Thursday, December 23, 2010


John Marine | 12/23/2010 09:12:00 PM | |
What defines a supercar to you? This blog entry concerns a few thoughts of mine in regards to what makes a supercar a supercar. Supercars are usually those automobiles that are unlike anything on the road. But then again, almost anyone can take any plain jane car and turn it into something unlike any other. A true supercar is something that can be exclusive in various aspects. Supercars mean lots of things to lots of people. This blog post features my own thoughts on what exactly makes a supercar a SUPERcar. I emphasize the "super" part of "supercar" because this blog post is about supercars and what makes a supercar a true supercar.

--- Supercars: Two Schools of Thought ---
The word "supercar" means two different things to certain people. Here are two schools of thought in defining supercars:

Exclusive Supercars.

exclusive supercar
^ from: - How many people do you know own cars like the F and M Vulca S?

I define a supercar as most people define supercars- exclusive machines vastly apart from mainstream cars. They are vastly superior in appeal, performance, exclusivity, and other key characteristics. I could name any number of cars to fit that bill, but I won't. Just know that there are cars out there that truly capture the imagination and the spirit that makes them exceptional in every sense of the word.

High-End Supercars.

high-end sports car
^ from: - Muscle cars and certain high-end sports cars are seen like supercars to some.

For most people (especially some Americans), high-powered muscle cars are supercars. Mostly muscle cars and some high-end sports cars are considered supercars. The Corvette C6 ZR1, for example, is considered a supercar to a lot of people. It may be very fast and very powerful, but I don't think of it to be a supercar like any high-priced supercars out there. I am reminded of someone asking a question like, "why buy a Porsche when you can have a Corvette?" I'll focus on this more later in this blog entry.

--- Supercars: My Own Thoughts ---
I have a number of factors that help define what a supercar really and truly is. Take a look at this table below to get some insight:

Characteristic Definition Example(s)
Exclusivity How many of its kind are on the road and available to buy? McLaren F1, Bugatti Veyron, Aston Martin DB9, Jaguar XJ220
Performance How well does it perform in handling and power compared to most average cars? Ferrari Enzo, McLaren F1,
Appeal Does its appeal stir a chord to the ears of a car fan? Saleen S7, Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
Character What is its character say about the car? any Dodge Viper, any Corvette, Ford GT
Street Legal and/or Commercially Available Is it a production car? Dodge Viper ACR

Among other things, a supercar has to stimulate the senses unlike any average car (or even any average sports car). It has to provide something spectacular that you can not find in any average economy car or low-level sports car. This can be from the standpoint(s) of performance, design, or anything like that. Let me delve further into each of the aforementioned points.

Supercar Characteristic: Exclusivity.

A Pontiac G6 (because bashing Japanese cars all the time gets old) with an expensive paint job is exclusive, but not TOTALLY exclusive. Buying an exclusive car exudes a level of status and importance. Owning a premium Mercedes-Benz or a BMW is of stature. Owning something like a Suzuki (as in the Suzuki cars) or a Buick, however, does not bear as much significance or charm in owning. A supercar has some level of exclusivity. It shouldn't be something that any average person could truly afford.

Supercar Characteristic: Performance.

A supercar must boast performance figures far north of most average cars and most sports cars. Performance can be vague, so let me cite a few key points- acceleration, top speed, horsepower, torque, skidpad... all of which adding up to performance numbers worthy of great charm.

Supercar Characteristic: Appeal.

Is your 1980s Lincoln Town Car (because bashing Japanese cars gets old) going to appeal to any true car enthusiasts? Didn't think so. If a car isn't inviting enough to be worth anything, then its appeal is flat. A supercar has to be able to draw you in like bees to honey. Its appeal doesn't have to be on looks alone, though. A supercar may boast performance figures or has a guise that makes it truly inviting. Regardless, a supercar should be able to attract and appeal

Supercar Characteristic: Character.

A supercar is not made to be a Sunday driver, nor was it meant to be anything you could casually drive. A supercar was meant to be DRIVEN. There has to be something about a supercar for which makes it distinctive and capable. In addition to being a supercar, it has to be able to take the abuse and pounding of being driven hard. A supercar has to have a great deal of character to set itself apart from any other car.

Supercar Characteristic: Street Legal and/or Commercially-Available.

What good is a car if you can't buy it off the market? A supercar has to be commercially-available. It has to be a production car that can be legally driven on the road. It may not sound like an obvious characteristic of a supercar, but it's an important characteristic of a supercar. A very fast car that can't be driven legally on the road doesn't qualify as a supercar.

That concludes this section! Now you know what I think makes a supercar a supercar.

--- Defining "Supercar" ---
A supercar can mean any number of things and represent any number of cars. For example, the Chevrolet Corvette is America's supercar. I don't think of it as a true supercar because it isn't as exclusive or as exotic as anything European. Then again, most American types will argue that the Corvette doesn't need to be anything seriously exclusive. Think about someone who is deciding between getting a Porsche as his/her sports car. Then, imagine a friend or someone online saying "why get a Porsche when you can have a Corvette?" Unless someone thinks that because you're an American that you HAVE to buy American cars and pay no mind to anything European. Or almost as if picking a great sports car comes down to supporting the American economy rather than finding the best sports car for your money. I consider exclusivity a big part of supercars. Since I do see a lot of Corvettes on the road, while the Corvette is a great sports car, I DON'T see it as a supercar unless you're talking about any of the higher-end, highly-tuned, commercially-available Corvettes.

Besides the Corvette, there is another car that is more fitting of "supercar" status- the Dodge Viper. Many people think of the Dodge Viper as an expensive muscle car, but compare seeing Vipers on the road compared to seeing Corvettes on the road. The Viper has a V10 engine and is very much unlike any other car on the road... including Corvettes. Some don't see Vipers as true supercars, but at least the Viper is more exotic.

The Honda/Acura NSX and the latest Nissan GT-R are supercars. The NSX was seen as a practical supercar. I've always thought of the NSX as a Japanese Ferrari. For those always hating on Honda, at least people can agree that the NSX is an exceptional car. The NSX may be the most unconventional supercar to me. You rarely see NSXes on the road, but these cars are exceptional machines for what they are. They may not break any performance records in this day and age, but despite their practicality, it is still a great car. Then, you have the latest GT-R. Many people have an "Always Hate Japan" mentality in that Japan doesn't build (or can't make) supercars. So the Nissan GT-R is an overpriced "rice rocket," then? If you're on that train of thought, then "rice rockets" are not supposed to surpass times at the Nürburgring set by Porsche. I have seen the Nissan GT-R at the 2010 Houston Auto Show, but I have yet to see one on the road. These two are also supercar examples to me.

(OFF-TOPIC) This has nothing to do with supercars, but I just want to put this out... you have the Australian V8 Supercar Series, based on two of the hottest sports cars in Australia- the Holden Commodore and the Ford Falcon. They are not supercars in any such way (though I do love both of them), but these racing variants of the two cars are far beyond the performance of their road-going representatives.

The main point I'm trying to get at is that the definition of a supercar is extremely convoluted. I always go on the premise that supercars are completely different in design and in personality than any average car you see on the road. Almost any Ferrari is a supercar (or at least an exotic). Higher-end Porsches are usually are supercars almost by default. Supercars can also pertain to serious luxury-type cars and luxury sports cars. That's why you hear of cars like almost any Bentley or Aston Martin in supercar discussions. A true supercar must have all four qualities that I have mentioned in the table in the previous section: exculsivity, performance, appeal, and character. All true supercars and exotics have this and should have this to even be labeled as supercars. Therefore- a car like the Bugatti Veyron is a true supercar, even if it doesn't have the outstanding driving character of any true supercar. Nothing like the Veyron for all its worth and what all it entails. Even if it is outdated by at least fifteen years, the McLaren F1 is still my all-time favorite supercar. There's REALLY nothing like it. How many center-drive cars with great driving character is there in the world? The McLaren F1 is perhaps the truest of supercars in the world in all aspects.

How do YOU define supercar, and do you agree with my take on supercars? Feel free to comment to this blog post (or any other that interests you)!

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John B. Marine said...

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