. A host of upgrades were applied in 2020, so now we don’t have any gripes about interior quality either.
Tesla Supercharger network will open to rival electric cars
Top 10 best cars with three ISOFIX points 2021
Cars with the biggest boots
Range-topping Tesla Model S Plaid+ cancelled
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Top 10 most comfortable cars 2021
What is a V5C? Here’s everything you need to know about the logbook