The 10 Quickest (and 3 Slowest) New Cars We Tested in 2021

The 10 Quickest (and 3 Slowest) New Cars We Tested in 2021

Car and Driver Independent testing matters. This year, our testing team held manufacturer claims to

Car and Driver

Independent testing matters. This year, our testing team held manufacturer claims to the fire for nearly 200 different vehicles, and the field was wildly divergent. It included a 2785-pound Hyundai Elantra SEL (the lightest on the scales this year), a $4 million Pagani Huarya BC Roadster (the most expensive we’ve ever tested), a 1020-hp Tesla Model S Plaid, and a Kia Rio Hatchback that rode on 15-inch steel wheels with tires less than 7.5 inches wide. No matter how expensive, slow, or heavy, they each get the same objective testing treatment.

Our comprehensive testing puts every new vehicle under the same microscope. We weigh them, stomp repeatedly on their brakes, measure their highway fuel economy, and fill their cargo areas with real boxes, because no one leaves the grocery store with bags of fresh cubic feet.

Of course, we also launch them, running a full panoply of acceleration tests. Fun fact: Four of the cars tested this year made it into the top 10 quickest to 60 mph we’ve ever tested. In this roundup, however, we present this year’s 10 quickest to 60 mph—along with the three slowest. (Note: For this ranking, we used quarter-mile times as tiebreakers between vehicles that share the same 60-mph time.)

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Toyota Corolla Cross: 9.2 seconds

The Toyota Corolla Cross wasn’t built for speed; that’s obvious. It’s here to offer the same reliable—though not exciting—ownership experience that loyal Corolla customers love, but in a more palatable crossover shape. When equipped with all-wheel drive, the Corolla Cross is nearly one second slower to 60 mph than the last Corolla hatchback we tested, and it completed the quarter-mile in 17.0 seconds at a sleepy 83 mph. The Corolla Cross takes 39.9 seconds to reach 110 mph, and by that time you’ve likely already reached your exit. What it delivers on is fit-and-finish, and it does so in a package that starts at a low $24,710.

  • Price as tested: $32,170 (Base price: $24,710)
  • Powertrain: 169-hp 2.0-liter inline-four, continuously variable automatic transmission
  • Weight: 3384 lb

READ THE FULL COROLLA CROSS TEST

Volkswagen Tiguan: 9.1 seconds

Being quicker than the Honda CR-V is a low bar to set, but for the all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Tiguan we tested earlier this year, that bar is still a full second out of reach. Refreshed for 2022, the Tiguan didn’t receive any performance-enhancing boosts, but the new LED headlights and sporty front grille make it look sharper. Despite its slog to 60, the Tiguan is among our top three compact crossovers, thanks to its good handling and ride control. It’s a shame VW didn’t give it more oomph for 2022, but even if it had, would Tiguan buyers have noticed?

  • Price as tested: $37,790 (Base price: $37,790)
  • Powertrain: 184-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Weight: 4005 lb

READ THE FULL TIGUAN TEST

Nissan Sentra SR: 8.9 seconds

The Nissan Sentra SR is the slowest sedan we’ve tested this year. To its credit, however, it’s a half-second ahead of the slowest cars from last year. Our test car, on Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires, was more impressive on the skidpad and in braking than in acceleration, as we noted in a recent compact-sedan comparison test. The Sentra completed the quarter-mile in 17.0 seconds at 84 mph and reached 100 mph in an unhurried 25.2 seconds. Even if the Sentra doesn’t move with urgency, its low base price and supersized bucket of standard active safety features make it worth considering. Though the SR’s acceleration times do make its faux-carbon-fiber interior pieces seem extra cheesy.

  • Price as tested: $26,010 (Base price: $22,825)
  • Powertrain: 149-hp 2.0-liter inline-four, continuously variable automatic transmission
  • Weight: 3127 lb

READ THE FULL SENTRA SR TEST

BMW M5 Competition: 2.7 seconds

Now, the fun stuff. We start with the BMW M5 Competition, which contains a dizzying array of performance options. There’s an M mode button to cycle between drive modes; two extra buttons on the steering wheel used to preset customized engine, chassis, and steering settings; and a button on the gear shifter to adjust shifting behavior. There are big paddle shifters to control the gears manually and a sport-shift mode if you need it. Touch almost anything inside an M5 Competition, and you’ve changed a drive mode.

To generate the best possible numbers, we stuck it in all-wheel-drive Track mode with all systems set to aggressive. Although it has a rear-tire-fire mode, that doesn’t produce the best acceleration times. Our test car wore Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires and delivered 0.97 g of lateral grip on our 300-foot skidpad. The 617-hp twin-turbo V-8 bolts to an eight-speed automatic transmission—though its lightning-fast shifts have a dual-clutch urgency about them. As for all of those modes, we think that for most drivers the two pedals on the floor will suffice for mode selection. We suggest using the one on the right.

  • Price as tested: $141,045 (Base price: $113,095)
  • Powertrain: 617-hp twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Weight: 4243 lb

READ THE FULL M5 COMPETITION TEST

BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe: 2.7 seconds

We live in the strangest of times. What made sense years ago seems like misinformation this week. The BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe is 4377 pounds of evidence of this. Its acceleration times to 60 mph and 100 mph match those of the Porsche 911 GT3. Sure, the GT3 has only 502 horsepower to the BMW’s 617, but it’s also 1155 pounds lighter and one Patrick Long away from a full-on race car. Meanwhile, in the M8 Comp, there’s quilted leather, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated and power-adjustable steering wheel, wireless Apple and Android connectivity—oh, and an entire extra row of seats. And unlike the automatic GT3 we tested, the M8 Competition doesn’t even have a dual-clutch transmission. Evidently, that’s the magic of putting Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires on a twin-turbo water buffalo.

  • Price as tested: $167,245 (Base price: $144,995)
  • Powertrain: 617-hp twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Weight: 4377 lb

READ THE FULL M8 COMPETITION GRAN COUPE TEST

Porsche Panamera Turbo S: 2.6 seconds

The Porsche Panamera Turbo S saw a host of updates for 2021, the most important being revised engine internals and enhanced turbochargers that helped crank up the output of its twin-turbo V-8 from 550 to 620 horsepower. Another aspect of this car’s increased performance is the optional 21-inch Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer tires. How do streetable track tires hold up on a 4702-pound Porsche? We’d say pretty well. We measured 1.07’s g of grip on our skidpad. That’s the best we’ve seen from any four-door we’ve tested.

  • Price as tested: $199,480 (Base price: $179,050)
  • Powertrain: 620-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Weight: 4702 lb

READ THE FULL PANAMERA TURBO S TEST

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S: 2.6 seconds

Outaccelerating the twin-turbo-V-8-powered Audi RS7 Sportback and the BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe it battled in a recent three-car comparison test, the Mercedes-AMG GT63 S is a rocket. A rear-biased all-wheel-drive system gets the 630 horsepower to the wheels, but the aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires wrapped around the 21-inch wheels are the real MVP. This is the quickest car on this list that uses a conventional automatic transmission instead of a dual-clutch. The GT63 S completed the quarter-mile in 10.7 seconds at 129 mph.

  • Price as tested: $199,910 (Base price: $162,950)
  • Powertrain: 630-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, nine-speed automatic transmission
  • Weight: 4620 lb

READ THE FULL GT63 S TEST

BMW M5 CS: 2.6 seconds

The 617-hp 2019 BMW M5 Competition we tested previously had tied the 710-hp McLaren 720S for a blistering 2.6-second-to-60-mph launch despite its extra 1100 pounds. The new BMW M5 CS weighs 147 pounds less than the M5 Competition and has 10 extra horsepower, but isn’t any faster to 60 mph. However, it is 0.3 second quicker in the quarter-mile. To shed weight, the M5 CS has a carbon-fiber hood, less sound-deadening material, and lighter seats. The revised dampers on this all-wheel-drive sled are a big improvement over the last car.

  • Price as tested: $148,995 (Base price: $143,995)
  • Powertrain: 627-hp twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Weight: 4096

MORE M5 SPECS

Lamborghini Huracán STO: 2.6 seconds

The Lamborghini Huracán STO’s 60-mph acceleration time matched that of a few others on this list, but its 10.5 seconds at 136 mph in the quarter-mile is the quickest of the bunch. This Super Turismo Omologato bull is a toast to the brand’s GT3 racing history and, as such, is 78 pounds lighter than the discontinued Performante. It’s rear-wheel drive only, so its 0.4-second gap to 60 mph behind the all-wheel-drive Performante isn’t surprising. We recorded 1.14 g’s of grip on our skidpad with the optional Bridgestone Potenza Race street-legal tires. On the extralegal side of business, this STO hit 170 mph in 19.9 seconds. That’s about the same time it takes the aforementioned Corolla Cross to hit 90 mph. Time is money, and so is speed.

  • Price as tested: $453,396 (Base price: $333,633)
  • Powertrain: 631-hp 5.2-liter V-10, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Weight: 3351 lb

MORE HURACAN STO INFO

Porsche 911 Turbo: 2.4 seconds

The Porsche 911 Turbo exercises like it’s had 10 servings of pre-workout. It punches through the quarter-mile in 10.3 seconds at 133 mph. Our test car was fitted with a few performance-oriented options: front-axle lift ($2770), sport suspension ($1510), and ventilated sport seats ($840) to help us chill out after flogging it around. Although not as powerful (or expensive) as the 911 Turbo S, the 68-hp difference only left a 0.1-second gap to 60 mph. It’s not until 150 mph that the Turbo S gains a full second on the less-powerful Turbo. Our 911 Turbo test car used Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tires and an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. The 991-generation Turbo doesn’t offer a manual, not that it would help acceleration times.

  • Price as tested: $180,130 (Base price: $173,150)
  • Powertrain: 572-hp twin-turbo 3.7-liter flat-six, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Weight: 3637 lb

READ THE FULL 911 TURBO TEST

Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet: 2.3 seconds

The quickest Porsche 911 we’ve ever tested was a Turbo S coupe that recorded a blistering 2.2-seconds-to-60-mph time last year. This Cabriolet is just barely behind despite carrying an additional 180 pounds (blame the extra heft on the automated top and its associated bracing). The Cabriolet used Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport tires, whereas the coupe was equipped with Pirelli P Zero PZ4s. The braking portion of our testing is important, too, and the Cabriolet stopped sooner, requiring a short 136 feet from 70 mph and 275 feet from 100 mph.

  • Price as tested: $234,570 (Base price: $218,650)
  • Powertrain: 640-hp twin-turbo 3.7-liter flat-six, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Weight: 3826 lb

READ THE FULL 911 TURBO S CABRIOLET TEST

Tesla Model S Plaid: 2.1 seconds

The Tesla Model S Plaid we drove vanquished the quarter-mile in just 9.4 seconds at 151 mph. That’s the same time the $3.7 million Bugatti Chiron Sport achieved—and the quickest quarter-mile time of any car we’ve tested. To achieve maximum launch, the Model S must be placed into Drag Strip mode, which heats the battery to the optimum temperature. Then flatten both the brake and accelerator for 10 seconds to allow the car’s air springs to lower the front end. The Cheetah stance isn’t complete until the front tires tuck into the fenders. Lift left foot and enjoy. The Plaid uses a radiator that’s twice as big as before to help fight battery usage from thrilling launches. We ran eight consecutive consistent passes using only 20 percent of the battery.

  • Price as tested: $137,440 (Base price: $131,440)
  • Powertrain: 3 permanent-magnet synchronous AC; combined output: 1020 horsepower, front/rear direct-drive transmissions
  • Weight: 4828 lb

READ THE FULL MODEL S PLAID TEST

Ferrari SF90 Stradale: 2.0 seconds

It was seven years ago when an 887-hp 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder elbowed out a Bugatti Veyron as the quickest car we’ve ever tested. Now the 918 is getting a taste of defeat, as the Ferrari SF90 Stradale becomes the king of the hill with a 2.0-second-to-60-mph acceleration run. Like the 918, the SF90 uses a plug-in-hybrid powertrain, but in the Ferrari’s case, there are two 133-hp motors on the front axle and a third 201-hp motor between engine and transmission. With the added electric boost, a 769-hp twin-turbo V-8 becomes only a part of a 986-hp powertrain. Its launch control hangs at 3500 rpm until the brake pedal is released, then click goes the eight-speed dual-clutch. It’s only slightly behind the Model S Plaid in the quarter-mile, with a time of 9.5 seconds at 148 mph.

  • Price as tested: $742,088 (base price: $511,250)
  • Powertrain: 769-hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 with two 133-hp AC motors and one 201-hp AC motor, combined output, 986 hp; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Weight: 3840 lb

READ THE FULL SF90 STRADALE TEST

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