By on September 18, 2017

Pagani Zonda Cinque
Last week I had the good fortune to spend a couple of days with Andrew Comrie-Picard, wheeling some gnarly Jeeps and riding along in psychotic 600-horsepower rallycross cars at a GRC event in Seattle. The Jeeps growled like Chewbacca on a bad fur day, while the rallycross cars felt like a freight train speeding up my spine and coming out my ear.

As with all good conversations, the topic frequently centered on cars. On the way to drive Jeeps, ACP posed a great question: What’s your definition of a supercar?

It was a great inquiry, yet one I could readily answer. In my mind, in order for a car to qualify as a true supercar, it needs to appeal to my inner nine-year-old. Let me try to explain.

The Pagani Zonda is an absolute riot of a car, a caricature of what a supercar would look like if a group of designers were given free reign with their imagination and several strong hallucinogens. Various AMG engines plugged into its fantastically ridiculous bodywork over the years. Its interior is something out of a spaceship, filled with chrome pods and retro-futuristic dials. Even its shifter is a work of art. Add in a dose of eye-watering performance and, to my jaundiced eye, the Zonda is a supercar.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I submit Pagani’s follow-up, the Huayra. I have infinite respect for the Huayra – for its performance creds, for its feats of engineering, for its startling capabilities – but it doesn’t make me all tingly when I look at it. I applaud any person who buys one, along with the teams who designed and built it, but supercar? To this jaundiced eye? Hmm.

This is also the same point of view that leads me to choose a Huracan over an R8. It’s pantomime vs purity of purpose. How about you? What’s your definition of a supercar? Is it quantifiable with numbers and statistics? Or is it something less easy to define?

[Image: Pagani Automobili SPA]

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42 Comments on “QOTD: What’s Your Definition of a Supercar?...”


  • avatar
    notwhoithink

    How do you define “supercar” versus “exotic car”? I always took “supercar” to be a designation of performance, hence the “hypercar” label for the P1, 918, and LaFerrari.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      All super cars are exotics, but not all exotics are supercars. For instance, I would put Astons, Bentleys, and Rolls Royces in the “exotic” category but they generally aren’t super cars. Same with something like that Mercedes G-class with 6 wheels. Also, some cars like Lotus and Morgan I’d classify as an exotic just due to rarity, but they aren’t super cars.

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        I disagree.

        The new Ford GT is a Supercar… but it is not “exotic”.

        A Ferrari 360 is an “Exotic”, but not a Supercar.

        Exotics have to be foreign and rare, but they do not need to be high performance.

        Supercars need to be higher performance, but they need not be foreign.

        • 0 avatar
          TonyJZX

          Its like pornography. You know it when you see it.

          I’m a non American so to me, in many ways “American exotica” does exist.

          Exotica is not just German or Italian.

          Its also English and even Japanese.

          So I have a lot of love for all the Ford GTs, the GT40s, the Daytona Cobras, The Saleen S7s, the CSX Shelbys etc.

          Drive a Viper outside of the continential USA and see how many heads you turn.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            Tony is correct “exotic” can be location dependent.

            Although I don’t see how the Ford GT wouldn’t be considered exotic? Your talking what 700-800 cars total (Ford will produce the car till 2020 at a rate of 250 cars a year)

            That’s a production figure in line with the LaFerrari and less than the 918

          • 0 avatar
            TonyJZX

            Ferrari made about 1,300 F40s? No one would consider that not an exotic.

            I know people roll their eyes at the 20,000 Gallardos and eventual 25,000 Huracans and like even where I live you see convoys of the $500k entry supercars here… on a normal Sunday but i think its easy to snipe while I drive from my Camry.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    A supercar is a vehicle that an average TTAC commenter can drive in a computer game as fast as Jack can ride on his favorite motorcycle on the same stretch of roads.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Simply put, if your roof height is less than 4ft…you are definitely a super car.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I’ve always felt that the midengined V8 Ferrari straddles the line between super car and sports car. If it’s more expensive, more exclusive, and faster than whatever current V8 Ferrari (488), it’s a supercar. If it’s cheaper and less exclusive, sports car. The Ferrari itself can go either way.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    The Miura and the Countach an all the cars that try to look like them. Mid engined, low, either beatiful (Miura) or plain Bad-ass slightly overthetopandthensome (Countach)

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Supercars are the top 1% of all cars made. Can we call the upper 1% of that the Hypercars? So that a Bugatti Veyron is a supercar, and a Chiron is a hypercar?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Today’s Supercar was yesterday’s Hypercar. Its just one of those moving targets where the apex vehicle sets the required entry requirements which is fine since as soon as you nail down some hard numbers a car has to meet then all of a sudden you’ll be able to pick up your Corolla “hypercar” once marketing gets a chance to twist it all up the way marketing departments have ruined what it means to actually have a sports car as opposed to all the “sports cars” out there (one of the biggest offenders being Ford promulgating Mustang as the most popular “sports car” for 40 or 50 years running).

  • avatar
    DIYer

    Mid-engine with 600HP+

  • avatar
    omer333

    As the old saying goes, “I may not know art, but I know what I like.” And I reeeeeeeaaaaallllyyyyyy like Mercedes-Benz’ new SLS AMG GT coupe. Especially in yellow.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    It’s an amalgam of things. Has to be rare (which is why the Porsche Turbo, despite having supercar performance would not be a supercar IMHO. The 911 shape is too familiar). Has to be fast (at this point, you would expect a supercar to have a low 3 second 0-60 time if not sub 3 second). And it has to be relatively expensive (starting at $150,000 and going up from there).

    I’d consider the Acura NSX an entry-level supercar along with the Audi R8.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Once you move to a carbon fiber tub you get my vote for supercar status. Hypercar takes that a step further by using some KERS / F1 type tech to boost power.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    A Supercar = 200+ mph top speed
    0-60 = less than 3.5 seconds
    annual driving mileage = less than 1,000 miles
    basic annual service = $15,000+
    new tires at 5,000 miles = $5,000+
    new brakes at 10,000 miles = $10,000+

    • 0 avatar

      That would keep McLarens out of the category. Their owners typically drive them about 3X the mileage that Ferraris and Lambos get driven and a 10,000 mile service costs $2,000.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        Ronnie – if it isn’t painful to own AND isn’t perceived as an “investment” that necessitates low mileage, it ain’t a supercar.

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        Interesting question because I know a number of people who love mclarens but opt for Ferrari, Lambo, or Audi because McLaren’s are so expensive to maintain.

        My understanding were that McLarens are rediculously expensive to maintain because they don’t have the service network the other players do… in fact here they have to ship them all the way off to chicago just for any service or repair?

    • 0 avatar

      That would keep McLarens out of the category. Their owners typically drive them about 3X the mileage that Ferraris and Lambos get driven and a 10,000 mile service costs $2,000.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      That would almost get a Corvette or two in the Supercar category. Get your Z06 with the Z07 package and you can easily check off the 10k brakes and 5k tire requirement (albeit at a much less expensive price point)

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    A car that I will never be able to afford.

  • avatar

    Is the Lotus Evora a supercar?

  • avatar

    Is the Lotus Evora a supercar?

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    All these terms are cheapened by broadening the terms. Let’s simplify it. One is about exclusivity and the other is about performance.

    I propose the following:

    Exotic – Over $150K at base price for the lowest model. 2-doors. Sporting pretensions. The R8 is one, the 911 is not.

    Supercar – Top tier performance. Under 8:00 on the ‘Ring. 0-60 under 4 seconds. Maybe a quarter mile under 12. The 911 GT3 is one, the base R8 is not.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    My personal definition of a supercar is a daily driver that I like to look at, not ashamed to be seen in, and one that does not break down.

    My current ride fully qualifies for this, for I am a cruiser, not interested in corner-carving, stopwatch-bursting 0-60 times or 10 second quarter-mile racing, or any other type of auto racing.

    However, I would not turn down a 1969 Chevelle SS 396…

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I’m old school. IMO, a supercar has to be at the top of a brand’s range. All this talk of 488s and Huracans being supercars is nonsense to my ears.

  • avatar
    arach

    A Supercar is any car that puts driving performance ahead of all else, including price and manufacturing challenges. It must make no sacrifices along that journey.

    The minute they introduce cost cutting, comfort, ease of use, etc.- It lost its supercar designation.

    F40= Supercar
    Ferrari 488= Not a supercar

  • avatar
    geozinger

    When I was in my 20’s, a fast domestic car could do 0-60 in 8 seconds and maybe get to 100 MPH in 16 seconds.

    Now, we have cars like the Hellcat Challenger, ZL1 and the Shelby GT 500 that you can buy off of the showroom floor and can run with high dollar Mercedes, Ferraris and have a longer than a 90 day warranty. And they get 20+ miles per gallon and can meet the emissions standards for 100K miles. If that ain’t super, I don’t know what is.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Supercar?

    Top 10% of current model year vehicles when it comes to 0-100-0, top speed, and skid-pad.

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty much. Today’s crop of even moderately fast cars equals the typical fast car of the 60’s, and you need to hit a four second (!) 0-60 to hit supercar. I mean, a Golf R takes a whole 5-is it a supercar ? Can a Golf be a supercar ? It is faster than a first gen NSX…which is special, limited, mid engine…which we’d all say is a supercar even if it’s slower.

      Tough question.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @speedlaw – but I’m ok with “supercar” being a moving target. Your 1990 ZR1 was a supercar in its day, that doesn’t mean it is now.

        NSX – being expensive doesn’t make it super, just makes it expensive.

        Demon is not a supercar, it is fast in a straight line but can’t turn for $hit. A supercar (like Superman) should do just about everything well.

  • avatar
    douglikespatti

    A supercar is the ultimate expression of what a manufacturer can do (and sell) for a given era. Once in the “club” you don’t get out. There is no such thing as a hypercar.

    A sports car is just an entertaining car to drive. For example: McLaren P1: supercar; McLaren 720: sports car; Ferrari LaFerrari: supercar; Ferrari 488: sports car.

    Come at me haters!

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    A supercar, to me, is a little brash in one respect or another to go with the performance and it should be able to back up its looks with performance.

    For instance,a Viper is a sports car. A Viper ACR is a supercar. An F40 is a supercar because it doesn’t compromise performance for such things as inside door handles.

    A Veyron would not be because it is so stinking heavy it hampers its performance in every way but top speed. A 2 seat sports car should not weigh as much as a new Challenger. They could drop 1000# and 200hp and have better performance.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    My definition is it is a panty melter, literally speaking. Woman would want to hang out with me and go to my home after a ride in it.

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