The standout in this category is a stealth sports car: the Volvo V60 Polestar wagon.
With superior handling and safety features, the Volvo outclassed the Challenger Hellcat and Mustang 5-litre.
Volvo V60 Polestar ($66,895 base and as tested)
Jokes about the name aside, the Polestar really can dance. This wagon is nimble, with precise steering and superb handling.
It’s also astonishingly quick, thanks to its 350-hp, 6-cylinder turbocharged engine and smooth-shifting 6-speed transmission. It motors from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.3 seconds, and will stop from that speed in only 36.8 metres — better by several metres than the competition.
The great braking is just one of the many features on this car that are part of Volvo’s commitment to safety. In addition to all-wheel drive, it’s got auto braking for pedestrian and bicycle collision avoidance, distance and cross-traffic alerts and adaptive cruise control that even works when you are in stop-and-go traffic.
The interior is simple and eye-catching, with a centre console oriented toward the driver, and supremely comfortable seating. Unlike most sports cars, this one has fully functional, spacious rear seats and a cargo compartment with a 690-litre capacity.
This limited edition vehicle is available only in the signature, eye-popping rebel blue or black, white and silver.
No matter what the colour, driving a V60 Polestar is a satisfying experience. It’s a stealthy sports car; it looks and acts like a family wagon, but switch it to sports mode and it delivers performance guaranteed to put a big grin on the driver’s face.
Dodge Challenger ($63,995 base, $67,590 as tested)
The much-anticipated V8 Hellcat edition is easily the burnout king of sports cars. With 705 hp to the rear wheels, from the 6.2-L supercharged Hemi, this is no kitty cat.
In a nod to moderation, the Challenger comes equipped with two key fobs. The red one gives access to full power, and the black to only an estimated 500 hp.
With the red fob acceleration is outrageous, and needs to be treated with great respect. The Hellcat has an 11.2 quarter-mile record on production tires. Its 6-speed manual transmission delivers smooth shifts, but the stiff clutch requires a lot of effort.
The car handles nicely, with direct steering response. At highway speeds the ride is bone-shaking and the Challenger feels light and darty, requiring full attention at all times.
The engine sounds like trumpets at the gates to automotive heaven. But the noise in the cabin is closer to the gates of hell — a cacophony of road noise and high-pitched whining.
It offers a comfortable cockpit, excellent seats and good instruments, but visibility is poor.
For the money, the Hellcat Challenger is a great muscle car. Just treat this cat with respect.
Ford Mustang GT ($42,499 base, $50,099 as tested)
This 5-litre V8 Mustang is a handful. Like its wild pony namesake the car wants to get away from you, and will if you give it even the slightest encouragement.
The engine delivers 435 hp with a 6-speed manual and rear-wheel drive. Using launch control, the car achieved a zero to 100 km/h time of 6.2 seconds in AJAC testing.
The interior is busy, leading to much searching for controls. The Recaro seats are superb, but in a car at this level its curious that they are manually adjusted.
Handling is highly dependent on the driving mode selected, and varies from average to downright wild. It understeers dramatically, and the “S” in sports mode really could stand for “Spin.”
This Mustang is definitely an animal in need of a firm hand on the reins.
By Emily Atkins