The country’s most popular cars tend to carry over year-to-year due to their reliability, quality and longstanding reputations that’ve been cemented in the minds of the American car buyer. The Camry, the Outback, the Prius, the F-150: all rides that need about as much sales help as a J.J. Abrams Star Wars movie.
But every year sees a handful of great automobile releases that slip under the average consumer’s radar despite being utterly spectacular. Blame marketing, fickleness or the mere fact that although folks say they want to be different, they tend to show as much of a propensity for individualism as lemmings heading for the cliff’s edge once the cards are down.
To correct that, we’ve rounded up five of the most overlooked cars of 2015, each one sitting on a dealer’s lot somewhere just waiting for you to experience them in all their value-positive glory. And yes, we’ve driven every one of them. Happily.
The Value Seeker’s GT: Lexus RC
You’ll get past the dramatic and very much polarizing design of the RC coupe if you just drive it. You don’t even have to pony up for the 467-horsepower V8 RC F — the very pleasing RC 350 F Sport ($46,885) is a GT-style fastback coupe with all the power and comfort you need thanks to a 306-hp V6 and understated, contemporary interior.
The Gentleman’s Hybrid: Cadillac ELR
This edgy hybrid gets ignored for no other reason than perhaps its import-level price tag ($65,000). But the ELR is every bit the equal of an Audi, Bimmer or Mercedes of comparable class and styling. Not only could you mistake it for a Lamborghini from a distance, it also drives quietly and crisply while ensconcing its driver in Caddy’s best ever interior. Its 1.4-liter, four-cylinder gas engine pairs with two electric motors for a spritely 6.4-second sprint from 0 to 60, and boasts a range of 330 miles. The Star Trek-ian dashboard is just icing on the cake.
The Affordable Italian Street Racer: Alfa Romeo 4C
So it only holds two people and has enough cargo space for a box of tissues. But we still can’t see why Alfa Romeo doesn’t sell hordes of these rapier-like sport coupes. Small and light, the 4C ($53,900) has go-kart steering and an exhaust note like a honey badger after a quad espresso. It’s pushing 240 ponies out of a 1.7-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, along with reflex steering and a hyper-rigid carbon fiber tub that deliver motoring delights the likes of which you won’t find under $70k from most of its competitors.
The Smart Man’s Flagship Sedan: Acura RLX
Everyone in the market for a luxury sedan pretty much bypasses the super capable RLX ($51,890). Especially in its Sport Hybrid trim, the RLX is an automotive gem. The five-seater equips a V6 along with an electric motor for a healthy 377 horses. But it’s the handling and sportiness that really make the RLX stand out. Plus: a sumptuous interior with ample space for driver and passenger, along with an array of driving tech that make it both safe and stimulating.
The Purist’s Coupe: Scion FR-S
To drive the FR-S is to experience behind-the-wheel nirvana. It’s a mere 200 hp, but due to the taut chassis, rear-wheel drive and peerless steering, it’s the best sports car you can buy for $26,100. Everything about the FR-S is about the driving experience — rather than luxury or practicality — which is why you should care. It’s a rightful return to what sports cars should be about: total control. Pro tip: the six-speed manual is the only way to go.