The Difference Between a Sports Car Engine and a Regular Engine

Contrary to popular belief, the modern sports car engine is more similar to the one that you’d find in the average driver’s car. While a sports-tuned engine is designed for high performance and high speed as opposed to efficiency, many of the engineering elements are based on the original equipment manufacturer engine schematic. The difference mainly comes from the components used, precision engineering to internal parts structure, and multiple performance accessories that help deliver the enhanced power to the ground.

In the next few paragraphs, we’ll explain some of the qualities of a sports car engine, and how these attributes are eventually infused into the car, truck, or SUV you drive around town daily.

Breaking Down the Basics of an Internal Combustion Engine

To understand the differences between a sports car engine and a regular engine, it’s important to break down the basic components that make up a modern combustion engine. Essentially, both types of engines have 3 major sections including:

  • The Block (or bottom end): The engine block is the main component of any combustion engine. This is the bottom end or bottom assembly of an engine that holds the crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, combustion chamber, and the oil pan. Most engine blocks are configured straight or in a V-shape. The camshaft sits on top of the block and connects to cylinder heads.

  • The Cylinder Heads: Bolted on top of the engine’s block are the cylinder heads (or cylinder head in some cases). The cylinder head is comprised of multiple individual components such as intake and exhaust chambers, valves, valve springs, pushrods, and other hardware. To keep oil contained inside the cylinder heads so all moving parts are lubricated, valve covers are installed.

  • Fuel Delivery System: Bolted on top or to the side of cylinder heads is the fuel delivery system. This is either a fuel injection system or a carburetor (in older engines). The fuel system is where fuel and air are mixed into vapor, then sent into the cylinder heads, and eventually into the combustion chamber located in the engine block. A fuel system can be assisted by power-adding components such as a supercharger or turbocharger.

Understanding the Goals of Each Type of Engine

The modern performance engine is engineered for optimal horsepower or torque. Horsepower is the rate at which work is accomplished, while torque is measured in pound-feet or how much "twisting force" is applied to complete a task. A modern ‘daily driver’ engine is optimized for efficiency. How each type of engine accomplishes their goals is what typically indicates the differences between the two.

How a Regular Engine is Engineered for Efficiency

Your daily driver has a powerplant (the engine) that needs to be efficient for multiple reasons. First is the need to comply with federal fuel efficiency and emissions standards. The modern regular engine is often assisted by multiple computer-operated systems that adjust the fuel and air delivery, ignition timing, and even application of power through the transmission to comply with these mandates.

Internal components of a regular engine are usually built for longevity, made from stronger metals that weigh more, and are designed to operate with lower revolutions per minute to extend the lifespan. The fuel system is likewise engineered for efficiency and usually does not include a performance adder. However, new engine technology is infusing smaller engines with turbochargers.

How a Performance Engine is Engineered for Power

To create optimal power in a sports car engine, performance car engineers will fine-tune individual components of the engine. To best express this concept, let’s examine each of the 3 main sections all combustion engines have, and the changes made to each for increased power.

  • The Block: The engine block of a performance engine is usually made from light-weight materials — aluminum in most cases. The crankshaft is made of durable steel to withstand the high revolutions produced by these motors and with connecting rods and pistons usually made from aluminum or in some cases, composite materials. Most performance engines also have higher compression ratios inside the combustion chamber. To create higher compression, pistons or piston rings are adjusted to create a tighter seal, and the cylinder head gasket on top of the block and under the cylinder head is adjusted.

  • The Cylinder Heads: If you ask most performance mechanics, they’ll tell you the secret to engine power exists in the cylinder heads. In this instance, performance-based engines have highly customized intake and exhaust ports that help to expedite the flow of fuel and exhaust through the cylinder heads. Performance cylinder heads also have lighter-weight components, in some cases made from titanium to ensure they can hold up against the added power created.

  • Fuel Systems: If you make adjustments to the bottom end and cylinder heads to create more power, you need to get the fuel there efficiently. This is the job of the fuel system. By adding a turbocharger or supercharger, air and fuel are being forced into the engine, which allows it to burn more fuel and thus create more horsepower.

The key to efficient power is making changes to all three areas that work together in harmony. Engineers usually spend thousands of hours in research and development to find that perfect balance between optimal performance and engine destruction.

For example, the most powerful combustion engine on the planet is found in the modern day NHRA Top Fuel Dragster. This 500 cubic inch engine is similar in many ways to the Hemi engine found in a Dodge 2500 Ram Turbo Diesel Pick-Up. Both have a similar style V8 block, both have hemispherical cylinder heads, and both have a power adder. However, the internal parts of the dragster engine are all specialized, the engine doesn’t burn diesel, but a 90/10 percent ratio of nitromethane and methanol. Additionally, the engine has a fuel efficiency of 60 gallons per mile. That’s not a type-error — it burns 15 gallons per 1,000-foot run down a drag strip. The Top Fuel engine produces slightly more than 11,000 horsepower, while the pick-up turbodiesel is good for about 450 ponies.

As you can see, there are several differences between a sports car engine and a regular engine. One important similarity they have is the need for all of the moving systems to work together efficiently. The fuel system needs to be tuned to the cylinder head configuration, which needs to supply fuel efficiently to the combustion chamber inside the block. They all require routine service and maintenance, and each has an expected lifespan. When routine service is completed as recommended in both types of engines, the car will last longer and allow you to enjoy driving it to its full potential.

Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE


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

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating


Rating Summary


33 years of experience
991 reviews
33 years of experience
Volkswagen Passat - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
Matt always does a great job. Very professional. I look forward to my next appointment.... A++++++
Ford Expedition - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
I am so please to have Matt work on my vehicle, he is very friendly and personable, and always does a great job.


22 years of experience
37 reviews
22 years of experience
Audi A3 - Oil Change - Queen Creek, Arizona
Job well done! Greg was on time and professional. He treated my vehicle with care. He completed the job smoothly and so far so good. First time using Your mechanic and it was a pleasant experience. I will be looking into them again. Thanks Greg!
Ford Explorer - Oil Change - Scottsdale, Arizona
Greg was very friendly and professional. Communication was great, he let me know what he was doing. He went above and beyond to make sure everything was running smoothly. I would 100% recommend Greg!


27 years of experience
93 reviews
27 years of experience
Buick Encore - Oil Change - Oakland, California
Another home run! Really appreciate the flexibility regarding my service appointment. Due to my work schedule I desperately needed a late appointment. So grateful my car is receiving top shelf professional service. Replaced a oil pan drain plug that was seriously damaged and stripped by a competitor that will NEVER get my business again! All services were quickly completed. Thank you so much for another great experience with my.... Your Mechanic Lavell 5 ⭐️ Service consistently.


23 years of experience
483 reviews
23 years of experience
Porsche 911 - Oil Change - Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Brian is extremely knowledgeable and very personable and has taken very good care on my 911. I would recommend Brian to any one who has mechanical car challenges. I would recommend Brian to all My friends and family

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Related articles

Top 10 PZEV Cars for Eco-Friendly Drivers
Teddy Leung / The whole idea of a PZEV (that is, a partial zero-emissions vehicle), seems paradoxical. You’d think it’d have to either be zero-emissions or not in the category at all. But as contradictory as...
How to Choose a Cold Air Intake
To enhance your performance car’s power with a cold air intake, consider the aftermarket system’s design, material, and compatibility with your car.
How Engine Timing Works
Your Your car engine consists of a number of rapidly moving parts, including a crankshaft, camshaft, pistons, engine valves, rods and pulleys. As the piston moves up and down, the valves move correspondingly, in and out. The crankshaft spins, and...

Related questions

Truck stalls when stopping ocassionally. 2001 Mazda B4000

Hello. There could be a problem with the throttle position sensor or the idle air control valve. Both of these sensors help control proper air-fuel mixture and engine idle. Sometimes carbon builds up and clogs the idle air control valve...

The engine is making a ticking noise I would like to what it might be

Ticking or knocking sounds typically come when the engine has been ran low on oil for a period of time or if the engine has had the wrong oil in it. I would recommend checking your oil level to ensure...


The running rough may have something to do with the two different years of the engines but only a computer scan and fuel pressure test would be able tell. Have a certified mechanic, like one from YourMechanic, diagnose the car's...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 ·