Super Cars  |  Discussion forums Glossary of motoring terms


Supercar is a term used for a sports car whose performance is highly superlative to its contemporary sports cars. The proper application of this term is subjective and disputed, especially among enthusiasts. In addition, the use of the term is dependent on the era; a vehicle that is considered to be a supercar at one time may not retain its superiority in the future. Nonetheless, the automotive press frequently calls new exotic cars "supercars".

High power-to-weight ratio

Most supercars have high engine power and low vehicle weight for achieving high acceleration and top speed. For example, the 2004 Porsche Carrera GT carries just five lbs per hp (3 kg/kW or 438 hp/Mg) compare this to the Porsche Boxster which hauls nearly 12 pounds per horsepower (7.1 kg/kW or 193 bhp/Mg). The McLaren F1, introduced in 1991 and considered as one of the fastest supercars of 20th century, produced 627.1 hp (467.6 kW) against a weight of 1140 kg, translating to 550 hp per 1000 kilograms or 4 pounds per horsepower. Certain vehicles have a high power-to-weight ratio despite having a heavy weight, due to a powerful engine output. For example, the Bugatti Veyron carries 4.3 pounds per horsepower despite weighing 1950 kg, including fuel, due to its 1001 PS (987 SAE hp/736kW) engine.

High Acceleration

Supercars by definition have extremely quick acceleration compared to most vehicles, including ordinary sports cars. Some current expectations are as follow:
0 to 60 mph (96.56 km/h): Under 4 seconds for virtually all supercars today. The McLaren F1 has a 0 to 60 mph time of about 3.2 seconds. The Bugatti Veyron has a 0-60 time of 2.4 seconds.
0 to 100 mph (160.9 km/h): Under 10 seconds is generally called for, with undisputed supercars being significantly faster. The Ferrari Enzo, introduced in 2002, has a 0 to 100 mph time of about 6.5 seconds. McLaren F1 could do it in 6.3 seconds.
Standing Quarter-Mile (402.3 meters): Under 13 seconds is arguably a requirement, as is a trap or terminal speed of at least 110 mph (177 km/h).
The Ferrari Enzo completes the quarter mile from a stop in about 11.1 seconds at 133 mph (214 km/h).
The Koenigsegg CCR, introduced in 2004, is officially claimed to run the quarter mile in "9 seconds, end speed 235 km/h (146 mph)"

It should be noted that the term supercar refers to particular models of factory-built, street-legal cars, which tend to be perceived as unmodified; heavily modified and potentially street-illegal vehicles can often accelerate faster than any production car, requiring well under 10 seconds in the quarter mile. Because supercars are usually designed for road use as opposed to drag racing or straight-line racing alone, their standard equipment often do not include roll cages and other mandatory requirements for fast cars on a dragstrip.

High Top Speed

Today, undisputed supercars can exceed at least 200 mph. The fastest models today have speeds exceeding 250 mph (400 km/h).

On February 28, 2005, the Koenigsegg CCR with 806 hp (601 kW) achieved a top speed of 387.87 km/h on default settings. The car was driven on Italy's Nardo Prototipo proving ground, a circular track with a circumference of 12.5 km. This exceeded the McLaren's record.

On May 20, 2005, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 achieved a two-way average speed of 400 km/h (limited) at parent company Volkswagen's Ehra-Lessien test track. This exceeded the Koenigsegg's record. The Veyron can do 0-200mph in just under 14 seconds which is quicker than the Mclaren F1 can even do 120-200mph

Aston Martin

Superb Handling

In contrast to a sports car which simply has a more 'sporty' or involving handling than a normal hatchback or saloon, a supercar is usually built for maximum cornering and road gripping ability in order to achieve superior racing times.


Supercars often feature groundbreaking styling elements. The Formula One-inspired Enzo Ferrari, for example, set a new styling direction for that company.

Focused design

Super Cars are not designed to be practical transportation devices, with functionality varying widely between different examples. Many car body styles (including 2+2 coupe, station wagon, and pickup truck) make inherent tradeoffs of performance potential for utility. By this measure, extreme vehicles like the Dodge Ram SRT-10 are not normally called supercars. While one undisputed supercar, the McLaren F1, featured seating for three (and had a number of useful storage spaces), performance was not sacrificed, but instead improved by the seating design: the driver's central position lowered the vehicle's polar moment of inertia and increased its turning ability.


All supercars feature cutting edge contemporary racing car technology. This has included the use of carbon fibre and ceramics, ground effects and wings, and novel layouts like mid-engine. The use of turbochargers has fallen out of favor in recent supercars, though the Bugatti Veyron uses four. All wheel drive is also used in some modern supercars, reflecting the success of the Audi Quattro. Rear wheel drive is still used most often.


Most commentators do not include one-off concept cars under this category. Although no objective metric has been agreed on, homologation often makes the case for a supercar. Similarly, the term is never applied to a pure racing car - supercars must be legal for use on the street. Although their makers often promise to produce dozens of examples, some supercars never reach these production targets. For example, while 400 Enzos were built, just two Mosler Photons have been sold.


A difficult aspect to objectively discuss is the "spirit" or "soul" of a supercar. This is often more a reflection of the manufacturer's reputation, especially on the race track, than the absolute qualities of the vehicle in question. This factor is often cited in disqualifying cars like the Honda/Acura NSX and Dodge/Chrysler Viper and including even the lesser V12-powered Ferraris.


A supercar is expected to carry a high price tag, a racing reputation and a well-known name. Performance, quality and even design are lesser factors.

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