“Q-ship” is currently the cool way to say “sleeper,” or describe a fast car that doesn’t look outwardly intimidating. But it seems to me like this term is being used far too often and erroneously, so I’m going to try and course-correct the vernacular a little bit here.
I guess it’s trendy for everything to be called a “shooting brake” now, too. “Shooting brake” is one of those British terms that sounds fancier than it is, and every car-oriented person seems to think they’re avant-garde for saying “check out that a Mercedes CLS Shooting BRAKE!” Well, ah, woo-woo-woo, “shooting brake” is called “station wagon” in un-fancy talk. Similar to “shooting brake”, “Q-ship” is one of those terms that’s worked its way into car vernacular and is now miserably overused.
OK, maybe that’s not entirely fair. In WWII, a Q-ship was a boat, disguised as an unassuming merchant boat, that lured submarines to the surface. The submarine would be tricked into thinking it was a simple cargo hauler when actually it was a gunship armed to the teeth, capable of attacking and sinking the sub. If you find that interesting, you can read about a more in-depth explanation about where the term came from on The Drive. It is not, as you might have guessed, from James Bond’s “Q Branch” of spy tech.
In the car world, the term “Q-ship” has been applied to unassuming-looking cars that are actually really fast. Y’know, like old V12 Audi A8s, or I guess 750iLs.
And yet, somehow people apply this term to modern cars, like the BMW M-Sport cars, or the S-Line Audis. Uh, did we forget the “unassuming” part of a “Q-ship”? S-Line Audis, with big wheels and ground effects, are not stealthy about their speed.
Here are some cars that embody the spirt of “Q-ship” much more than the obviously not-slow German land jets that phrase is so often used to describe.
The Cadillac XTS
Sure, the XTS is kind of geriatric, with its ass-in-the-air stance, and front-wheel drive Impala-based chassis. Yeah, it’s got a lot of chrome, but old people love that shit. It’s roomy, comfortable, absurdly quiet, and a really nice place to be. A cruiser, something no one really expects to drive fast.
It also has a twin-turbo V6 with 410 Horsepower. 0-60 comes in five seconds, and it’ll do a buck-twenty without blinking an eye. Focus STs, Civic Sis and even a few Pony cars will be left the tailfin-inspired rear view of an XTS.
The Lincoln MKZ
Smaller than the XTS, the MKZ is a Fusion-based midsized car with the heart of a lion. The 2.0T and the old 3.7 naturally aspirated engines definitely had more than enough power to scoot the MKZ around, but some buyers wanted even more oomph. In 2017, Lincoln facelifted the car, and stuffed a new 3.0 liter twin-turbo V6 unit claiming 400 HP. Like the XTS, the 0-60 comes in the five-second range, more than enough to embarrass a lot of proposed sporty cars.
Yet again, chrome abounds, and it’s definitely more “retiree” than “boy racer,” but no one will suspect a thing when an MKZ cruises by… until it absolutely embarrasses the neighbor kid’s farty Honda Civic Si.
Anyway, of course, you wouldn’t stoop so low as to go street racing anyway but if you want to talk about cars that are sneakily fast, don’t talk to me about Audis with huge wheels and body kits. It’s all about being fast while looking like you should be delivering bodies to bingo in a retirement community. However flashy your car ends up looking, just have fun, y’all. And don’t take any of this too seriously.