Right now, we’re going to be looking at 10 of the most exciting US-built sedans of all time, and we will of course be ranking them based on how bonkers/amazing they were/are.
First, a few rules. We don’t want to stretch the meaning of the term “American-made” too far, which is why various cars made in Australia yet imported to the United States did not make the final cut.
We will, however, accept cars built in Canada, since that is still technically North America... but it’s not like we have much a choice. Also, it’s not enough for it to be made in the US, since it also must come from a US brand. Apologies to fans of various Acura models.
No sense diving too deep into ‘honorable mentions’ territory, since there really aren’t that many. We can point to the Chevrolet SS and the Pontiac G8 GXP, obviously, but technically those are American-badged Australian cars, imported into the United States. Meanwhile, who could forget 4-door icons such as the 1969 Buick Wildcat or the 1969 Dodge Polara (Magnum 440 specs).
Still, the American sedan, in terms of it being more driver-focused, didn’t secure its footing until the late 1980s. Anyway, without further ado, let’s get into the rankings.
10. 2010 Ford Taurus SHO (3.5L EcoBoost twin-turbo V6, 365 hp)
Looks matter, driving dynamics too (in correlation with the specific era in which the cars were designed), and of course, the way these cars made people feel.
While the 2010 Taurus SHO did check a lot of boxes for a lot of people, the only thing truly exciting about them was the branding.
Yes, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 engine was a nice addition, with its 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque – although not exactly mind-blowing. The fourth gen SHO also came with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, torque-sensing all-wheel drive, a sport-tuned suspension and steering, optional 20-inch wheels, a decklid-mounted spoiler, twin chrome exhaust tips, better brakes and so on.
Basically, it was a Police Interceptor for civilian use, and it even had the latter’s vented front brake dust shields and cooling package.
As for straight line performance, you could hit 60 mph in about 5.2 seconds, which was solid, no complaints there.
9. 1989 Ford Taurus SHO (3.0L V6, 220 hp)
The 3.0-liter V6 engine was developed by Yamaha, and would allow the Taurus SHO to hit 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, before maxing out at 143 mph.
There was also something special altogether about the first-gen Taurus. People liked this car immediately, with over 200,000 units sold during its initial 12-month run. Even pop culture got in on the action – if you recall, a customized Taurus was used during the filming of Back to the Future Part II, although most of you will probably remember this car from the 1987 action blockbuster RoboCop.
That’s right, there’s no way we could rank RoboCop’s car lower than the 2010 version, which only belonged to... umm, non-robot cops.
Fun fact, Ford believes the Taurus to be “one of the two most significant American automobiles of the 1980s,” alongside the Chrysler minivan. We tend to agree, which is why we’re giving the SHO variant major props.
8. 1994 Chevrolet Impala SS (5.7L LT1 V8, 260 hp)
The Impala SS was a seventh-generation Impala model, built on GM’s B-body platform, just like the Chevy Caprice or the Buick Roadmaster. The Caprice, of course, went on to become the quintessential taxicab, while the Impala was clearly meant for greater things.
So then, what made the Impala SS great? Well, aside from its appearance, it was that re-tuned 5.7-liter LT1 small-block V8 engine, nearly the same unit found in the C4 Corvette and the Camaro.
In terms of specs, it would produce 260 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque, and it would help you hit 60 mph in 7 seconds flat, before maxing out at 142 mph. Not great, not terrible, who cares? It’s an Impala SS. Who’s going to say a single bad thing about it?
You could only get one transmission in this car, and it was a four-speed 4L60-E automatic with a limited-slip rear differential as standard. The Impala SS also sat closer to the road by roughly an inch, compared to say, the Chevy Caprice, which is something to be thankful for.
7. 2003 Mercury Marauder (4.6L DOHC V8, 302 hp)
Despite sharing no commonalities, you could argue that the Marauder is the true heir to the Impala SS, which was only in production for a couple of years.
The Marauder also borrowed some heavy-duty brake and suspension bits from the Ford Crown Vic Police Interceptor, which it needed to balance out the performance offered by the same 4.6-liter V8 you got in the first-gen Lincoln Aviator or the 2004 Mustang Mach 1.
That engine produced 302 horsepower and could get you to 60 mph in about 6.8 seconds. Again, not great, not terrible, but very respectable. We must remember that America wasn’t particularly interested in competing with any of the top German sedans at that time.
Today, the Mercury Marauder lives on in infamy. People still talk about it with a lot of respect, yet sales were never that good, totaling just over 11,000 units over a period of two years.
Looking back, we believe this car should have been built at least 3-4 years sooner than it was, but Ford understandably wanted to use their third-generation Panther platform. Oh well. What can you do?
6. 2004 Cadillac CTS-V (5.7L LS6 V8, 400 hp)
Second, we have to remind ourselves that Cadillac only used the 5.7-liter LS6 V8 on the CTS-V for exactly two years, before switching to a 6.0-liter LS2 V8, with a wider torque band, but the same output: 400 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque.
You can take your pick between the two variants (2004MY or the 2006MY) - although most people would agree that ‘06 models were ever-so-slightly superior in terms of driver enjoyment.
Dynamically, they were all impressive. The first-gen CTS-V was based on GM’s Sigma platform, but unlike the regular CTS, the “V” came with larger anti-roll bars, larger shocks, an increased spring rate, plus an upgraded rear differential on ‘06-07 models.
Here’s the kicker. You could only get the CTS-V with a six-speed Tremec T56 manual gearbox, which a lot of driving enthusiasts greatly appreciated. As for straight line performance, you could hit 60 mph in about 4.6 seconds, before covering the quarter mile in roughly 13 seconds.
5. 2016 Cadillac ATS-V (3.6L twin-turbo V6, 464 hp)
The reason for its success was simple. You could keep up with, and even outrun, the likes of the BMW M3 or the Mercedes-AMG C63 S with an ATS-V, for a lot less money. There was very little you couldn’t do with this sporty Caddy, as it would also behave wonderfully in the corners.
We still remember a comparison review by Motor Trend a while back, where the ATS-V beat the M3 and the AMG Merc around Willow Springs.
Granted, it wasn’t as good as its German rivals in terms of build quality and refinement, but that’s something its successor, the CT4-V Blackwing, managed to overcome.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the numbers. The ATS-V was powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter DOHC V6 engine, mated to either a six-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. These cars also had a sports-tuned suspension, and you could get them either as four-door sedans or 2-door coupes.
With 464 horsepower and 445 lb-ft of torque at its disposal, the Cadillac ATS-V could rocket from zero to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds, before maxing out at 189 mph.
4. 2022 Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing (3.6L twin-turbo V6, 472 hp)
To clarify the whole V/Blackwing thing, Caddy first unveiled the CT4-V in 2019, but it wasn’t meant to be a direct replacement for the ATS-V, rather a rival for the likes of the BMW M340i or the Audi S4.
Powering the CT4-V is a 2.7-liter turbocharged inline-four unit, with 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. As you can imagine, it’s not a match for the BMW M3s of the world. What does match the M3 is the Blackwing variant of the CT4-V, with its 472 hp 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 and sub-4 second 0-60 times.
The CT4-V Blackwing is tremendously fast and as exciting to drive as sports sedans get. It’s also properly refined, the Cadillac of executive sports sedans, if you will. Both literally and figuratively.
This car was also featured in our 10 Most Exciting 4-door Sedans You Can Buy in 2023 coverstory from last week, where we ranked it 8th, just ahead of the Tesla Model 3 Performance and the Audi RS 3 Sedan. From a pure driving enjoyment standpoint, it could have been higher.
3. 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing (6.2L supercharged V8, 668 hp)
There’s little to no argument to be made discrediting the CT5-V Blackwing. This is a tremendous automobile. It’s also a proper successor to the CTS-V, albeit only in Blackwing trim. The “regular” CT5-V, which was unveiled back in 2019, is only powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, with 360 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque.
The Blackwing, meanwhile, packs this massive 6.2-liter supercharged V8 with 668 horsepower and 659 lb-ft of torque. You can get it either with a six-speed manual or a ten-speed automatic, and from a standstill, you can hit 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds, before maxing out at 209 mph.
This also happens to be Cadillac’s first ever model to get carbon ceramic brakes, and for good reason. It’s a rocket ship. Had it not been for the...let’s say “aura” surrounding the very next car on our list, this flagship-spec Caddy would have been ranked higher. Heck, it might even be the best overall fast sedan the U.S. has ever produced, but that’s a whole different story.
2. 2005 Chrysler 300 SRT-8 (6.1L HEMI V8, 425 hp)
The first-generation 300 went into production in 2004, styled by Ralph Gilles, who would make his name with this car, before eventually leading the design team that later created the 2014 Dodge Viper.
His Chrysler 300 won North American Car of the Year straight away, and it’s easy to understand why. The large grille, super long hood, low roofline – it looked timeless, elegant, yet almost scary at the same time. Design-wise, the first-gen Chrysler 300 will probably always be one of the most iconic four-door sedans ever made.
To make things even more interesting, Chrysler then unveiled the SRT-8 variant, powered by a 6.1-liter HEMI V8 engine, good for 425 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, allowing you to hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. Not lightning quick by today’s super sedan standards, but more than quick enough.
The SRT-8 wasn’t about driving dynamics, or flat cornering, but rather effortless acceleration and a relaxing ambiance, coupled with that unique vibe they were giving off. In other words, these cars were fun to drive, without actually being fun to drive, and that’s quite the achievement.
1. 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (6.2L supercharged HEMI V8, 707 hp)
This time we’re going with the original, because that’s the car that broke the internet - rather the Challenger Hellcat did, but the Charger deserves an equal amount of respect.
The original Charger SRT Hellcat made its official debut in August of 2014, packing the same supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8 engine you got in the Challenger SRT Hellcat, meaning output stood at 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque.
This car was based on the redesigned Charger, which came with a new front and rear fascia, among several other changes to both the exterior and interior.
In terms of performance, the Charger Hellcat could hit 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, while covering a standing quarter mile in roughly 11-seconds flat. Its top speed, an impressive 207 mph.
With all due respect to the Chrysler 300 SRT-8 and the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is without a doubt the greatest four-door sedan America has ever produced. Sure, it’s assembled in Canada, but hey, this is an American product through and through.