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Sports Cars - The Definitive Discussion

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  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    No, no, I meant that if we include the M5 as a sports car, then ANYONE owning ANY kind of sedan will demand entry into the club....and in a weird way, they be right, based on appearances alone.

    So to avoid this, we have the category "sports sedan" which is another branch of SPORT. It's a sedan but one with awesome performance---goodbye Hyundai..

    If there were no such thing as two seater, very light, agile, very small convertibles and coupes, then an M5 could be a sports car I suppose...but how on earth can an S2000 and an M5 be in the same class? They couldn't be more different.

    The whole idea of "definition" is to differentiate, in other words.

    So for inexpensive coupes with spoilers and fancy wheels, we have the category "sporty sedans"---that is the appearance of sport without putting the rubber on the road to prove it. A Sebring convertible is a "sporty" car, no doubt about it, but will it hang with a German sports sedan---no, the suspension and brakes will protest mightily in a short time. I've cooked the brakes and tires on many a pretend "sports car" in 15 minutes or less.
  • speeds2muchspeeds2much Posts: 164
    No doubt this definition of "sports car" versus sports sedan, GT, etc. is significant.

    I think I encountered this difference over the weekend during a test drive of the 997. Have to say (and I know I'm opening myself up for criticism) the car didn't drive and feel like a sports car to me. I was disappointed and surprised. What I expect from a sports car (or even a sport GT) is a glued-to-the-road feeling, along with sharp turn-in and quickness. The 997 is truly a GT imo. Engine pulls like a locomotive in mid-high revs...no doubt about that. But there's way too much motion going on underneath. The car bobbed and pitched over bumps in "Normal" PSM mode, then buttoned down noticeably in "Sport" mode...although not enough for me. I found it difficult to set the nose into a line, in part because there's not enough visbility of the road ahead from the seating position. I found the ride supple, even soft, and knew I'd want the -20mm sport suspension, which apparently is a must for the track. Also thought the sport shifter would be a worthwhile option because the throws were a little long. So the options list seems to be Porsche's admission that it's not a total "sports car," otherwise why would they offer a sport suspention and sport shifter? What got me the most, though, is that I'm not the kind of guy who wants to get beaten up on the road in order to brag about lap times, yet craved more sport in this car...the car was just too soft. If anything, going into the test drive I expected to find the car too wild for my tastes. Go figure. :confuse:

    As a GT the car also failed imo, primarily because the car idles far too roughly. The "shimmy" described in some reviews was more a "bouncing" and "shaking," a la 60s muscle car. Again, I was surprised Porsche engineers dialed in this much roughness in their $80K flagship!? It said to me: you all think the 911 got too soft, okay, jerks, how's THIS for you? :surprise:

    I think the Boxster S, having driven one, feels like a sports car. Sharp and responsive, easy to find a line. The Cayman S will probably be a true driver's car, too. Why is it, though, that in 2005 it's hard to find a true sports GT at any price south of $200,000? The Jag XK coupe doesn't even offer a manual transmission.

    BTW, I drove a BMW 330ci after the 911 and thought that's it, quiet inside but taut, sharp, quick. Better overall imo and far less $$. So maybe I'm really a Bimmer kinda guy, after all. May have to buy one and then dream about having a Boxster as a 2nd car. :shades:
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    I think the Boxster S is the best, overall, balanced, "can do it all" sportscar at the moment.

    The 997 requires (speaking for myself) a higher skill level to drive at 9/10th than a Corvette or a Boxster, and I don't quite have that level. Also I don't like the 996/997 engines as much as the 993s---I think the 993 engine is stronger and better built by far. One reason I think so is that you can buy a 996 crate engine for only $7,000 bucks. To rebuild a 993 would cost $12K easy.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Well you convinced me that I need to go out and test drive a Boxster S again. Especially after getting word that the earliest I could get a 997 911S Convertible would be late this year or early next.

    The one psychological problem I will have is that the Boxster S costs twice as much as a Honda S2000 - which I owned from 2001 to 2004. In some ways, it is easier justifying three times the price for a 911 that, for the time being, can seat my two daughters in the back seat. But heck, you might consider that as ample reason to defrock the 911 of a "sports car" label.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    I feel your pain, and the Honda S2000 is a great car for the money, but after all, it's still a Honda and feels and looks like a Japanese car ( for better and for worse). Can you say NSX? Same thing happened to that car. On paper it looked great, they are extremely competent and fast, and they run great, too---- and on paper you'd say "why on earth would someone buy a Ferrari?" But they did anyway, and the NSX has always struggled for sales.

    My theory is that people with some money in their pockets are not stupid. If they are choosing a Boxster S over a Honda S2000, they are making a decision based on something more than Pavlovian slobbering over a marketing scheme. They must see something in the S that makes it worth it to them.

    What that something is might vary from buyer to buyer, and sure, prestige IS a part of the sports car market. But there is in fact something "german" about a German car, in looks and feel, that you don't get in a Japanse car, and vice-versa. Some people HATE how german cars drive and feel...works both ways.

    I'm just glad that sports cars today DO feel and look so different.

    I'll confess...when I see an S2000 I have to look hard---is it an MR2? From 300 100 yards, is it a Miata?

    But I see a Boxster and I know what it is. I like that when I'm choosing a car.

    I saw a very funny but very CRUEL bumpter sticker about Miatas but I can't post it, sorry.

    I'd spec race a Miata in a heartbeat but wouldn't own one for the reasons stated above---my own hangups.
  • All this time I thought I was the only one with reservations about the 997 after driving one in Miami a few weeks ago. It probably didn't help that I was cross-shopping between the new 997 S, and a 1996 993 Turbo. It wasn't the outright engine power I was monitoring mainly because the Turbo had been modified by Ruf.

    I was paying more attention to the compression/rebound settings of the suspension on this "sportier" model. The amount of vertical motion, while better than a lot of sports cars out there, wasn't what it used to be in the 993. The Turbo's shock/spring settings had been left untouched by Ruf, so a bit of a head to head comparison was unknowingly staged.

    The 993 rode like a proper GT in a straight line just as the 997 did. Throw in a 20mph bumpy freeway on ramp, however, and the difference couldn't be more apparent. The 993 soaked up the cracks and dips like nobody's business, yet maintained it's composure with a minimal amount of body movement. The 997 felt as if it had something to prove, chattering over certain sections of the freeway while its low profile tires kept my backside on edge.

    I then drove the standard Boxster (the Boxster S was out on another test drive) and everything I couldn't stand about the 997 was remedied with one lap around the block.

    I too am a BMW driver, but my notion going into the test was that a new 997, standard or S, would be able to have more composure than some guy's modified 325i. I left the store both disappointed and happy simultaneously.

    My suggestion? If there's ever an alternative to the 997, it's either the Boxster S or a 1996 993 Turbo.
  • spark123spark123 Posts: 1
    oh god, the euro snobbery on this forum... Mr Shiftlight you make it sound like being Japanese or "just a Honda" is a bad thing. Since when did reliability (something no German car can claim) become a bad thing? With that kind of attitude, I suppose it may be hard to give any Japanese car praise.
    And if you say that the S2000 "feels" like any other Japanese car out there, then you clearly haven't driven many Japanese cars. And by feel, I am hoping you are not talking about the interior materials, which is definitely NOT the most important part of a sportscar!

    If you are actually giving the S2000 a real and fair review, then I suppose you aren't really a purist or enthusiast driver... you want comfort in your "sportscar", and would be willing to compromise performance, weight, and agility to get luxury. Lets face it, most modern German cars are geared more towards luxury than performance (excluding the Porsche GT2/GT3/GT3RS/CGT). Not that luxury is a bad thing (I own a 545i as my daily). But... luxury equals weight, and weight is no good for a true sportscar.

    You really have to admire the wonderful chassis of the S2000... it has none of the drawbacks of being a convertible; it is still lightweight, rigid, no scuttle shake, and is one of the most agile cars sold today (even though it is a 5 year old design). It transmits every nuance of the road without becoming a jarring ride. A true enthusiast's car. You might say that the S2000 has a twitchy rear end, but I would love to twitch the S2000 on a tight race track, feeding in some opposite lock while the high revving powerplant is blaring in my ears. Your comparison of the S2000 to the Miata is a complement, as the Miata is a wonderful car (both in looks and in driving dynamics), regardless of the negative stereotypes that popular culture has applied to it. The Miata, afterall, was the spring board to the modern roadster. The S2000 is not for everyone. It takes a skilled driver to drive it to its full potential. Average drivers may be happier in a Boxster S, as it is more driver friendly... a "safer" car.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    It's all relative, Shifty.

    I'm now in a fortunate financial position where a Ferrari 430, if I could actually get one, would put less of a dent in my net worth than the Honda S2000 did in 2001. But, in my brief discussions with the Ferrari sales manager, I was immediately turned off by his indication that 8,000 miles a year over 3-4 years would "kill" the resale value of a 430. The highest mileage 360 they had taken in on trade was about 25,000 miles and it took a $30k hit compared to models with under 10,000 miles. So the ultimate sports car is supposed to sit in one's garage 95% of the time??

    I don't disagree with you that the Boxster S and S2000 go about there business in very different ways. Frankly, I would have thought you, the far more discerning definer of "sports car" might have said anything with a redline of under 7,500 doesn't qualify. The Boxster falls nearly 1,000 rpm short. The new BMW M5 exceeds it by over 500 rpm. And on this particular dimension of sports car-i-ness, the S2000 has much more in common with the Ferrari 430 than does the Boxster.

    I doubt I will buy another S2000 just to prove my point. Been there, done that. But I sure hope that the performance and "feel" of the new 280 hp Boxster S impresses me a lot more than the 2002 model did. It was a fine sportscar, but only matched the performance of the S2000 and did not have the fun to drive factor of the higher redline or tighter, crisper gearbox.

    P.S. Your theory that "people with some money in their pockets are not stupid" is worth reconsidering. There are a lot of folks in my area with more money than brains. And although my own net worth has gone up about ten fold in the last four years, I could only wish that I was actually smarter than before.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    Hahaha..."everybody is a genius in a bull market" as they say.....

    I think some of you are reflecting your own sensitivity about Honda....if you read my post I didn't say one bad thing about the S2000 and only commented that a) the styling is somewhat derivative, and b) that it "feels" like a Japanese car....which it does to me....who else's feelings can I tap into directly? I've driven great Japanese cars, especially EVOs where I have a lot of seat time, and they also feel just like Japanese cars feel -- by that I mean the engine note, ergonomics, even the smell. You could blindfold me and put me in either a Corvette, Honda S2000 or a Boxster and I'd know in ten seconds which one I was in. Of course, I can't drive like that---well maybe on an airfield or at Burning Man or something....LOL!!

    Anyway, I am sorry if you are touchy about such mild criticisms, but giving that they represent my subjective opinions about how things "feel", I think they are defensible. Also you just blew right by my far more severe criticism of how the 997 feels to me. I was nicer to Honda than Porsche and you slap me for being rotten to Honda. My jaw dropeth mightily :P

    Not only that, but how cars "feel" are MAJOR factors in the buying process of sports cars, as we've seen time and time again in this forum.

    I mean really, think about it. A company say like Porsche makes a certain type of car for 40 years---you don't think there is strong genetic material in the product? I do. And S2000s have Honda genetic material in them. That's why they feel Japanese. I am driving not just a 2005 Honda, but 30 years of Honda in America.

    As for habitat's comment:

    " But I sure hope that the performance and "feel" of the new 280 hp Boxster S impresses me a lot more than the 2002 model did"

    I think it will. All cars improve. I hated the old S2000 transmission and I didn't like the power peaks at all. I felt like I was driving a big motorcycle with a very light flywheel. Had fun but wouldn't drive one every day. Now I hear the 2005 has ironed out some of this. So I also need to take another spin someday.

    Oh, there is no ideal sportscar that will win our hearts forever...I've looked all my life (sigh).
  • speeds2muchspeeds2much Posts: 164
    Ultimatedriver, your comparison of the 993 Turbo vs the 997 explains to me why many hang onto their 993s...it's not just a matter of nostalgia. I haven't driven a Boxster S since 2001, and expect the wider track with the 05 update makes the 997 premium even less justified. That said, I can appreciate the selling point of having the rear jump seats. For those with small kids, it's a binary outcome, really.

    BTW, on the S2000, I actually like the front's wedge styling. Looks great coming down the road. The rear is way too generic for my tastes. But overall, it's one fine sports car and I wouldn't fault anyone for choosing an S2000 over a Boxster S. The Honda name has reverse snob appeal, too. The Boxster's main rational selling point, imo, is space (both storage and interior). Other advantages over the Honda would be torque, engine sound, interior quality and winter capability. But for a 3-season open-top car with an all-out personality, the Honda's hard to beat, especially for someone who wants to be understated. Hmmm...except for the Elise, but I digress, that's a street-legal go-cart....

    ;)
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    First, in the event I gave the wrong impression, I enjoy this discussion and I would not take anything personally - as I hope you wouldn't.

    Regarding "genetic material" in the S2000 and Boxster, I'm not as convinced as you. The S2000 is a ground up roadster that shares almost nothing in common with other Honda products, as best I can tell. Not that that is good or bad, it's just a fact. The Boxster, on the other hand, is the first "poor man's Porsche" in a long time that actually gets some respect from the 911 purists. Certainly a lot more than the 924, 944 or 968 ever did. Probably even more than the 928.

    My ho-hum impression of the 2002 Boxster was based upon my sense that it was overpriced and underpowered. I was impressed with the steering and handling, but not the gearbox. Don't know which year S2000 you drove, but my 2002 was as good as anything I've driven, and that includes my friends 360. The 2000/2001 did have a grinding problem that was remedied for 2002, bu the short throw action has stayed fairly constant.

    I still prefer sports cars that are high rpm, relatively low torque so that you can "wind them out". I wouldn't take a Corvette if one was given to me. It's engine would blow up just as a Ferrari started having fun.

    To each there own, I guess. I'm going to try to get out this weekend to do some further test driving. Have a good one.
  • How many people do you think would jump at the prospect of an 7000+rpm, small block V8?

    We'll see when the ZO6 drops. Then you can make your allusions to Ferrari grandeur all you want as the 427 takes it's power past the F430 and stomps it's "relatively low" torque output.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    There are very few Ferrari's out on the open track days I go to, however, the one's I've seen are usually noted as I go by with my stock engine, stock suspension, street tire, 2002 Corvette Coupe. If these are 'serious' drivers I just don't get it, I'm not that experienced. The last was a 355, don't know which model and when I got a Time Trial result of 1.34.6 the 355 was running 1.35's with more HP, similar torque and better tires, he was in the race group while I was running with street cars in the TT. The following day I got down to the 1.34.0 and he did turn in a 1.33.9 but just his tires should be worth 3-4sec per lap not to mention the suspenson and lower CG. I have no doubt there are Ferrari's that can pass me, but what is the cost of a 355 a couple years ago vs. the $45k cost of my coupe? I guess I just don't care if anyone is impressed when they see it parked. There was a nice white Ferrari at the supermarket this AM, parked the wife's Yellow '04 Coupe nose to nose, not too close. I did figure most of the SUVs would stay away.
    Randy
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    ..talk about sensitive Corvette fans.

    The fact that I wouldn't take a Corvette if one was given to me is purely subjective. I also wouldn't go to a Nascar event if Jeff Gordon invited me personally, but wouldn't mind a front row seat at a Formula 1 Grand Prix event.

    The Corvette is definitely a contender for most horsepower for the buck. Not quite the bargain of the eco-box Subarus and Lancers that I've read about in other forums, but cheap thirills, nonetheless. Personally, I am probably never going to own an American car, at least not one from the big Three. I know all the arguments as to how they have improved in quality, fit and finish, reliability, etc., but they are still not up to my standards. And, if Shifty is permitted to voice a preferencefor the "feel" of German over Japanese, I'll voice my preference for the looks and feel of German and Japanese over American. I have yet to see an American car that wowed me with its ergonomics and crisp style. Not that everything European or Japanese is perfect, for sure, but they are generally a lot closer to my stylistic preference.

    As for the Corvette vs. the 430 in performance, might want to check that one again. I'll bet the road tests confirm my suspiscion that the 430 will get to 120 mph before the Corvette gets to 100. But my preference isn't for maximum terminal velocity, but how the car feels at sub-sonic speeds.
  • I, too, run my vehicle at open track days and am a bit surprised to see much higher cachet cars breathing my exhaust. I spent an hour after last month's event trying to figure out why I was pulling off consistently better times than an '02 Acura NSX that was running the same trial.

    I talked to the driver/owner and (after complimenting me on my vehicle's setup) he told me that he just couldn't find the "sweet spot" of the C32A DOHC bent six under the cover of his car.

    Even though there are a lot of factors that allow sports cars to truly perform, these factors can also limit them at some tracks. Fortunately for me, the short wheelbase of my car (with stickier Kumhos on all 4 corners) allowed me to thread the twisty bits without much negotiation whereas he needed to basically throttle steer his way through. I'll be the first to admit that my car isn't big on low end torque, but the gearing and engine speed freed from the lightened valvetrain made up for it in this instance.
  • The Z06 is not to be underestimated. Let's give them a mile (just like motor trend did in 2001) and I'm sure the result will be the same. The Z06 will undoubtedly be the victor. Not taking anything away from the new Ferrari, but the Z06 will take it in at least acceleration, if nothing else.
  • xkssxkss Posts: 722
    I still prefer sports cars that are high rpm, relatively low torque so that you can "wind them out". I wouldn't take a Corvette if one was given to me. It's engine would blow up just as a Ferrari started having fun.

    7,000 rpm isn't that bad for a sports car. The 505 hp LS7 in the new Z06 IS built to last, for performance, and to thrill.

    One awesome sports car is the Saleen S7. Unlike many supercars today, the S7 is raced (in the American Le Man Series).

    I hope GM learns a lot from the 2006 Pontiac Solstice like the fact that great steering feel counts.

    Another sweet sports car is the Panoz Esperante. It has an aluminum chassis and is raced BY THE FACTORY unlike too many sports cars today. Panoz has a passion that is hard to find in other car companies today.

    Germans cars don't have the build quality that they used to have just a dozen years ago.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    It's probably against Town Hall rules, but I'll give you even odds on any amount of money up to $100k (enough to buy you two Corvettes, if you win), that the factory Corvette will not beat the Ferrari 430 in a one mile straight run. If you are so sure the result will be the same as 2001, seems like you should take my offer.

    Before you do, however, you might want to consider just how much more powerful the 430 is than the outgoing 360. According to Edmunds, the Corvette and 430 are within 20 lbs of each other in weight. The 430's 4.3 liter engine puts out 490 horsepower, 90 more than the Corvette's 6 liter. The Corvette does have 57 more foot lbs of torque, but, given the Ferrari's 8,500 rpm redline, it has a lot more room to wind out, before shifts. The lower torque is also easier to control off the line. I'm sure you are aware that the average Formula 1 car has less torque than the 430.

    Edmund's lists the current Corvette's 0-60 time at 5.2 seconds. If that's correct, that's about 0.4 seconds behind a $50k M3 and a 4,000 lb M5. And light years behind the couple of early 430 tests I've read that were in the 3.8 second range. Even the Porsche 911 S which I am considering, at only 355 horsepower, beat the Corvette in a recent head to head acceleration test by one of the car magazines. The gobs of torque advantage that the Corvette had could not be put to the ground with nearly the efficiency and effectiveness of the rear engine 911. When it came to handling the twists and turns, the Corvette was even further behind the 911.

    The Ferrari 360 was, IMO, a great car. But the 430 is leaps and bounds above it in power. My friend with a 360 has test driven a 430 and admitted the difference is astounding. If any $190k car can be considered a a good deal, the mere 10-15% more that the 430 costs than the former 360 is indeed a relative bargain.

    So, take my bet if you remian confident. But be assured, I wouldn't be wagering the price of a 911S if I wasn't equally confident and had done some research to back it up. I would also accept a friendly wager of a couple of beers, if that is more appropriate to the spirit of Town Hall rules.

    P.S. On a sad note, I don't think any of the top 100 executives at GM care about our debate. They are desperately trying to keep the company afloat. As Jim Cramer of CNBC's "Mad Money" said, if Kirk Kerkorian hadn't stepped in, the next call from GM would have been Dr. Kevorkian. From my business associates who know Ferrari, they claim that everyone there is passionate about one thing - building the best race cars and sports cars in the world. Their management doesn't have unfunded pension liabilities or skyrocketing employee health care costs occupying 90% of their workday. I feel somewhat sorry for the pickle GM finds itself in, but I predicted it nearly 30 years ago when I bought my first Datsun while my parents' hard earned money was being pissed away on excessive repairs and maintenance on GM products.
  • I'm completely aware that the F430 would walk away from a C6 in any acceleration test. I was, however, referring to the Z06 version of that model. There's no doubt in my mind that at the end of a mile the Z06's nose will be the one poking past the Ferrari's. It may not be by much, but since we're comparing stats, let's compare stats shall we?

    As far as the engines go and how they make their power, we're dealing with a 7.0 liter pushrod V8 that makes 500bhp@6200rpm and 475lb-ft@4800. Ferrari is packing a 4.3 liter DOHC flat crank V8 that achieves 483bhp@8500rpm and 343lb-ft@5250. The two employ dry sump lubrication. Both of these engines are wonderful designs that both benefit from trickled down racing technology from F1 in the case of the Ferrari, and Le Mans in the case of the ZO6.

    Taking a look at the chassis of both cars gives us two different means to a common end, low weight and a high degree of stiffness. The 430 rides on an all aluminum chassis and double wishbones at all four corners. It has optional carbon ceramic brakes which, when coupled with it's outstanding weight distribution, will undoubtedly give it the edge in the braking department. The ZO6 differs from the standard coupe by having an aluminum/magnesium chassis wrapped in a carbon fiber/fiberglass body. It rides on transverse leaf springs suspended by Sachs monotube shocks (ready for the track!). The Vette houses vented brakes 14" and 13.4" front and rear, respectively.

    In the tire department, the F430 houses nineteen inch wheels, 7.5" in front, and 10" out back. The ZO6 uses an identical diameter wheel/tire package that lays 10" in front and a full foot of rubber in the rear.

    As far as getting down the track, I don't think the ZO6 will be that off. If the staff of Motor Trend knows anything about launching sports cars and collecting data, then the base C6 Coupe is 6/10ths off of the Prancing Horse's time through the quarter mile with 5.8 mph separating them (which is due to the difference in horsepower). I'm sure the ZO6 will improve on the base coupe's times significantly.

    As a counterpoint (like we need anymore of those), torque control has absolutely nothing to do with the actual output. It's the access to that torque (read clutch smoothness) along with a suspension design that more properly controls how the torque reaches the rear wheels. Tire compound is also a factor in achieving quick, consistent times. This is what I've come to discover since I began drag racing.

    I don't drink, so a beer is out of the question. However, if I happen to see you on a racetrack one of these millenia, our wager will have been settled regardless of the victor. I think that would be more appropriate to the spirit of Town Hall rules.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    I'll just keep driving my American muscle at the track and when the faster car shows up in the rear view, I'll wave them by, seems I learn a few things when I get to follow those not too much faster than I am. And, since I can afford the Corvette and would have to go beyond what I find as a value to get a $190k car, I don't think I'll ever get to experience what you are comparing. Anybody wants to run SP, LS, TH, BW, Reno-Fernley or Spring Mt., please let me know, I just might show up! :D
    Now I just have to figure out how to rent something and set up a trip to the east or south and hit some historic tracks, a fantasy.
    Randy
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