Fast Four Doors: The 8 Best High-Performance Family Cars

The fast four-door has become a real statement in the last few decades. Initially operating in the shadows of more traditional sports cars, they were once subtle and sleek, generally packed with massive engines and choice chassis upgrades. Early cars often hid their intentions well, with examples like the original E28 M5 and AMGs featuring large wheels and tyres, subtle badging, and that’s about it.

Yet as the genre has matured, high-performance family cars have become a statement item, slowly transforming from hotted-up saloons to bonafide four-door supercars. Not only do they perform on a higher plane than ever, but they also feature supercar styling with just as much visual attitude as any Ferrari or Lamborghini.

As you’d expect, our list heavily features German marques, but in all cases, they blend supercar performance with enough room for the family.

Audi S8

The Audi S8 has never been a big seller for the German brand, but when you do see one floating around with its four exhaust pipes, there’s no denying its presence. The S8 has gone through four iterations, the first D2 model creating an archetypal ‘assassin’s car’ thanks to its appearance in films like Ronin. That it looked nearly identical to the A8 was all part of its appeal.

Four generations later, the same understated styling has been applied to a far more capable package. Like the original, the S8 features a V8 engine, but along the way, it picked up two turbos, which now raise power to 572bhp. This is paired with a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, but beyond this, it also comes with a range of other tricks to help it contain all that power.

This includes a clever active air suspension system and rear-wheel steering, which help manage the body weight and improve the car’s sense of agility. Yet, as with the previous models, there are fundamentals here drawn from previous generations that combine to create its true USP. This includes its aluminium-intensive construction, which helps keep the car’s weight down relative to its body size, and that same understated design punctured only by those four exhaust pipes.

Porsche Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid

Porsche’s version of the fast four-door might not be a traditional three-box saloon like the Audi above, but it definitely leans more heavily toward the supercar end of the spectrum.

Only just released in its third generation, the new Panamera – especially in its Turbo E-Hybrid form – represents incredible technological advancements in performance and handling. The engine is actually the same 4-litre V8 as you’ll find in the Audi above, but in addition to this, a further plug-in hybrid system pairs a 200bhp electric motor and sizable battery pack to create a huge 671bhp combined.

This huge performance is backed up by a cutting-edge chassis control system that makes each wheel independent. By reading the road surface and reacting in real-time to body movements, Porsche’s Active Ride Control system can keep the car completely flat and, if it’s in the right drive mode, actually give the car opposing body movements to reduce the sense of roll and pitch for drivers, too.

Add the Panamera’s stunning interior and almost endless personalisation options, and its appeal over a traditional saloon looks clear. That is unless you plan to spend a lot of time in the back seats, as the sloping roofline and relatively compact dimensions mean it’s less adept at cruising people around. Still, you’ll be surrounded by exceptional materials and the latest tech, so it won’t be all bad.

Mercedes-AMG S63 S E Performance

If we’re talking about high-performance hybrids, we must mention the brand-new Mercedes-AMG S63 S E Performance, which has become the new king of the hill. Merc’s iconic S-Class has long been a byword for luxury, and the latest generation doesn’t disappoint – so long as it has the right engine.

AMG’s high-performance model combines a 4-litre V8 engine with two turbos and AMG’s latest hybrid module. Directly inspired by technology developed for Formula 1, the new S63’s rear axle features its own 200bhp motor and a two-speed transmission that joins the front-mounted V8 to drive all four wheels. Peak power is rated at over 800bhp, but due to the battery’s design, it has only a limited electric range.

The rest of the chassis is typical AMG S-Class, combining active air suspension with an anti-roll function, dynamic stabiliser bars and four-wheel steering, essentially bringing together Merc’s entire toolkit in this one model.

Yet, to be honest, the AMG S-Class’s reputation ups its desirability, as you know you have just about everything you could hope for in one luxurious package.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

In complete contrast to the S-Class above, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio has the essence of a fast four-door at its core. On the surface, the Giulia is a simple car. Its lightweight package is purely rear-wheel drive and features a relatively small 2.9-litre V6 engine with two turbos and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It powers the rear wheels and is relatively sparse inside, with a rudimentary infotainment system and limited customisation options.

And yet, this is close to being the best car on this list due to its engaging driving experience and wild character. Thanks to its lightness, at only just over 1600kg, the Giulia makes the most of its 503bhp. This doesn’t just make it fast against the clock but also helps it handle with a unique lightness of touch that allows you to carry immense speed on the road or track.

It helps that it’s a stunning car to look at, too. It’s far cooler than any BMW, Audi or Mercedes purely down to its Italian heritage and presentation.

It was recently updated with a few key elements that make all the difference as a driver’s car. The headlights are a new LED design with triple lighting signatures, while inside, the analogue dials have been swapped out for a new high-res screen. Yet the best change is the application of a new purely mechanical limited-slip differential, fixing its only dynamic flaw.

Buy one while you can.

BMW i7 M70

BMW’s i7 hit the headlines when revealed – not because of its all-electric range, interior tech or autonomous driving aids. No, talk of the i7 was all surrounded by how it looks, and depending on which camp you’re in, that will either be a good or bad thing.

The huge new grille, dual headlight design and chunky upright nose initially created an uproar. Yet, while they are jarring, look deeper into the design, and you’ll see that it’s very clever and interesting. This is a true retro three-box car, which BMW has focused on rather than shying away from, like its key rival Mercedes-Benz did with the electric EQS.

A year or so later, BMW introduced the M70 version, which increased the output from its two e-motors to more than 750bhp, creating something of a monster. The best bit is that the rest of the package – such as the handling, refinement and interior tech – is top-notch.

Spec wisely and the i7 M70 really might be the coolest new EV on the road – if you’re in the 50% who like it.

Cadillac CTS-V Blackwing

Cadillac’s sole entrant to the list is the mighty CTS-V Blackwing. Available only in North America and other hand-picked markets, the US manufacturer has returned to its roots to create a high-performance midsize model that blows its German rivals out of the water. Packing a 668hp supercharged 6.2-litre V8 engine, rear-wheel drive and an optional manual transmission, the CTS-V Blackwing is the antithesis of cars like the i7 above.

Matching the old-school engine is a slightly more modern design, ditching the rear deck for a fastback design and huge wheels and flared wheel arches. A recent facelift has also brought the interior up to date with a new digital interface and huge new screen, but look a little more closely and you’ll note the cliche lapses in interior quality that so often affect American cars.

Yet despite all this hype on old-fashioned values, the reason it uses such an archaic type of engine wasn’t exactly by design. The term ‘Blackwing’ isn’t new for Cadillac, as it was initially applied to a high-tech engine program meant to power this generation of CTS-V.

The modern 4.2-litre twin-turbo V8 engine was designed and homologated. Yet, due to various factors, it only found a home in a couple of Cadillac models before being thrown in its entirety on the scrap heap. While some might lament this course of action, it has created a living dinosaur in its wake, which is pretty cool.


Simply put, the BMW M3 CS is why we couldn’t quite say the Alfa Romeo Giulia is the best car to drive on this list. Designed to be the near-ultimate take on BMW’s already incredibly impressive M3 range, the CS takes the standard Competition xDrive model and sharpens up what it could while instilling BMW M’s wicked form in terms of chassis control and handling.

The numbers aren’t exactly thrilling on paper – a small retune of the engine liberates only a few more bhp at 542, and the weight’s only a large dog lighter – yet the magic of the CS is its incredible engagement and involvement.

That power might be sent to four wheels, but how it gets there feels so much more organic and subtle than almost any system ever. Bleeding power from the rear to up front only as it’s needed retains its rear-drive feeling, only this time coming with the extra traction and wet-weather assurance of an all-wheel drive.

Yes, it’s challenging to look at, but the M3’s design has no doubt softened, and in a dark colour it has insane presence and intent on the road. Even better, dip into the Individual colour palette, delete some of the red detailing and those horrible bonnet graphics and its design culminates into one angry-looking beast.

Lexus IS500 F Sport

Another forbidden fruit for Europe is the Lexus IS500 F Sport, a 467bhp rear-drive saloon packed with one of the few naturally aspirated V8 engines still available in 2024. It’s a small saloon, sitting on the road with even more compact dimensions than you’ll find on the Alfa Romeo above, but it still comes with some pretty hardcore chassis tech to keep it all under control.

This starts with the sharp-shifting eight-speed gearbox, which can push a small amount of fuel into the exhaust manifold under hard gear shifts, making it pop as you go up the gears. Yet the real party trick is its super-aggressive throttle blipping on the way down the gearbox, giving it a crazy bark both inside and out.

Take a good look at the IS500, and despite not having top-billing as a full-house F model, you’ll note that it looks brilliant, too, with just enough visual change to announce that it’s something special. This is helped further by the stacked exhaust pipes and domed bonnet, but in any case, it remains a real Q-Car, just like the Audi at the head of this list.

Jordan Katsianis

If there’s an interesting high performance or luxury car, chances are Jordan has driven it. With experience working for the world’s most respected editorial brands, Jordan’s eye for picking out the best new cars in the world is backed up with a past in automotive design and engineering - appreciating true innovation, while sorting out the good from the bad, and the ugly.