The sports car is an icon of speed, style, and class. Paul Newman raced them. Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld are famous collectors. James Bond’s cars are almost as famous as the super spy himself. They are a constant feature in our cultural consciousness, from media and pop culture to advertising and, for the lucky few, the daily commute.
Perhaps this near-omnipresence is why so many myths have been perpetuated about the sports car. Here are seven commonly held misconceptions about the sports cars, and why they’re untrue.
Only “big” names can produce sports cars
Most people assume that to qualify as a “sports car,” a vehicle has to have a Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini badge on the hood. This is just plain untrue. There are plenty of sports car producers who built their reputations on entry level vehicles.
Take Ford for example. Mostly well known for their family cars and pick-up trucks, Ford also lays claim to a good sized stable of sports cars. There’s the Ford GT-40, a super-car with enough power to outrun most Ferraris, the iconic Mustang, and let’s not forget the zippy Focus ST and Fiesta ST. Tanner Foust is on record avowing his love of the Fiesta rally car, Ford’s 600 hp pocket rocket.
Sports cars are always immensely loud
It’s a staple of every movie chase scene – screeching tires, roaring engines, constant up-shifts and squealing brakes. The reality is much calmer than one might imagine. Most sports cars are built in the effort to create a vehicle that can be driven quickly, or driven calmly as a daily driver. While it’s true that they are apt to let out a loud rumble when the gas pedal is floored, it is possible to accelerate more gently, and thus reduce noise levels.
Additionally, if there is a squealing sound on braking in the real world, most likely the car needs new brake pads. Unless the driver is breaking a number of laws, tire screeching shouldn’t occur either. Aside from the most extreme, track-ready vehicles, the interior of a sports car driven at a constant speed should be a quiet, pleasant place to be.
Sports cars waste fuel
This is a misconception rooted in reality. Most people are used to the word “sports car” referring to big, thirsty engines and blatant disregard for fuel economy. The Lamborghini Aventador gets only 11 mpg city/17 mpg highway. Times have changed, however, and the market is filled with vehicles that are both quick and efficient.
If you’d like to stick with a traditional gasoline-fueled car, you can opt for the Porsche 911 Carrera S. It has a 400 hp 3.8 liter flat six cylinder engine, and still gets 20 mpg city/ 27 mpg highway. Then there are the sports hybrids, such as BMW’s i8, with a 4 second 0 to 60 mph time and 95 miles per gallon. There are electric vehicles such as the Fisker Karma, or the new Tesla Model D, which are not only much more energy efficient but also create zero harmful emissions. And finally, there is the unique Trident Iceni. Using a turbo diesel engine normally associated with tractors or big pickup trucks, Trident built a car with 660 hp, 1,050 lb-ft of torque, a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds. It still makes 53 miles per gallon.
Hood scoops and a massive rear wing make you go faster
Many race cars feature hood scoops and rear wings. On cars that are meant to drive at very high speeds around tracks, these do serve a function. The hood scoop ensures that the engine has a steady supply of cool air for optimum functioning, and the rear wing adds downforce to aid in cornering. However, at low speeds and in less powerful vehicles, these features are nothing more than cosmetic, making the car “look” fast. And in some cases, they may even be so large and obtrusive as to slow the car down.
Driving sports cars is inherently dangerous
While it is true that a sports car has the potential to be dangerous, this fact holds true for any vehicle travelling at extremely high speeds. Precisely because they reach greater speeds, sports cars and race cars are often the platform for which new safety technology is developed. This technology then makes its way into consumer vehicles.
High tech suspension systems which allow a car’s wheels to move independently come from racing where it is imperative that all four wheels remain on the ground. New tire technology and better braking systems are also developed for fast cars first. Finally and perhaps most importantly, the roll cage, a system of metal tubing designed to protect race car drivers from being crushed in the case of an accident, has been modified in order to strengthen the structure of consumer cars.
Cars explode when they crash
This is a common sight in films and television: a sports car screeching over a highway, flipping over, and the hero scrambling to escape the wreck before it explodes in a massive fireball. While it is still a good idea to get out of a wrecked vehicle, it is essentially impossible for the car to explode as it does in the movies.
Gasoline, the fuel itself, is not flammable. It is the fumes that come off it that are capable of combustion. Car fuel tanks are designed to prevent gasoline from turning into a mist when agitated by the crash, and not enough pressure is allowed to build up in the tank to lead to an explosion. Occasionally, if there is a spark or some other source of ignition in the gas tank, a car will ignite in a crash. However, rather than violently exploding, the vehicle will be engulfed in flames until the fuel burns itself out.
Sports cars are universally expensive
While many sports cars will have the average buyer taking out a second mortgage, there are plenty of sports cars on the market that are much more affordable while still retaining the same appeal. Toyota and Subaru make the BRZ/FRS twins, Nissan has the 350Z, Mazda has the Miata, Ford makes the Mustang, Dodge builds the Challenger, and Chevrolet has the Camaro.
All of these vehicles can be bought new for around $30,000, a pittance compared to most sports cars on the market. And even more money can be saved in the used car market with excellent sports cars like the Honda S2000, which went out of production in 2009.
So there you have it! Sports cars are not the same as the vehicles portrayed in movies, and it’s a good idea to think twice before believing what you hear. There’s a great deal of misinformation floating around, but with these points in mind, you can improve the conversation surrounding sports cars and clear up some unfortunate myths. Sports cars are more approachable for the average consumer than many of these “facts” might lead you to believe.