Importing a grey market vehicle is a long, arduous, expensive task, which is generally why only those people employed by government-bankrolled investment firms or the Columbian cartel can afford to do it. Plebes like us are forced to make do with whatever the dealer has in stock or, more likely, whatever we can find on Craigslist for under 5 grand. If you have an “in” with the U.S. Department of Commerce and unlimited funds, however, there are 10 cars that are totally worth trying to smuggle through customs.
1. Ford Focus RS
This is not the same Focus that you see parked 10 abreast and 30 deep at the community college, this is the Ford Focus RS. Tagged a Lancer Evo-fighter without a trace of facetiousness, the Focus RS is a mean little machine thanks entirely to the low-pressure turbo genius of Volvo. Equipped with a 2.5L turbocharged inline 5, the Focus RS churns out a staggering 305-horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. Ordinarily, that much power coupled with a FWD layout is a recipe for one ugly, habitual understeer, but amazingly the Focus RS cuts corners on the track with razor-edge precision. The real deal-clincher? All of this can be had for around £25k (not including any relevant bribes, of course).
2. Fiat 500 Abarth
The Fiat 500 Abarth has a turbocharged and intercooled 1.4L four cylinder that puts out 150-horsepower, which is laughable for a full-sized sedan but translates to a real white-knuckle experience under the hood of a 139.8 inch long, 65.0 inch wide, 58.2 inch tall, 2282 pound compact. It can break the 0-62 mph mark in 7.9 seconds while still averaging 44 mpg, and even when it’s optioned out its $23k price tag won’t break the bank. Basically, the Fiat 500 Abarth gives you all the benefits of a MINI Cooper without making you look like you’re big into dudes.
3. Audi RS6 Avant
In 1990, Volvo introduced the 960 turbo wagon with the slogan, “Until Ferrari makes a wagon, this is it.” When the 960 was discontinued in the late 90’s, nothing stepped up to take its place. To this day there isn’t anything in the U.S. that rivals the turbo brick,and blatant Volvo bias forces us to maintain that there isn’t anything that rivals it overseas either, but if it was possible to replace the 960, the RS6 Avant would be our number one pick.
Ok we admit, it’s a media whore, and for that we loathe it, but c’mon, look at it! Tearing up the asphalt around Piccadilly Circus while playing Gran Turismo Prolouge5 is one thing, but actually doing it behind the wheel of a full-scale, real-life model? That’ll earn you so much street cred, the ladies won’t even care that you live in your mother’s basement. Or that you’re 40 years old. And balding. And a little chubby.
5. Ford RS200 Evolution
An unfortunate crash during WRC Portugal lead to the sudden cancellation of the RS200 in 1986, but not before Ford had already introduced the RS200 Evolution. Designed by F1 engineers for Ford of Great Britain to blow the window nets off other rally racers, the RS200 Evo was basically an STi with extreme ‘roid rage. A beefed-up version of the already-chunky Cosworth BDA sat longitudinally mounted in the rear of the Evo and, depending on who you’re talking to and which factory upgrade they had, put out anywhere from 550 horsepower to an almost unbelievable 815-horsepower. What’s more, the most powerful RS200 Evos were able to sprint from 0-60 mph in 3.07 seconds, earning the Ford RS200 Evo a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for 12 years as the fastest production car ever.
6. Renault Mégane R26.R
Three words: Six-point harness. A limited edition Mégane Sport model, the R26.R comes with a 6-point aviation-style restraint system and a 4-point roll cage that looks as badass as it sounds. To cut down on drag, the tail lights and rear window are made out of polycarbonate tinted just dark enough to pass for glass. The 2-liter inline 4 cranks out 230-horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque, which wouldn’t usually be particularly noteworthy were it not for the fact that the RS6.2 managed to lap the Nürburgring in 8m 17s. To achieve this, Renault dispensed with any frivolous accoutrements like the radio, the rear seats, and the airbags.
7. Audi A5 Sportback
There’s only one reason we covet the A5 Sportback: aesthetics. The average age of car buyers is apparently on a steady decline, and to appeal to the new emerging market both BMW and Audi have created this new, thing. It’s not the Avant your PTA president drives, but it could still haul just as many crappy cupcakes to the bake sale, and it’s not the coupe the douche in finance who lives next door drives, but it could still weave in and out of traffic with the same finesse.
8. Vauxhall VXR8
It’s the Pontiac G8. ‘Nuff said.
9. Alfa Romeo MiTo
Its engines only produce a range from 99 to 150-horsepower, the DNA drive switch that has critics salivating has been done countless times before in some form or another, and the car itself is just a rebadged Fiat Punto. It’s not much to speak of on the track, but gas mileage is great and the whole shebang can be had for under $22k, which means you can put a brand new Alfa Romeo in your garage for a fraction of the price of its predecessor, the 8C Competizione. So yeah, the performance might be mediocre, but it’s an Alfa Romeo for crying out loud…
10. Holden VE Ute
El Camino, anyone? Had Pontiac not been on such a treacherous road to ruin, we might have seen this stateside in the form of the Pontiac G8 Sport truck. Unfortunately, it was cancelled before it ever hit production and the Holden VE Ute is the only remaining evidence it ever existed.