Sports cars are automobiles that have the ability to generate high top speeds. They are generally light weight with a low center of gravity and possess powerful engines to propel them to high speeds. Aesthetics have formed an important aspect of modern sports cars as they are known for their sleek design. Rear-wheel drives are designed for more precise handling, an important need of these vehicles. However, there are other layouts available as well. Race cars are types of sports car but they are not an all inclusive type for example Lamborghini does not build racing cars and solely produces sports car for the consumer.
The history of sports car traces its roots to the early 20th century where touring cars were used in early rallys such as the Monte Carlo. The 3 liter 1910 Vauxhall 20 hp (15KW) and 27/80 PS Austro-Daimler, designed by Porsche, can be regarded as the first true sports cars, even though they were not called that. Austin with the ‘Seven’ and Morris Garages (MG) with the ‘Midget’ were two of the first companies to offer reliable sports cars.
Sports cars need to have precise handling and different layouts are employed to ensure that. The layout of having a rear-wheel drive with the engine at the front has survived in sports cars. Other layouts such as the RMR layout deployed by manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini have the added advantages of improved handling and better weight distribution. In the RMR layout the motor is located in the center in the chassis behind the driver.
Porsche still uses the traditional rear-engine, rear-wheel driver layout that provides excellent traction but has the disadvantage of being more prone to over steer. Porsche has tried to add electronic aids to driving and intelligent designs, as well as features, to combat these problems inherent to the layout. The front-engine, front-wheel drive layout is used by some sports car manufacturers to provide the advantages of being smaller and light weight.
Four-wheel drive was not traditionally used in sports cars but after the success of Audi Quattro, the four-wheel drive has been adopted by many sports cars manufacturers such as Porsche, Lamborghini and the Buggati Veyron. These cars need high power hence the use of a four-wheel drive makes sense.
Sports cars have the advantages of reaching high speeds and acute handling but they usually fail as far as practicality is concerned. Most sports cars are extremely expensive and have a poor rate of fuel consumption, adding extra costs for the consumer. People who seek adrenaline need to pay a hefty price. Most sports cars are 2 seaters hence they are not practical for a family as well. Some of them have integrated small back seats which can be used for luggage or small children. The likes of the Mazda RX-8 can better accommodate extra passengers thanks to its two small backward opening doors. Lamborghini even flirted with the idea of placing the driver in the middle of the car with two passengers on either side. The idea was considered for the Lamborghini Miura but abandoned ironically for its impracticality. Increasing the seating room is one of the ways through which manufactures have tried to increase the practicality of sports cars. Sports car manufacturers have also looked to improve fuel efficiency and reduce prices to increase popularity.