Honda Accord
Honda
Honda Accord
updated 4/20/2004 9:36:25 PM ET 2004-04-21T01:36:25

Sports cars used to have two doors. Period.

Forty years ago, speed freaks might have heard the term "performance sedan" and dismissed it the way they might have a little-known Japanese car maker called Toyota, or an innovation called the "seatbelt." But times change. Here we are today with a list of the best sedans on the market, and four of them are categorized as "performance sedans."

And they perform very nicely indeed. As our car reviewer Michael Frank wrote last April in his Test Drive of the 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (our pick for best performance sedan under $30,000), it corners "nearly as quickly as a $47,795 BMW M3 coupe, and scoot[s] to 60 mph in only five seconds flat. That's faster than anything else in its price range; it's faster, in fact, than many sports cars selling for twice as much." Amen.

While the Evolution can shave its sticker price by offering a Spartan interior, there are also some marvelously fast cars out there that are also marvelously comfortable. BMW, for example, may have fashioned itself as one of the world's sportiest car makers, but it is first and foremost a builder of fine luxury sedans. The same is true of Ford Motor's Jaguar subsidiary and, to a lesser extent because it has lots of coupes and convertibles, DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz brand.

So, we broke our list down to accommodate those potential buyers shopping for pure power, pure luxury and a nice amalgamation of the two. It may not come as a surprise to many of our readers that, apart from General Motors' new red-hot Cadillac CTS-V, the big winners in the current sedan market are from Germany and Japan (Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW). More hot entries, such as a 10-cylinder variant of Volkswagen's new Phaeton luxury sedan, are on the way.

For now, take a look at which 2004 model sedans are the best by price and type. To keep the playing field level, we assigned cars to categories according to base prices. While good value was one criterion we considered, many factors influenced our choices of winners, such as design, engineering, performance, prestige and — the tie-breaker if needed — flat-out fun, and the thought of which sedan we would most like to own in each case.

If you were looking for fun you may have ended up here by accident — but read on and find that coupes and convertibles aren't the only ways to feed your commute some adrenaline.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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