QOTD: What Characteristics Make for a True Sports Car?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd what characteristics make for a true sports car

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

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

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]

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3 of 97 comments
  • Flyf2d Flyf2d on Sep 07, 2017

    "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

  • Arach Arach on Sep 08, 2017

    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

    • Arach Arach on Sep 08, 2017

      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.

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