Sports Car Engines

The Importance of Sports Car Engines

Sports cars are defined by their performance so the size and power of their engines is much more important than it is for any other kind of vehicle. Pure horsepower is a benchmark used by many people in order to rate how good a sports car really is so it is only natural that automakers would look for every opportunity in order to squeeze a few more horsepower under the hoods of their cars.

With that in mind, over the years they have attempted many different engine configurations in order to determine which one provides them with the best result. These are just a few of the engines commonly found in sports cars.

  • V-type engine. This kind of engine goes hand in hand with the traditional sports car. It is defined by having two separate rows of cylinders set at 90-degree angles from each other to form a V line. As a result of this configuration, V-type engines are often shorter in length and have a lower profile which is an advantage for sports cars which are typically low to the ground. More importantly, however, this also lowers the center of gravity of the car, improving its handling. The V-8 is probably considered to be the standard engine for a sports car, sometimes going with a V-12 and, in rare cases, even two V-8s combined to form a powerful W-16 such as with the Bugatti Veyron.
  • Rotary Wankel engine. This was one of the first internal-combustion engine designs and, although it has undergone changes since it came out, the principle remains the same – it uses rotors instead of pistons and it keeps the crankshaft stationary while rotating the cylinder block around it. The Wankel engine has some limitations, most prominently affecting torque levels. However, this problem is often overcome by turbocharging it. It is not common in modern sports cars, mostly being used by Mazda for its RX-7 and RX-8 lineup.
  • Straight engine. The straight or inline engine has all of the cylinders arranged in a row. This type of engine is the easiest and cheapest to make which is why it is the one most commonly found in cars with mass commercial appeal. It is often combined with an FF layout, meaning that the car has the engine in the front and front-wheel drive. It is not very common for sports cars, but inline engines with six cylinders are used for sports cars by certain brands such as BMW or Audi.