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Examples of supercars (from left to right): Mercedes SLS AMG, Lamborghini Aventador, Pagani Huayra, Ferrari Enzo, Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari 458 Italia, and Ferrari California.

A supercar, also known as an exotic car, is a type of automobile generally described as a street-legal, luxury superlative performance sports car, both in terms of power, speed, and handling. The term 'supercar' is therefore frequently used for low-bodied sportscars with powerful, rear mid-mounted engines.[1] Since the 2000s, the term hypercar has also come into use for the highest performance supercars.

Supercars commonly serve as the flagship model within a vehicle manufacturer's line-up of sports cars and typically feature various performance-related technology derived from motorsports. Some examples include the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Aventador, and McLaren 720S. By contrast, automotive journalism typically reserves the predicate 'hypercar' for (very) limited, (two- to low 4-figure) production-number cars, with new-prices in the 21st century often exceeding a million Euros, dollars or pounds. Contrary to the "regular" range-topping supercars, many hypercars are more rare, even in an exotic car maker's history – appearing as one-offs, like Porsche's Carrera GT, or just occasionally made specialty models, built over and above the marque's typical product line-up, like the Ford GTs or Ferrari's F40, F50 and Enzo lineage. Very few car makers, like Bugatti and Koenigsegg, only make hypercars.

In the United States, muscle cars were often referred to as "supercars" during the 1960s. As of 2024, "supercars" is still used in Australia to refer to Australian muscle cars.



Lamborghini Miura P400 S

The Lamborghini Miura, produced from 1966 to 1973, is often said to be the first supercar.[2][3][4][5] By the 1970s and 1980s the term was in regular use, if not precisely defined.[6][7] One interpretation up until the 1990s was to use it for mid-engine two-seat cars with at least eight cylinders (but typically a V12 engine), a power output of at least 400 bhp (298 kW) and a top speed of at least 180 mph (290 km/h).[8] Other interpretations state that "it must be very fast, with sporting handling to match", "it should be sleek and eye-catching" and its price should be "one in a rarefied atmosphere of its own"[9] or regard exclusivity (i.e. limited production volumes) as an important characteristic (such as those made by Ferrari or Lamborghini).[5] Some European manufacturers specialize in only producing supercars, such as McLaren, Pagani, and Koenigsegg.[10][11][12][13][14]

It is also claimed that the definition of a supercar has always been subjective and a matter of blind prejudice.[8]

United States[edit]

2018 Ford GT

During the 1960s, cars that are now considered to be muscle cars were then referred to as supercars.[15][16]: 8  The term was sometimes spelled with a capital S.[17] In 1966 the sixties supercar became an official industry trend.[15]: 8  For example, the May 1965 issue of the American magazine Car Life includes multiple references to supercars and "the supercar club"[18] and a 1968 issue of Car & Driver magazine refers to "the Supercar street racer gang" market segment.[19] In the model name of the AMC S/C Rambler, the "S/C" is an abbreviation for "SuperCar".[20]

Since the decline of the muscle car in the 1970s, the word supercar came to mean a car that has high performance[15]: 5  interpretations of the term are for limited-production models produced by small manufacturers for enthusiasts, and, less so, standard-looking cars modified for increased performance.[21]

The 1990s and 2000s saw a rise in American supercars with similar characteristics to their European counterparts.[22][23] American sports cars which have risen to be referred to by the supercar name include the Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, and Ford GT.[24][25][26][27][28][29] Smaller American manufacturers have also made supercars, such as the Saleen S7, SSC Ultimate Aero, SSC Tuatara, Hennessey Venom GT, and Hennessey Venom F5.[30][31][32][33][34]


1997 Honda NSX

During the early 1990s, Japan began to gain global recognition for making high-performance sports cars, but the automotive media first recognized the Honda NSX produced from 1990 to 2005 as Japan's first supercar, with its lightweight mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive, V6 layout.[35][36][37] The NSX was praised for being more reliable and user-friendly than contemporary European supercars.[38][39]

In the 21st century, other Japanese brands also decided to make their own supercars. From 2010 to 2012, Lexus produced the Lexus LFA, a two-seat front-engine coupe powered by a 4.8 L (293 cu in) V10 engine producing 553 hp (412 kW; 561 PS).[40][41][42] The 2009–present Nissan GT-R has also been praised as a modern supercar with every day practicality.[43][44][45] It features a twin-turbo V6 producing between 473–710 hp (353–529 kW; 480–720 PS), and has been lauded for its acceleration and handling through its all-wheel-drive drivetrain and dual-clutch transmission.[46][47][48][49]

The second generation of the Honda NSX from 2016 to 2022 marked a change in approach for Honda, by using all-wheel drive, a hybrid powertrain producing up to 602 hp (449 kW; 610 PS), turbocharging and a dual-clutch transmission, elevating the NSX marque to contemporary supercar standards.[50][51][52]


A more recent term for high-performance sportscars is "hypercar", which is sometimes used to describe the highest performing supercars.[53] As per supercars, there is no set definition for what constitutes a hypercar. An attempt to define these is "a limited-production, top-of-the-line supercar with a price of around or more than US$1 million."[54]

Bugatti Veyron 16.4

Some people consider the 1993 McLaren F1 to be the first hypercar,[55] while others believe the 2005 Bugatti Veyron was the first hypercar.[56]

With a recent shift towards electrification, many recent hypercars use a hybrid drivetrain, a trend started in 2013 by the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, and LaFerrari, then continued in 2016 with the Koenigsegg Regera, in 2017 with the Mercedes-AMG One, and the McLaren Speedtail.[57][58][59]

Modern hypercars such as Pininfarina Battista, NIO EP9, Rimac Nevera, and Lotus Evija have also gone full-electric.

Hypercars have also been used as a base for the Le Mans Hypercar class after rule changes come into effect from 2021.[60]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A low car has both a low center of gravity, (favorable for handling), as well as less frontal area, reducing its aerodynamic drag, and thus enabling a higher top speed; and rear mid-mounting the engine further optimizes the handling, like in Formula One or Indy Cars, as well as having a very big engine in a very low car, while retaining good forward vision for the driver.
  2. ^ Mason, Paul (2018). Italian Supercars: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 4. ISBN 978-1538338933.
  3. ^ Wasef, Basem (2018). Speed Read Supercar: The History, Technology and Design Behind the World's Most Exciting Cars. Motorbooks. ISBN 978-0760362921. "the outlandish Lamborghini Miura, which is widely considered to be the first car to legitimately deserve the title
  4. ^ Codling, Stuart (2015). Lamborghini Supercars 50 Years: From the Groundbreaking Miura to Today's Hypercars – Foreword by Fabio Lamborghini. Motorbooks. p. 4. ISBN 978-0760347959.
  5. ^ a b "Supercars". simoncars.co.uk. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  6. ^ Marshall, Stuart (4 September 1975). "Rewards and frustrations of the super cars". The Times. London. p. 23.
  7. ^ "Business Roundup; From the Land of the VW, a $35,000 Supercar". The New York Times. 21 September 1975. p. F15.
  8. ^ a b "Matt Prior's tester's notes – defining a supercar". autocar.co.uk. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  9. ^ Ward, Ian (1985), Secondhand Supercars, London Motor Show "Motorfair 1985" Official Catalogue
  10. ^ Root, Al. "Supercar Maker McLaren Wants to Beat Tesla's Roadster at Its Own Game". www.barrons.com. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  11. ^ "Rapid rise: What's next for supercar company McLaren Automotive?". The Globe and Mail. 12 February 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  12. ^ "The beginner's guide to Pagani". Top Gear. 23 September 2022. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  13. ^ "Koenigsegg Founder Tells The Story Of His "Stupid Business Idea"". Motor Authority. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  14. ^ Woodard, Collin (21 June 2016). "Christian von Koenigsegg Was a Frozen Chicken Tycoon Before He Built Supercars". Road & Track. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  15. ^ a b c Harless, Robert (2004). Horsepower War: Our Way of Life. iUniverse. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-595-30296-3.
  16. ^ Gunnell, John (2001). Standard Guide to American Muscle Cars: A Supercar Source Book, 1960–2000. Krause. ISBN 978-0873492621. Retrieved 16 January 2018. The term muscle car wasn't heard much hack when these vehicles were first hitting the market. In those days, the enthusiast magazines favored the term supercar.
  17. ^ Severson, Aaron (27 July 2009). "Super-iority: Defining the Supercar and Muscle Car". ateupwithmotor.com. Retrieved 16 January 2018. what we now think of as muscle cars were more commonly called "Supercars," often (though not always) spelled with a capital S.
  18. ^ "Rambler Scrambler". Car Life. 16: 33–36. 1969. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  19. ^ "Rambler Scrambler". Car and Driver. 14: 84. 1968.
  20. ^ Lyons, Dan; Scott, Jason (2004). Muscle Car Milestones. MotorBooks/MBI. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-7603-0615-4. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  21. ^ Cheetham, Craig (2006). Supercars. MotorBooks/MBI. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7603-2565-0.
  22. ^ "2009-2010 Supercar Showdown!". Car and Driver. 1 March 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  23. ^ "Tested: 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1". Car and Driver. 15 July 2020. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  24. ^ Edward, Kyle. "2023 Corvette Z06 Is America's Supercar Hero". Forbes. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  25. ^ "2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Elevates the American Supercar". media.gm.com. 26 October 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  26. ^ Kennedy, George (18 May 2022). "Dodge Viper: America's Exotic Car". US News. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  27. ^ Snavely, Brent. "Dodge Viper supercar being killed off -- again". USA TODAY. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  28. ^ Ross, Robert (10 January 2022). "Car of the Week: A 2005 Ford GT, the First Modern American Supercar, Is Heading to Auction". Robb Report. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  29. ^ DeBord, Matthew. "The Ford GT sets a new standard for American supercars". Business Insider. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  30. ^ Anderson, Gregory (1 August 2007). "Feature: The Saleen Solution". Robb Report. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  31. ^ Charlton, Alistair (2 January 2023). "The SSC Ultimate Aero Is The Underrated American Supercar Everyone Forgot Existed". SlashGear. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  32. ^ McC, James; less (25 May 2022). "SSC Tuatara Sets New Production Car Speed Record of 295 MPH". Newsweek. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  33. ^ Reyes, Alvin (3 May 2022). "Why You'll Hardly Find Any Hennessey Venom GTs On The Road". SlashGear. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  34. ^ Silvestro, Brian (18 August 2022). "The Venom F5 Roadster Is a Drop-Top Hennessey Says Can Eclipse 300 MPH". Road & Track. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  35. ^ "Acura Marks 30 Years Since Debut of Iconic NSX Supercar". Honda Newsroom. 6 February 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  36. ^ Irimia, Silvian (11 December 2022). "The Honda NSX Broke and Changed the Automotive Industry Forever - Find Out How It Did It". autoevolution. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  37. ^ "Tested: 1994 Acura NSX Is a Fighter Jet for the Road". Car and Driver. 30 June 2020. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  38. ^ "1990-2005 Acura NSX: Supercar Sunday". Motor1.com. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  39. ^ "Icon Review: Honda NSX Mk1 (1990 - 2005)". Auto Express. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  40. ^ "2012 Lexus LFA First Drive". Car and Driver. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  41. ^ Hood, Bryan (7 October 2022). "How the Lexus LFA Became a Legend—10 Years After It Was Discontinued". Robb Report. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  42. ^ "Tested: 2012 Lexus LFA". Car and Driver. 26 March 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  43. ^ "Nissan Skyline to GT-R: The Evolution of a Supercar". Nissan USA. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  44. ^ Hogan, Malcolm. "Malcolm Hogan: Living with the Nissan GT-R supercar". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  45. ^ "Godzilla by the Numbers: 2009-2017 Nissan GT-R". MotorTrend. 23 March 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  46. ^ "2009 Nissan GT-R First Drive". Car and Driver. 1 December 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  47. ^ Tsui, Chris (6 December 2022). "The Nissan R35 GT-R Turns 15 Today. Here's a Look Back at Our Supercar Teenager". The Drive. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  48. ^ "Is the new Nissan GT-R still a supercar bargain?". Top Gear. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  49. ^ Gnaticov, Cristian (12 April 2023). "2024 Nissan GT-R Nismo T-Spec: Aging Supercar Icon Arrives in New York To Make a Point". autoevolution. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  50. ^ Lyon, Peter. "Honda's New NSX Supercar Is Just As Groundbreaking As The First Generation Of 1990". Forbes. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  51. ^ "End of an era: Acura concludes production of handmade NSX supercar". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  52. ^ "Honda NSX review". Auto Express. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  53. ^ "What's A Supercar? The Debate Rages On". youtube.com. The Drive. 27 February 2014. Archived from the original on 11 December 2021. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  54. ^ Constantine, Chris (26 December 2017). "The Best and Worst Hypercars of 2017". thedrive.com. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  55. ^ "McLaren F1 – The First Hypercar?". thehypercars.com. 6 July 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  56. ^ "The Bugatti Veyron: The original hypercar". cnet.com/. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  57. ^ "Top Gear mag's greatest cars – hypercars". Top Gear. 7 December 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  58. ^ "Holy Trinity Of Hypercars Is Up For Auction". motor1.com. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  59. ^ "First hypercar 'holy trinity' boasted by RM Sotheby's". classiccars.com. 17 April 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  60. ^ Attwood, James (20 March 2021). "Le Mans 2021: How new hypercar rules are shaking up the grid". Autocar. UK. Retrieved 18 March 2022.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Supercars at Wikimedia Commons