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How is Car Performance Defined?

Car Performance

There are a lot of us who want a little red Corvette in our lives. It’s fast, handles well, and let’s face it, a high performance car makes you look good on an open and windy road.

You might be tempted to think that taking a regular coupe or sedan and pushing it to its limit might replicate the characteristics of a performance car. You’d be wrong. Regular cars aren’t even close to a high performance machine.

Performance cars are built for speed. Of course, along with speed comes superior handling and braking systems to support it. But traveling “fast” in an everyday car is nothing close to pushing it in a car built for speed.

Characteristics of a performance car

Many high performance car aficionados can feel its quality before the car even moves. High performance cars tend to come with high end seats that hold you tight. The reason? The tight, wrap-around seats are designed to keep you firmly in place as you whiz around corners or turns on the open road.

If the seats hug your body, you know you’re in a car built to perform.

Other characteristics of a high performance car include very tight and responsive steering, the ability to hug curves and turn into and out of corners flawlessly is unmistakeable.

Oh, and another characteristic that we can’t forget, the adrenaline rush when you and your car are in sync.

Muscle cars aren’t necessarily performance cars

Some people see muscle cars and performance cars as one in the same. But there’s a difference. Muscle cars are designed to go fast in a straight line. They’re often outfitted with “sports packages” that give the illusion of being a performance car but they’re not. They’re missing two key differentiators - superior handling and braking.

How do you measure performance

There’s no right or wrong way to measure the performance of a car. Some people judge performance based on their 0 to 60 mph time. With that as the criteria, cars that are familiar to the masses, such as the Porsche 911 Turbo S would make the list at a screaming 2.9 seconds, as would the Nissan GT-R, which also clocks in at 2.9 seconds.

Handling is another measurement. When driving on test tracks, how does the car handle on successive left and right turns, and how quickly does it straighten out? This is a big differentiator between performance cars and muscle cars. The steering and suspension on a performance car is superior.

Performance is also measured by the car’s ability to brake. If you’re driving fast the ability to slow down is vitally important.


Performance cars come in all price ranges. There are inexpensive cars (less than $30,000), such as the Ford Mustang that perform well around town and city highways. And there are mega expensive brands such as a Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita, which will set you back a cool $4.8 million. There are only three of these in the world so good luck finding one.

The downsides of owning a performance car

What downside could there possibly be when driving a fast car knowing that you’re the envy of everyone but the police?

Well first, you’re going to pay higher insurance premiums. Even if you buy a used performance car, such as a 20-year old Lamborghini, your insurance company will classify it as a car built for speed and handling. From the insurance company’s perspective, the driver of a high performance car is likely to behave very differently than if he or she were driving a Mini Cooper.

An insurance company will consider the Lamborghini’s engine size, top speed, handling, and safety ratings when calculating your premium. These numbers are going add up to more than the average car so you’re going to pay more in premiums.

And to add to your insurance woes, if you get a couple of tickets or you’re caught by the police driving over 90 mph you’ll get arrested in most states. If this happens you could find yourself without an insurance carrier. Let’s get real, 90 mph is nothing in a high performance car, and you’re likely to push your car way past that when the opportunity presents itself.

Performance cars that won’t break the bank

Below are some performance cars that won’t break the bank. While they don’t offer the same performance as an expensive brand, they still provide better than average performance at a relatively inexpensive price.

  • Ford Mustang
  • Honda Civic Si
  • Hyundai Genesis Coupe
  • Subaru Impreza WRX
  • Dodge Challenger
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

Worst selling performance cars

These are some of the worst selling performance cars in 2014. But this is probably due to their higher price points rather than the car’s desirability.

  • BMW Z4
  • Nissan GT-R
  • Kia K900
  • Audi TT
  • Audi R8
  • Dodge Viper SRT

Owning a performance vehicle can add to your fun factor. Spend some time test driving some cars on windy roads to see how they handle. Take along a friend or two to get some feedback on how it feels in the passenger seat and backseat. You never know, when you find the right car and close the deal, you and your friends might be in for more spontaneous joy rides.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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