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Definition of a Sports Car

Definition of a Sports Car

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Definition of a Sports Car
Image courtesy of Pixabay

A simple definition of a sports car is “a small low car with a high-powered engine, and generally seats two people”. This is more or less a “textbook” definition but gives us an idea of what the public perceives to be a sports car.

The Houghton Mifflin dictionary defines a sports car as: “An automobile equipped for racing, especially an aerodynamically shaped one-passenger or two-passenger vehicle having a low center of gravity and steering and suspension designed for precise control at high speeds.” This dictionary definition does not seem to capture the general perception of what the public sees as a sports car.

The Houghton Mifflin definition of the “two seat rule” seems out-of-date. Many sports cars today offer small back seats (sometimes referred to as 2+2 seating) and there is a current movement underway to increase the seating room in models long considered sports cars by most automotive experts.

Definition of a Sports Car
Tuned BMW image courtesy of Pixabay

Insurance companies use their own formula in classifying automobiles and often the presence of two doors automatically makes any car a “sports car” in their eyes. This perspective, of course, is as overly simplistic as the standard dictionary approach to defining a sports car. One can certainly think of any number of two door vehicles that fall far short of being an actual sports car. Economy cars and even larger two-door vehicles that are not built with power and performance in mind should not qualify as true sports cars.

Some car buffs will refer to high-performance muscle cars and other larger vehicles as sports cars. Others, however, draw a distinction between these vehicles and “true” sports cars. These individuals will claim that a car can be a “sporting car” or simply “sporty” but still fall short of being a true sports car. Thus, “regular” cars may be outfitted with a “sports package” and/or accessories to make the car sportier, but may not fit a strict definition of a sports car.

Not all automotive enthusiasts, however, embrace this restrictive view of sports cars. In many circles, a sports car is any car offering greater performance or power than more standard offerings. This school of thought will consider muscle cars and other larger vehicles designed with performance in mind as sports cars.

Definition of a Sports Car
Lamborghini image courtesy of Pixabay

Others will maintain that the distinction between a sports car and any other type of car lies in how the car’s suspension and handling are addressed. Technical debates rage over whether various suspension packages qualify as belonging to true “sports cars.”

Some will argue that a sports car can be defined by its intentions. If the car is designed for performance more so than for utility, they say, it is a sports car. This intent-based definition, however, provides little guidance in determining whether a car is a sports car or not. Particularly in the modern era, the notion of designing a car of any sort without significant consideration of its feasibility and utility seems unlikely. Any commercially viable vehicle, regardless of its performance, must retain significant utility.

Road and Track, a leading automotive publication, summarizes the sports card definition debate with a simple observation: “Ask five people the exact definition of a sports car, and you’ll likely get five different answers.”

Sports Car Definition
Type F Jaguar image courtesy of Pixabay

There is no clear-cut definition of what really is a sports car. The restrictive definitions of the past seem ill suited to categorize today’s’ diverse automotive offerings and common usage of the term runs contrary to most long-held definitions.

There is, however, a common thought that seems to run through almost all of the outlooks on the meaning of “sports car.” If a car is designed with high performance or race-like capabilities in mind, it can probably be safely termed a sports car. Some purists may balk at such a liberal perspective, but alternative definitions fall far short of accurately distinguishing sports cars form regular production models.

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Sports Cars – Modified by Technology for Higher Performance

Sport Cars – Modified by Technology for Higher Performance
By Gregory Smyth

1957 MG A Roadster
Creative Commons licensed image of 1957 MG A Roadster from Wikimedia Commons user Jake Wasdin

A sports car can be referred to as an automobile specifically intended for performance driving. Almost all sports cars are rear-wheel drive, possess two seats, two doors, and are intended for accurate handling, acceleration, and aesthetics. A sports car mainly aims at high-class road handling, braking, maneuverability, low weight, and high power, and not passenger space, comfort, and fuel saving.

Sports cars come under either luxurious or spartan, but the compelling aspect is the driving mechanical performance. Drivers consider brand name and the related racing reputation and history as important pointers of sporting versatility, but some brands, even though they do not indulge in racing or constructs racing cars, is also widely respected.

A car may be classified as a sporting automobile even if it is not a sports car. Performance alterations of common, production cars, such as sport compacts, sports sedans, muscle cars, hot hatches and other cars similar to these generally are not sports cars, still share characteristics owned by sports cars. Sometimes, performance cars of all compositions are classified as Sports cars, or, often, as performance cars.

A sports car does not need a big, powerful engine, even though a lot of them do have them. Some traditional sports cars do not possess powerful engines, but were popular for excellent handling because of its light weight, a well-engineered, balanced chassis, and modern suspension. On complex and compressed roads, automobile like them achieve more efficiency than a heavier, more powerful luxury car with less flexibility.

As a result of North American safety regulations, a lot of sports cars are not in the market for sale or use in the United States and Canada. In the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Middle Eastern market (e.g. UAE), an adjustable attitude towards small-volume specialist manufacturers has helped companies to flourish. The drive train and engine layout decide the handling features of an automobile, and is the core to the design of a sports car.

For sports cars of any generation the front-engine, rear-wheel drive train layout (FR layout) is common. This configuration has lasted the test of time longer in sports cars compared to mainstream automobiles. For achieving of better handling and weight distribution, other formats have been developed. The RMR layout is a commonly feature seen only in sports cars – the motor is centre-mounted in the chassis (nearer to and behind the driver), and supports only the rear wheels. High-performance sports car and supercar manufacturers always show a liking to this layout. A lot of modern cars, specifically grand tourers, also employ a FMR layout, with the motor placed between the front axle and the firewall.

Only a few manufacturers still employ the rear-engine, rear-wheel drive layout (RR layout). The motor has well spread out weight across the wheels, and this delivers exceptional traction, but is not advisable, as the engine’s weight is not between the two axles; the vehicle is badly balanced, thus, many early vehicles handled errantly. However with the continuous modifications to the design, added with the engineering developments and support of electronic driving i.e. computerized traction-stability control, the manufacturers have been able to fight against inherent weaknesses in the design. Sports cars continue to be an irresistible attraction for car fanatics all over the world.
About the Author
As one of the world’s most exciting and prestigious brand, Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong offers luxury passenger cars and commercial vehicles extensive choice of Vito, Sprinter, Viano, Actros, Axor and Atego to the customers in Hong Kong and Macau.

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