I was fortunate enough to go to a high school that had a ton of kids who were into cars. Most of the dudes and even a few of the girls were genuine gear heads and a lot of cars sat in our tiny parking lot that were obviously bought more out of passion than practicality. Mostly older American stuff, things that broke down a lot, things that got single digit MPG, things that were generally very abusive to our part-time incomes. So one day between classes some buddies and I were having a conversation about fast cars, as teenage boys are apt to do, and in the midst of arguing over why this generation of Mustang was superior to that generation of Camaro, my good buddy, Tim, chimes in about how quick his mother’s Mazda CX-7 is. The members of this circle, or at least the ones who even knew what the midsize crossover was, were quick to dismiss him, and probably called him some crude names, as teenage boys are apt to do. “A stupid minivan-SUV hockey mom car-thing couldn’t be fast, that’s irrational, get out of here with that nonsense!” is probably the condensed and PG version of how that conversation ended.
I’ve recently come across a little knowledge-nugget regarding the CX-7 as I was skimming through Wikipedia articles a few weeks back (does anyone else do this when it comes time to procrastinate?). It turns out that the CX-7 actually used the same engine found in the Mazdaspeed3 and Mazdaspeed6, and upon further investigation discovered that low 7/high 6 second 0-60 runs weren’t unheard of and could run as fast as 130 miles per hour. Not a sportscar by any means, but would probably give those old pony cars we were talking about in high school a pretty bad shakedown at a red light somewhere. So today I am formally apologizing to Tim, I shouldn’t have been so dismissive of the CX-7, this was a time before smartphones were common and you could annoyingly fact check every second thing to come out of your buddy’s mouth.
His mother later traded the CX-7 in for a Toyota Rav4, and again there was talk about how fast his mom’s little SUV was legitimately fast. And again, years later, I had discovered that when equipped with the 3.5L V6, the midsize crossover actually spent a period of time as the quickest accelerating vehicle in Toyota’s lineup. Yes, the company once responsible for legends like the MkIV Supra, the Celica GT Four, the … supercharged, AWD, mid-engined Previa? I guess having a fast crossover isn’t that strange of a concept for Toyota, but the fact that the Rav4 once held the absolute top spot is a little perturbing. With a 0-60 in the low 6 second range and a ¼ mile time somewhere around 14.5 seconds, the V6 Rav4 is actually quicker than the naturally aspirated MkIV Supras significantly quicker than the automatic transmission 86 triplets, and has almost exactly the same times as the manual-equipped Toyobarus.
So why is the now decade old mommy-mobile faster than the actual sportscar Toyota builds today? Some would argue that it’s because the FR-S doesn’t have the power, some say the BRZ doesn’t need to power, or maybe that Toyota has simply lost their touch. Personally, I think the V6’s 270 horses coupled with the relatively light weight of around 3,500 pounds and AWD helping with the traction are the biggest reasons why the Rav4 is so quick. If I said “3500lbs, AWD, 270hp” it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch if a new WRX was the first thing to come to mind. The V6 Rav4 is no longer in production, which is a real shame, but while I was geeking out over how neat the crossover was I had also realized that those numbers weren’t even terribly remarkable on paper, at least not by more recent standards. Everyone has a V6 or turbo 4 pushing out numbers that look awfully close to 300, and disgustingly practical midsize crossovers are more popular today than ever. How would the Rav4 stack up in 2016?
Seeing as how the Rav4 has downsized a segment and lost the availability of a V6 engine in it’s most recent generation, it’s a little difficult to compare it to a currently produced Toyota. A decent comparison might be the Honda Pilot, yes it’s a few inches bigger than the third generation Rav4 but it still sits somewhere in that “more small SUV than large car” category of crossover. Let’s see here… Turns out a new Honda Pilot would be able to make a make a V6 Challenger owner go running with their tail tucked at the drag strip. Despite the Pilot making a mere 280hp out of its V6 and weighing over 4300 pounds, as opposed to the 3.6L Challenger’s 305 horses and ~4000 pounds, the Pilot should be able to match the big pony to 60mph and go on to actually pass the Dodge before the ¼ mile shows up. Wait, huh? But the Pilot has seating for 7! How does a Honda crossover beat a Dodge Challenger in a drag race?!? No, really, can someone explain this to me? I’m sorry if you came here expecting me to explain these things but I honestly don’t understand, and I can’t even chalk it up to AWD launches because the FWD Pilot is almost identical, where it loses traction it also loses a few hundred pounds in parts.
As it turns out, the previous generation V6 Rav4 isn’t really all that special in terms of how fast it was. Other than maybe being a little lighter than most of the midsize crossovers around today, having a high-200 horsepower V6 and all-wheel drive is a pretty common occurrence now. Even the boxy, rough, uncivilized Wrangler will hustle up to 60mph in around 6.6 seconds. Cadillacs new XT5 is another naturally aspirated V6 crossover which has a mid 6 second 0-60 with a low 15 second ¼ mile, and breaks that 300 barrier with 310 horsepower. Acura's MDX even breaks into the high 5s to 60, but now we might be getting into crossovers that are actually trying to be fast. Those exist? Oh yes.
Larger performance SUVs have been a thing for a while now, but we all know about the SRT Grand Cherokees, Cayenne Turbos, and supercharged Range Rovers. The new kids on the block are smaller, sleeker, more car-like… performance crossovers are now a real thing. The Porsche Macan, the oddly named Jag F-Pace, the Audi SQ5, all midsize crossovers making well north of 300 horses and getting deep into the 5 second 0-60 range. The Macan even comes in a 400hp turbocharged V6 flavor that has low 4 second 60mph runs and breaks into the 12s on the drag strip. Yes, Porsche is making a mid-sized crossover which could give a modern V8 muscle car a run for its money on the track, not even your new Camaro SS is safe from the soccer moms.
But if something is wearing a Porsche or Jaguar badge you pretty much need to expect it to be quick, those are manufacturers known for making fast cars. What about something more unassuming? You probably see cars like the Ford Edge every day, surely those are as mundane and boring as transportation gets, right? Well, if you consider a turbocharged 2.7L V6 to be boring, yes. The Edge Sport uses EcoBoost power to make 315 horses and 350 lb-ft of torque, it’ll get up to 60 in around 5.5 seconds and continue to finish the ¼ mile around 14 seconds. That’s right, the little SUV-car-thing that your neighbor drives her snot-nosed kids to school in could probably keep up with your 10 year old Mustang GT from a dig.
It doesn’t just stop as crossovers. Boring looking cars are getting absurdly quick now, too. The V6 variants of the generic Accords and Camrys annoyingly flooding the freeway on your morning commute are much faster than their owners seem to let on, mid 5 second 0-60 times and low 14 second ¼ mile times are accomplished when you actually apply pressure to the accelerator. Keeping with Ford’s obsession with shoving EcoBoost engines in everything (I’m not going to complain) the Fusion Sport should be dropping soon, with a 325hp 2.7L V6 and AWD it will basically be a baby SHO that everyone will collectively forget exists 15 minutes after it goes on sale.
Pickup trucks are becoming more and more popular in suburban areas, with their high ground clearance, spacious interiors, and comfortable ride, it’s no wonder why the lady down the street decided to buy a Ram 1500 to drive her family around and haul groceries with. If you haven’t already gathered where I’m going with this, you may as well stop reading now because I don’t think you’re grasping the message… It isn’t terribly uncommon for these half-ton class trucks to have V8 engines pushing somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 horses, and I’m not just talking about fancy stuff like Raptors either; keep an eye out and look at every Ram 1500 you see the next time you go for a drive, and look on the side of the truck right next to the actual 1500 badge. Count how many of them have the “HEMI” badge. Based off what I see, I’d guesstimate well over 75% of Ram trucks being driven by normal families have that 5.7L under the hood. The Ram 1500, Silverado 1500, and F150 come in all shapes and forms, and in the right configuration, all of those trucks can do mid 5 second 60 runs and low 14 second quarter miles.
The real beauty of the pickup truck is probably their potential. I’m going on a bit of a tangent here so bear with me; these trucks all use engines that are essentially the same, or at least very similar, to the engines used in the pony cars. We all know what those cars are capable of in terms of power, and if you snoop around online a little bit it’s actually not uncommon to tap into that with the truck versions of those power plants. Supercharger kits and throttle bodies and exhausts and cams, almost anything you could do to a Camaro SS or Corvette you could also do to a V8 Silverado or Sierra (the 6.2L variants of those trucks, for the record, already sit at a pretty stiff 420hp.) Ford has been offering their 3.5L EcoBoost in the F150 for a while now, and due to the nature of forced induction, it is very easy to make one quick. I have personally seen EcoBoost F150s with just tunes and basic bolt-ons running into the very low 13s at the local track, trucks that would blend into the traffic around it if you passed it on the highway. Diesel trucks are another example of insane power potential, but that’s a big enough tangent that I could do another piece entirely on so I’ll just leave pickups alone for now.
People in the car community often debate what constitutes something being dubbed “quick” or “fast”. A benchmark I often use is “Civic Si-Quick” which states that anything as quick, or quicker, than a Civic Si is worthy of being called a quick car. The current generation of Civic isn’t expected to get an Si trim for another year or so, going back to the previous generation it would seem a Civic Si would hit 60mph in the mid 6 second range and the ¼ mile got hammered out in the low 15s. So, by my standard, that means that a ton of modern soccer mom crossovers are actually fast cars. Sorry, Tim.