By on September 6, 2017

Back in August, Tim Cain reported on some rather strong statements made by McLaren. The company’s chief engineer proclaimed that McLaren stood alone among true sports car offerings — quite a stance to take, indeed. Don’t worry, the statement was not without very specific qualifiers.

Today we ask you to set your own qualifiers (or definition) around that term tossed around more than a football: sports car. What defines the breed for you?

The McLaren engineer in question above is Paul Burnham, and here’s his quote:

“At McLaren, we like to think we’ve got the only authentic sports car setup in the market.”

Mr. Burnham has four mandatory sports car pillars, to which only his employer adheres in the market.

  1. A carbon fiber tub
  2. Hydraulic steering
  3. A V8 under the bonnet
  4. Mid-engine layout

Now, barring the fact that carbon fiber is a relatively recent development in the car market, the other three tenets have been around for quite some time. But are they quite fair? Just off the top of my head, I can think of two cars I’d consider “sports cars” which don’t meet even three of those requirements.

Exhibit A: Toyota Supra

Toyota Supra

Certainly this is a sports car, right? But no carbon fiber is found in its body. There is no V8 available, and there was not a mid-engine Supra, ever. Mr. Burnham dismisses the Supra in his assertions.

Exhibit B: Porsche 911

2018 Porsche 911 Turbo Exclusive Series - Image: Porsche

This Porsche is also not a sports car. There’s no hydraulic steering (anymore). The flat-six is short some cylinders, and that engine hanging out over the back is just too far toward the rear to be considered mid-engine.

This list could go on for quite some time, reflecting all the cars which other people term as a sports car, but ultimately falling short of McLaren’s defined principles.

So, which cars are sports cars for you? Come up with a list of what defines them and what they can or can’t be. Cite some examples to support your claim, if you dare. I’ll be in the comments with some questions of my own on this topic.

[Images: McLaren, Toyota, Porsche]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

97 Comments on “QOTD: What Characteristics Make for a True Sports Car?...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Admittingly I wouldn’t know as I have never driven one. Since you can’t count anything with a back seat.God bless those that have.

    • 0 avatar
      lonborghini

      So Porsches are not sports cars?

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        lonborghini – – –

        TTAC: “QOTD: What Characteristics Make for a True Sports Car?”

        Easy. Emphasis is on TRUE. Ten simple characteristics, with a three extra tossed in for good measure.
        Take a look at the British (or is it Brutish?) REAL spots cars of the 1950’s and 1960’s – – –

        1) Two Passenger
        2) Roadster (Convertible top)
        3) Manual Transmission (ONLY),— at least 5-speed.
        4) RWD (ONLY)
        5) Less than 100-inch wheel base
        6) ~50/50 weight distribution (or close)
        7) Weight-to-Power Ratio > ~ 10 lbs/HP (not overpowered)
        8) Suspension to allow cornering at 0.9 G’s or better
        9) Acceleration = 0-to-60 in less than 10 seconds
        10) Stopping = 60-to-0 in shorter than ~120 feet

        —————–
        11) Must be able to break down weekly for a nice garage-communing weekend
        12) Must have a lousy heater, so that top-up driving is discouraged
        13 Must find its way to the local pub or golf course unattended

        ===========================

  • avatar
    ajla

    1. RWD (sorry Audi)
    2. 2 doors
    3. No hatch
    4. Under 185 inches in length

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Back in the 1980s, Road & Track ran an article discussing whether the Honda CRX (FWD with hatch) counted as a sports car. They concluded that it was. By the way, the Jaguar E-type – definitely a sports car – had a hatch, though it was sideways-opening.
      https://i.pinimg.com/736x/88/26/c1/8826c1bc833cd5c20ee220a1c728424d–the-large-the-ojays.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Agreed 100%. CRX was DEFINITELY a sports car.

        @ajla:
        R8

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        i’m ok with 4wd as long as it has a rwd bias…

        eg. would you call any modern lamborghini not a sports car?

        no hatch is also ridiculous, mclaren’s own 570gt has one as does the above jza80 supra

        to me, a ‘sports car’ as bit of a power limitation

        is a McLaren F1 GTR LM longtail as ‘sports car’ per se? its a $20 mil. ‘father of the supercar’

        i hesitate to call the huracan 488gtb mclaren 540/570/650/675/720 ‘sports cars’ as they are all ‘supercars’ really

        would i call a SS/ZL1 1LE a ‘sports car’? not really

        i would almost say the ‘sports car’ doesnt really exist any more… if toyota were to make a GT86 turbo, that might be one

        it has adequate power but not overwhelming power

        a 370z is actually a ‘sports car’ but true to form, its of another era

        maybe a base jaguar f-type? in manual?

        not ‘tear your face off’ quick but fast enough that you’re not embarrassed by automatic V6 camrys?

        my only qualifications are rwd, prefer 2+2 and some ability to have a dirty weekend, so trunk space for 2 rollerbags (ala Alex Dykes) and I would prefer manual but i suppose a dual clutch of some sort is fine

        i would also like an engine that has some character in an honest layout like a six or an eight

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Vipers and Corvettes have hatches…

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I stand by my criteria.

    • 0 avatar
      lonborghini

      So and awd Audi R8 is not a sports car?

    • 0 avatar
      lonborghini

      So an awd Audi R8 is not a sports car?

    • 0 avatar
      I_like_stuff

      Lamborghini Aventador is out!

    • 0 avatar
      pprj

      So due to (1) a 911 Turbo is not a sports cars.

  • avatar
    AVT

    Nissan 370z manual with the sport package (rear lsd, upgraded brakes and tires). For me, a sports car is…
    1.) something I can afford (otherwise it’s just a dream or a risky Turo rental)
    2.) something that I can handle at its limits of performance (riding a motorcycle has taught me this wise lesson faster and harder than anything else)
    3.) something that can be used on a day to day basis; even in Minnesota’s extreme climate (otherwise its just a summer/track/rally/drift vehicle)
    4.) something that makes me smile and want to do it all over again.

    While undeniably aged, the 370z for me represents what a sports can be. Organic feedback through the controls, decently affordable in basic trims without the need of perhaps frivolous add on’s (chrono gages, g meters, etc.). Usable in winter with a decent set of snow tires, livable day in and day out, acceptable on cost of ownership, above average performance but not unmanageable and most importantly, it makes me smile and happy to use it.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Sports cars are objectively RWD 2 seaters with convertible tops. In my subjective opinion, they weigh less than 3,000lb. So I think the only sports car left is the Miata and maybe a base 718. Everything else is a GT.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Simple – it exists for no other particular reason than to be enjoyable to drive, with practicality largely an afterthought, if a thought at all. My Triumph Spitfire (or a Miata) is just as much a sports car (really far more so) as what McLaren makes. Their “list” is self-serving silliness. Like cylinder count means ANYTHING. And the best steering has no assistance at all, as their own F1 so brilliantly showed.

    I do think that a back seat (even a small one) strongly infers that the car is a GT rather than a sports car but is not definitive. The basic 911 is a GT, the Cayman is a sports car to me. Though I would put the Toyobaru back in the sports car category. Mustangs and Camaros are not sports cars IMHO.

    Ultimately, it’s like pornography, hard to define but you know it when you see it, and sometimes the line is pretty blurry.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      krhodes1 writes: “Simple – it exists for no other particular reason than to be enjoyable to drive, with practicality largely an afterthought, if a thought at all. My Triumph Spitfire (or a Miata) is just as much a sports car (really far more so) as what McLaren makes. Their “list” is self-serving silliness. Like cylinder count means ANYTHING. And the best steering has no assistance at all, as their own F1 so brilliantly showed.”

      Yes!

      All cars are compromises between competing requirements. A sports car always makes the choice in favor of performance and enjoyment — the sheer art of driving.

      The rest is all secondary, even the magnitude of its performance. A 1.5 litre car can be as much (or more) a sports car as a 4 litre.

    • 0 avatar
      trackratmk1

      Krhodes1 – best examples yet in the comments, wholeheartedly agree with you.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      @krhodes1 absolutely nailed it with “Simple – it exists for no other particular reason than to be enjoyable to drive, with practicality largely an afterthought, if a thought at all.”

      Note that “enjoyable to drive” does not imply a minimum level of performance. The Supra turbo illustrated may have been quite fast for its time, but it is a GT not a sports car, while the more modestly powered Toyota 86 counts as a sports car in my books.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        On further consideration, I think the definition should include something about reasonably light weight, responsive, and involving to drive – or maybe an emphasis on balance and handling rather than just straight line performance.

        A Dodge Demon “exists for no other particular reason than to be enjoyable to drive, with practicality largely an afterthought”, but it is clearly a muscle car, not a sports car, even though it would fit @krhodes1 original definition.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I don’t disagree with you, but it is possible to have a fairly hefty sportscar – Corvettes, e-Types, Big Healeys, etc. are not exactly light, but they definitely are sports cars.

          A Demon is still a large sedan-based coupe at it’s heart, even if you can optionally have the big back seat left out and go stupid fast in a straight line.

          • 0 avatar
            PenguinBoy

            Agreed that some reasonably heavy sports cars exist, so weight alone isn’t really part of the definition of sports car.

            There is more than one way to arrive at “enjoyable to drive, with practicality largely an afterthought”, but there is a particular type of “enjoyable to drive” that makes something a sports car.

            To stick with FCA examples, a Dodge Demon, a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, and a Dodge Viper are all arguably “enjoyable to drive, with practicality largely an afterthought”, but in my books the only one of these that is a sports car is the Dodge Viper.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    McLaren’s definition is wrong, as it excludes MGs, Lotuses, and Miatas.

    The classical definition is:
    2 seats
    Rear-wheel-drive
    Open
    Manual transmission

    but that is met by a tiny percentage of sporting cars nowadays.

    Mine is:
    Too small for 4 average men
    Driver feedback clearly prioritized over isolation
    95% of full power available within 20 ms of flooring the accelerator

    A better question is:

    “What’ll it take for sports cars, of any definition, to make up a tenth of the market again?”

  • avatar
    Ermel

    I have not much interest in sports cars (as Captain Slow put it: I don’t want to dash, I want to waft), but IMHO it would be one thing above all else: it needs to put a big grin in your face while engaging you to do your best to drive both quickly and well.

    Size, shape, even power come secondary. The most fun I’ve ever had dashing around was in a 1955 Porsche 356 with all of 44 bhp, closely followed by a Miata NA 1.6 and my own Golf Mk2 16V — all of which would be left in the dust by any modern diesel wagon driven with similar enthusiasm, and the Porsche probably by anything available new today.

    Would I want one of those now? Hell no. Leave me my nice comfortable battered old Citroen, and I’m happy as a clam. Would I want a modern sports car instead? That would be an even bigger no, though. No kidding — if I were in the market for a fun car, I’d actually prefer a 2CV over a Miata, and a Miata over an Aventador.

    That said, a hydropneumatically-sprung Citroen with a big powerful engine in it? Sure, if I could afford one. Not because I feel particularly under-engined in my 1-tonne, 1.9-litre, 120 bhp BX wagon — just because more feels better occasionally. :-)

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    To me, a sports car is focused on getting around corners as quickly as possible and little else, and is designed and engineered from day one for that purpose.

    By definition, a sports car must share very little with more mundane cars, and rolls on its’ own platform. These are, to the greatest extent possible, pure performance cars.

    I also think a sports car has to be irrational. It has to be sexy and at least somewhat impractical to live with.

    Examples:
    -Porsche 911 / Cayman / Boxster
    -Corvette
    -Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86
    -Miata/124
    -350Z
    -Jaguar F Type
    -Exotics, such as Ferraris/Lambos/McLarens/etc.

    …and I’ll add:
    -The V-8 and high-performance variants of the Mustang/Camaro (but not the Challenger – it’s a great car, but it’s not a track car)

  • avatar
    Waterview

    Must have “Miata” on the trunk lid. (Somebody had to do it).

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I would go back to fundamentals of performance. Street vehicles that perform well in trials competitions, hill climbs, and endurance; like the original MGs, Hupps, and Hybrids like the Allard. If it can’t handle wet or snowy, steep and twisty, gravel roads, then it isn’t a real sports car to me.

    I guess the modern equivalent would be factory stock rally cars. I suppose that’s why the only asphalt racing I’d go to see is Formula-Vee due to it’s elementalness.

  • avatar
    jfb43

    A Triumph TR6 is the quintessential sports car in my mind. These have all been stated, but a sports car needs at least these minimum qualifiers, IMO:

    -RWD
    -MT
    -2 doors
    -Small
    -Affordable/accessible

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      This is really the list. To suggest that only an exotic car like a McLaren is a sports car is pretty silly. This reminds me of Chris Harris driving a Miata and saying how much he dislikes it because a Ferrari F430 is a much better vehicle.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Punishing ride
    Cowl shake and it’s attendant squeaks/rattles
    Close-ratio gearing for constant shifting
    Under-boosted steering, for firmer, ‘sporty’ handling
    Unusable/novelty creature comforts– more ridiculous = more better
    Bonus: tight seats with tortuously-busy stitching, impossible seatbelts, unusable cupholders(x2 bonus if the cupholder can be placed within spill’s-reach of something expensive and electronic)

    Lastly: Specialty servicing is necessary. What I’m thinking is mid-00’s Audi S4 with it’s 24 front control arms and requiring engine removal for maintenance/servicing.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    No idea, never drove a sports car. The closest thing to a “sports” car I drove was the Forester XT we owned. I guess it should make you feel like you’re going fast and that you’re connected to the car, so a balance of driving sensations and noise mostly.

  • avatar

    After I wrote this, I had some immediate questions spring to mind:

    1. Which 300ZX models were sports cars? Does the 2+2 ruin it?
    2. Can a 4WD be a sports car?
    3. Is a FWD Celica a sports car, but an AWD one isn’t?
    4. Is the STI by nature then NOT a sports car?
    5. Is the Miata disqualified because of 4-cylinders?
    6. Can a sports car be an automatic?

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      1) I don’t know.
      2) Can.
      3) Neither.
      4) Sports sedan.
      5) No.
      6) Shouldn’t, but can.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      1) I’d say the second gen turbos were sports cars…in their day. The others were 2+2s / GTs and I’d lump them in with contemporary stuff like V-6 or four cylinder turbo Mustang/Camaro (in fact, I’d wager that an Ecoboost Mustang would lay waste to any early-’90s ZX).

      2) Yes.

      3) LOL

      4) Correct. Sports cars can’t be very practical. I’d say the same for Focus RS, Golf R, Mitsu Evo, etc.

      5) Hell no.

      6) Absolutely. In fact, a correctly set up automatic can be a significant add to a car’s performance envelope.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    1. Cargo area must have side windows
    2. Roof must cover 50% of the cargo area
    And I’ll add my own stipulation that it must have passenger doors.

    Wait, what were we talking about?

  • avatar
    DanDotDan

    It’s all about the driving experience. Doesn’t matter about whether it’s fast or slow, big or small, FWD or RWD: if the car is rewarding to drive then it’s a sports car. A sports car offers good feedback through the wheel and the butt, quick turn-in on corners, adequate cornering, and solid brakes. Lacking those attributes, a car can be a good GT or pony car or whatever, just not a sports car.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Pony car – my 50 year old Mustang (any small block V8 intermediate)

    Muscle car – big block V8 beasts that do nothing well except fly in a straight line

    Sports car – out drag raced by most of the above but leaves them behind in the twisties

    YMMV – only applies to factory stock, not that crazy one off someone with an unlimited checkbook built or had built.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    It probably (but not definitely) has two seats (Porsche 911 violates, still qualifies), 2 doors (RX-8 violates, still qualifies), RWD (various cars violate, still qualify) and fun to drive (can’t violate). Emphasis on balanced performance (handling, braking, acceleration) not just outright speed. Impractical, but easy to love.

    When you start to parse it too finely, you get into dumb arguments about how a 911 GT3 is a sports car (no back seats) but a Carerra 4 is not (rear seats, AWD). I will admit the line between GT and sports car is a blurry one in many cases.

    At the end of the day, my car is undisputedly a sports car according to everyone but McLaren and they can suck it.

  • avatar
    volvo

    For me a sports car is where you feel like one with the car. That means great handling, road feedback and driver ergonomics.

    The car needs good suspension, controls with correct placement and comfortable well bolstered seats. Power not so much since the roads I would enjoy driving it on (and common sense) means handling is much more important than power.

    I have owned only one car that I considered a sports car by my criteria and that was a VW GTI with the Recaro seat option.

    I did have a GT once (928S) and it was actually the most stable car on the twisties that I ever drove. Just perfect weight distribution and balance with incredible road feedback. You were unlikely to swap front end with the rear end in that car. IMO probably the most capable car of its’ era but you didn’t really feel “sporty” in it. No sense of how fast you really were going thus not a lot of fun.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    A true sports car? Does it have to be uncomfortable?

    I would nominate all the British and Italian sports cars of yore to start with.

    Add Corvette.
    Add Porsche.
    Add anything small with only two doors, except the T-Bird and LeBaron. Dodge Daytona – maybe.

    Camaro? Firebird? Mustang? Kinda-sorta, but more muscle cars.

  • avatar
    mikey

    My definition? Two seater, RWD, stick, retractible top. Pre 72 MGB, a Spitfire, a Miata, Corvette.

    A V8 powered Camaro/ Mustang, drop top ??? Close, but not quite ..

    An EB Mustang with AC, and heated /cooled seats, back up camera, the “Grandpa package” ??? (my grandsons term )

    By no stretch could my Mustang be defined as a “sports car”..Maybe an “enthusiasts “vehicle..? Sports car ??.. Not a chance.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The Mustang and other big, rorty cars are GTs, whether they have an indicative badge or not.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Mustang/Camaro is an interesting question. Depends on the version.

      Base / 4-cylinder turbo versions? No.

      But I think the V-8 versions are specifically engineered for the stuff sports cars do, so I think you can make a case and against them.

      I don’t think I’d get much of an argument against tagging the GT350 and ZL1 as full-on sports cars, though.

      And I’d say no Challenger – even the Hellcat – qualifies. Those are muscle cars.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Two seats

    Low hip point

    Light weight

    Low unsprung weight

    Manual accelerator, brake, steering wheel and transmission

    Short wheelbase

    Quick steering

    Suspension tuned to facilitate quick transitions.

    Communicative and feedback rich chassis, suspension, brakes, driveline…..

    IOW, pretty much a Miata. Scaled up or down a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      trackratmk1

      Agreed. I think this is really close, but I believe certain 2+2’s qualify (Lotus Evora, 911) as long as they adhere to the other criteria!

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        I’d personally place the current 911, as well as the Evora, in the GT category. Earlier 911s (up to 993 or so) behaved more like what I think of when I think of “sports cars.” Yet still had back seats (or at least somewhat upholstered rear shelves….), so that one is definitely a bit of a tweener. The Elise/Exige; now THAT, is definitely a sports car……

        • 0 avatar
          trackratmk1

          If you read the Baruth R&T article that was posted by another commenter, you’ve got some good company in that GT camp for the Evora and 911. I may be jumping over to that side, albeit I hate that this definition of GT cars doesn’t seem to line up with today’s general views of GT’s. What I mean is that the Mustang & Camaro are the first to come to mind as today’s GT cars, but according to the traditional definition of any GT being a coupe version of a sports car (and “sports car” traditionally being a roadster), then you’d have to put the Toyobaru twins in that GT camp too, which doesn’t feel right.

          In one of my other comments, I mentioned that the Elise (an example of which I own) is the purest sports car in recent memory. I’m still inclined to put certain 911’s in the sports car category, but I believe today the best way to categorize a sports car is to use something like the Elise as the purist example, and then something else that sort of marks where the term sports car should end… I dunno, like an F-type or a Mercedes SLS. Still sports cars, but really more of a GT in the MODERN sense of GT. Yes, that’s bastardized but I don’t think there’s any going back to the old way of thinking at this point, however correct it may be! It would only serve to confuse more.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            I wasn’t even aware GT used to be just an enclosed sports car…..

            In my mind, the GT/sports car divide, has always been situated between the V12 Ferraris, and the less than 12 cylinder ones. Not just cylinder count (The 928 was also a textbook GT), but more perhaps longitudinal inertia: Sports cars are optimized for quick, tight turns at lower speeds, even if that means some instability at higher ones. GTs for going faaast for long periods, even if that makes them a bit less adroit in the tghtest of canyons.

            I do doubt you’ll find a purer sports car than the Elise! That thing makes a tight canyon road feel like it suddenly became twice as wide. Even when compared to a, generally tidy, S2000.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Well, a *true* sports car has two doors, no roof, and no windows. A clip-on windscreen may be applied if your passenger feels the driving goggles are undignified.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I would say that the “sports car” was a concept developed by the British after WW2. The essence of the car was that it was not practical in the sense of maximizing cargo or passenger capacity (viz. the Austin Mini). Rather,it was for the person who enjoyed driving for its own sake. It was designed for the narrow, winding, low-speed roads of Britain (which still exist), not for the Autobahn. And it was to be priced at a level that an upper-middle class person could afford, not a 1percenter. Most of these cars started out as roadsters; practicality led to some coupe versions–but these were often called GT cars, as in “MGB GT.” Examples; MG TC,TD, A, B; Triumph TR1, TR2, TR3, TR4; Jaguar XK120, E-type; Austin-Healy 3000. The body architecture located the driver and passenger just ahead of the rear axle, with the inline engine mounted longitudinally just behind the front axle. This usually resulted in the transmission being right between the driver and passenger seats, allowing for a short throw shift linkage. These cars were light and, because of the way their front suspension were set up, were kind of “darty.” On the Continent, the Alfa Romeo Spyder was similar, except that it followed the Italian practice of trading displacement for rpm to achieve horsepower, so there was more need to pay attention to shifting to keep the revs up. Porsche started out building essentially souped-up VW Beetles with lower centers of gravity and more expensive parts; but the 356 was never a cheap car like the Triumphs and the MGs. While the Speedster was a soft top; most Porsches were coupes with vestigial back seats– a GT car in my definition.

    So, what do we have today that resembles those cars? The Miata MX-5 and its Italian-branded twin. Maybe the BMW Z car, and the convertible version of the Nissan ZX.

    The rest, I would call GT Cars and those based on sedans, including “hot hatches” I would call “sports sedans.” Most of these cars feature more power than their pedestrian “parents” with a dollop of suspension tweaks and fat tires in an effort to counteract the effect of their considerable mass on handling.

    The biggest modern impediment to “sports cars” as I have defined them is the prevalence of freeways over relatively traffic-free two lanes. Sports cars were never fun on freeways; those roads bring out the worst of those cars: noisy, bumpy ride, handling that requires much attention to go straight. And riding in a roadster with the top down at a sustained 70 mph is pretty fatiguing. If you don’t have the top down, you might as well have a coupe.

    So that’s why I think the sports car is on its last legs. GT cars, sports sedans and rhe like provide a different experience; but the problem they all share –with a few exceptions like the FiST and the Toyota 86–is that their performance envelope is so extreme, it can’t be exploited by any sane person on public roads, even the little 2 lanes that are fun in sports cars (your sight line is only so far). So owners who really want to take advantage of what their car can do are relegated to a closed track. So then you’re driving a sort of race car. For the rest, their thrills come from stoplight shenanigans, freeway on-ramp blasts and 5- second throttle mashes on the freeway if the radar detector is quiet.

    I truly miss my Z3, which I owned for 10 happy years. But I’m not tempted by a sports sedan. For going down the freeway, splendid isolation while going from point A to point B does the job.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    As always with language, we should be taking a descriptive, not prescriptive, approach. How do people actually use “sports car?”

    Clearly not in any way Mr. Burnham would recognize.

    I think these are the criteria for “sports car” status among the general public:

    1) Two doors
    2) Not raised
    3) Aggressive styling
    4) At least reasonably fast

    The public would absolutely consider a Mustang or Camaro a “sports car.” It would not consider an RS3 or a Macan a “sports car.”

  • avatar
    Meat

    According to Jack’s R&T Article (http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/a28225/sports-car-definition/)

    “What is a sports car?” In the postwar era, a “sports car” was any car that seated two, had a soft top, and could be used for competition. Thus, the Sports Car Club of America. An MG-TC was a sports car, as was an XK-120 or a Jowett Jupiter.”

    “With all that said, however, there are cars out there that should not be referred to as “sports cars” by anybody who considers himself or herself to be a member of the sainted automotive cognoscenti. The list of such cars includes:

    -SUVs, CUVs, or anything else that doesn’t require the use of a floor jack to change the oil and is not a Porsche 959 Dakar. Which is also not a sports car. So leave that in.
    -Fast sedans, like the BMW M5, or their two-door variants, like the BMW M6, or the four-door variants of the two-door variants, like the M6 Gran Coupe, or the crossover variants of the four-door variants of the two-door variants of the four-door, like the X6M.
    -Hot hatches, like the GTI.
    -Rally-reps, like the Mitsubishi Evo or Subaru WRX.
    -Big-money cruiser droptops, like the Bentley Azure, recent-generation Mercedes SL, or Lexus SC430.
    -The Honda CRX or anything else that was meant to be a copy of the Honda CRX.
    -The Mustang, Camaro, Firebird, Challenger, Cougar, Javelin, Barracuda, Genesis Coupe, Accord Coupe, Mazda RX-8, or Mercedes-Benz CLK63 Black Series.”

  • avatar
    Null Set

    Honda S2000.

    Game over.

    911’s and Lamborghinis are for poncey douches working off an ex-wife or two.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I’m out since I’d buy a Raptor, Power Wagon or Rubicon for “sports” driving.

  • avatar
    trackratmk1

    This is apparently not a subject that everyone agrees upon! IMO the definition needs to include Coupes, and not just convertibles/ roadsters. Here’s my take at it:

    A rear wheel drive coupe or convertible designed to maximize driver involvement, find the maximum possible balance of power and handling, while making as few concessions to luxury or utility as possible.

    In this sense a Mustang or Camaro makes too many concessions to luxury (features/amenities) and utility (passenger space, trunk space) to be a sports car. They also weren’t designed for a strictly sporting purpose from the ground up– like an M4 was first a 4-series, and would not qualify.

    A Lotus Elise in my mind represents sports car purity. As you add weight, gizmos, sound deadening, etc you slide farther towards Touring cars. A Bugatti Veyron is less of a sports car than a 911 Turbo, which is less than a 911R, which is less than a GT4, etcetra. But all of these are sports cars.

    I think the question we should ask is “How much of a sports car is any given car?” On the more extreme end, sports cars are no longer sports cars when they become Track Cars. On the more luxurious end, Sports cars are no longer sports cars when they become GT cars, or Luxury coupes/convertibles.

    • 0 avatar
      trackratmk1

      There’s definitely a spectrum. Pure sports cars like an Elise, S2000, MX5 at one end, and stuff like a Mercedes SLK, BMW Z4, Jag XK at the other. Corvette probably falls somewhere in the middle, with the Grandsport leaning more towards purity.

      Past either end of the spectrum is a different class of cars ie: track cars (hardcore) or GT cars (soft).

      Going one step further would get you competition race cars or Luxury cars.

      Not on the spectrum:
      Any “racy” version of a mainstream car

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    in my opinion, sportscars need to be competitive, ‘high-performance’ vehicles, designed for driving enthusiasts.

    and they ought to be fun-to-drive.

    everything else is just details…

  • avatar
    Driver7

    A sports car should sound like that car starting up at the beginning of Roxy Music’s “Love Is the Drug.”

  • avatar
    Hezz

    Any car primarily designed to be driven for enjoyment. BRZ yes, Miata yes, 911 or Corvette, yes. Hellcat Charger, no. M5, no.

    A MGB or TR6 is more of a sports car, even with <100HP, than any Mustang or Camaro, or any other modified practical platform.

  • avatar
    flyf2d

    “If when you start it up, people don’t jump back, it’s not a race car”
    I think one or two seat, no roof and feels fast covers it for me.
    Doors? optional in my opinion.
    Lotus Seven series three I think is pretty hard to argue against as a sports car so therefore a Miata MX5 also counts, it’s a seven without the “William Lucas Prince of Darkness” electrics

  • avatar
    arach

    I think the designations are quite simple.

    A Sports car is simply a car that puts driving performance ahead of all other objectives.

    Any car, regardless of price, that puts driving performance ahead of all other objectives is a sports car.

    Porsche Cayenne? NOT A SPORTS CAR (Despite me owning one and loving it)
    Toyota Supra? IS A SPORTS CAR
    Porsche 911? IS A SPORTS CAR

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I also always viewed “Sports Car” as the lowest tier of performance driving vehicles, encompassing all price ranges, while “Supercar” is the high end doesn’t make sacrifices for price.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • RHD: More than two years later, and they still haven’t fixed it…
  • pwrwrench: Any of those Ciera’s in tan with Tru-coat?
  • volvo driver: California is: 6th largest economy in the world 8th fastest growing economy in the US. 5th highest per...
  • DC Bruce: Having owned a Z3 for ten years, I will certainly agree that there’s nothing like a ride in a roadster to...
  • BigOldChryslers: > if kerosene is so clean why is it not used in standard ICEs? You can run it in a diesel engine....

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States