The Kickdown: Not All Fast Cars Are the Same: Different Levels of Performance

Updated on April 10, 2020
Joshua Nightshade profile image

Joshua Is a self-proclaimed Driving God with an almighty Forza Game Rank.

A Performance Car is a car designed specifically with weight, speed, and handling in mind, usually with a unique powertrain and suspension to help aid these goals. However, this definition is pretty bland. There are various categories upon categories and even sub-categories to the various categories of performance cars. (And I'd like to point out that I don’t just mean cars; SUVs are hereby invited to this cookout as well.)

There is a hierarchy when it comes to these vehicles. It is common in racing games to rank cars in class categories from D or E (Lowest) to S, R1 or P (highest). However, even in these games, they sometimes get the rankings and categories wrong. In this article, I plan to try to create an accurate ranking system and power scale the vehicles accordingly. Think similar to how Car & Driver ranks cars during “Lightning Lap."

The issue with this is that as of 2019, the lines between the categories of performance vehicles are heavily blurred. What is the difference between a Supercar and a Sports Car? What is the difference between a Hypercar and a Supercar? What is a Megacar? Where do Hot Hatches fit in? What about Sports Sedans? Performance SUVs? It’s these disparities that I intend to clear up in this article.

The Low, Mid, and High-Tier Performance Cars

The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines a Sports car as “a low small usually 2-passenger automobile designed for quick response, easy maneuverability, and high-speed driving.” That's all nice and dandy but one has to realize that this word and its definition haven’t changed since 1919. And it’s fair to say that performance cars have changed drastically since 1919. To put that into perspective, World War One was just the year before in 1918. It’s been roughly 100 years. So where does that leave the Sportscar now? Well, most Sports cars flock towards being Low, Mid or High-Tier in performance nowadays. It's time to make sense of this.

Low-Tier Performance Cars

In the Low-Tier, this category is predominantly dominated by Hot Hatches. Examples of Low-Tier performance cars would include the Fiat 500 Abarth, Ford Fiesta ST, and the Mazda Miata. These cars are placed here by the amount of power each makes, which doesn’t eclipse 200 horses but also the un-usurpable amount of joy these cars bring as they are not about numbers but the driving experience.

Mid-Tier Performance Cars

The Mid-Tier performance car is also predominantly dominated by hot hatches. These pocket rockets allow good speed at a bang for your buck price. Most of the cars here are also just fast versions of regular economy cars. Examples would be the Honda Civic SI, Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen GTI and the Toyobaru BRZ/86 are some cars in this category. The cars here are a little faster than the Low-Tier one, but most of them are larger and make over 200 HP. However, driver enjoyment is still the focal point.

High-Tier Performance Cars

The High-Tier performance car consists of Super Hot Hatches and Sports Cars. Muscle Cars or should I say Pony Cars as the Challenger is the only Muscle Car Left. (Debate/Article for another time) These cars are meant for getting you #s at a track. Yet they still embody driver enjoyment, and all make well over 300 HP. Examples include the Nissan 370Z, Ford Mustang GT, and Chevrolet Camaro SS (no performance package) on one end and the Volkswagen Golf R, Subaru WRX STI, and Ford Focus RS here as well. The Ford Edge ST CUV would also find itself here. However, these are the easy categories. The next category and its sub-categories are probably the most confusing.

The Pre-Supercar

What is a Pre-Supercar? To be quite frank, it is a category I've made up but with good reason. If I were to throw the stats of 0-60 in 3.0 seconds, a ¼ time of 11.7 seconds and 603 HP. No, these are not the #s of some new radical mid-engined Eurasian supercar but of the 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon. Yes, a freaking station wagon. Its got #s similar to a 2018 Jaguar F-type SVR, Acura NSX, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, and an Audi R8. The uber Benz has super-car performance but it's not quite a supercar. It’s a Pre-supercar. This also backed by a debate I had with a friend of mine over whether or not a BMW M3 was a supercar or not. And I knew this category was needed the minute I saw a Camaro Z/28 beat a Nissan GT-R around any racetrack on an Episode of Motortrend Head 2 Head. So this category is to make sense of the confusion within the lines. This category has 3 sub-categories: Low-level Pre-supercars, Mid-level Pre-Supercars, and High-Level Pre-supercars.

Low-Level Pre-Supercar

Low-level Pre-Supercars are those vehicles that push the bar a bit but don’t quite reach the pinnacle—too many doors, not enough horsepower. Whatever the case may be, these cars simply don’t check all the boxes. Examples being any Porsche 911 that isn't a GT3, GT2, Turbo or Turbo S, the Porsche 718 Cayman/Boxter, BMW M4/M3, Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51, and Grand Sport. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350-R. Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifolio. All these are Low-level Pre-Supercars.

Mid-Level Pre-Supercar

Mid-Level Pre-Supercars fit all the same bells as the lower level ones, they just pack more power. That Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon from before would go here. The Tesla Model S. Dodge Charger Hellcat. Dodge Demon. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The Cadillac CTS-V. The BMW X5 M

High-Level Pre-Supercar

This category is currently so small I almost didn’t make it. Cars such as the aging Aston Martin Rapide S, Ferrari GTC4Lusso, Jaguar XJR575, Audi S8, Bentley Flying Spur W-12 S and Mulsanne Speed, Mercedes-AMG S65, Lamborghini Urus, and the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GT63 S.


From here, we have the Supercar. And this one is pretty self-explanatory. Typically but not limited to being expensive high-performance luxury cars, these cars are two-door, front, mid, or rear engined cars designed with speed in mind. Ranging from track weapons to Grand Tourers, these cars are meant to give you the thrill of life on the edge. The Ferrari 488 Pista, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Chevrolet Corvette Z06/ZR1, Lamborghini Huracan Performante, Nissan GT-R NISMO. We all know what a supercar is. What isn't clearly defined as well is this.

What Separates Hypercars from Supercars?

Wikipedia would have you think its just a more expensive supercar, but that isn't true. I would categorize a Hypercar as three things. It would have to be significantly faster than any other supercar on the market, and it would have to have a legitimate shot at becoming the worlds fastest car. It should also display any and all tech you know to make it go fast, essentially your Halo car. Outside of the Ferrari Laferrari, Mclaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder, which were all really one-off experiments to prove the power of hybrid technology, the only companies that really come to mind are Buggati, Hennessy, and Koenigsegg. Leaving us with one category left: The Megacar. A Megacar is a car meant to massively toy with your mental sanity, changing what you thought you knew about speed. It is more insane than a Hypercar which was already substantially more insane than a Supercar. And only one exists: the Koenigsegg Regera. It is the ultimate pinnacle of the performance vehicle hierarchy, and it will stay that way apparently….until somebody makes the Ultracar.

Feel free in the comments section to ask where you think a car I haven't mentioned should be placed. Why you feel I misplaced a car. Or to discuss the rankings

© 2018 Joshua Nightshade


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