For most people, having your own wheels means freedom and the convenience to go anywhere. But for car enthusiasts, reaching a destination isn’t the point of car ownership, and trying to narrow down the particular quality that drives sports car lovers to their machines is not an easy task. Chief auto reviewer for The Toronto Star, Jim Kenzie (at jimkenzie.com), sat down with us to let us know what that je ne sais quoi is when it comes to sports cars.
Social psychology will tell you that the first step in attraction is gaining attention; something a sports car excels at when it whips by with smooth curves and a loud roar. A study reports that men even get a boost in testosterone, mostly from the female attention, but also from the thrill of being behind the wheel of a luxuriously fast car.
Jim Kenzie tackles this idea and says that “sales numbers seem to indicate that more men buy sports cars than women, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that men appreciate sports cars more than women do.”
Regardless, the fact remains, sports cars are attention-getters for any driver. And in the world of romance and attraction, having a leg up on the competition certainly can’t hurt.
A Symbiotic Relationship
Okay, so your car may not be KITT from Knight Rider and it doesn’t actually communicate with you, but long-time collector and driver, Jim Kenzie might disagree with that. A big part of the appeal is how well the sports car fits you when the driver’s experience is a top priority.
The interaction with the wheel, the clutch, the pedals and everything in-between is what gives people like Jim Kenzie “the feeling of being one with the car and the road… at one with the machine.”
It’s a very Zen philosophy; possibly at odds with the speed demon under the hood. But that jigsaw-piece fit between human and car is euphoric when a sports car is your proxy on the road.
One for the Money, Two for the Show
Sports cars don’t come cheap. At least not the ones worth owning and showing off. Their exorbitant sticker price makes them exclusive. Only a select few can afford to buy them, and fewer still will splurge on a collector’s piece.
Jim Kenzie says that exclusive ownership makes “you feel like you are part of the club.” An especially elite club with a huge membership fee, of course. We like things that are rare. There are plenty of excellent cars on the market, such as Jim Kenzie’s own Mazda MX-5 Miata (he has the 1999 edition). He touts its handling and low-powered build as being “more accessible for newcomers,” but it’s no Ferrari 458 Spyder, which he says is beyond his financial capacity. Fear of missing out and the desire to have something others can’t only add to the appeal.
Like a Bat Out of Hell
Speed is a pretty essential factor when you’re discussing sports cars. The Ferrari 458 Spyder has a clean start of 62 mph in 3.4 seconds, but this kind of speed can be dangerous in the wrong hands.
Because of this, Jim Kenzie says that he “drive[s] much slower on public roads than [he does] around the track because [he] know[s] how dangerous driving fast can be.” But he also realizes that “speed is part of the appeal.” There is a subset of people who drive their cars just to feel faster than everyone else on the road, and sports cars certainly allow them to do just that.
A sports car amps up the ordinary drive with not just speed, but performance. Going fast in a car that knows how to handle turns and braking is an unmatched experience. Just try it (if you haven’t already), and you’ll know exactly what we mean.
The Perfect Aesthetic
There’s something about the look of a sports car – all smooth curves and glossy paint – that is a significant part of the appeal.
Jim Kenzie cites the fact that sports cars rely on the laws of physics and aerodynamics for performance, but due to the amount of features available, modern vehicles look more “like bars of soap,” with most of that special old-school appeal lost.
One of the challenges that Jim Kenzie acknowledges is trying to “retain the sporty look without sacrificing any of the modern aspects.” A sports car is a luxury car. Manufacturers must set about creating the lightest, fastest, most wind-slicing form available while keeping the modern trimmings.
Jim Kenzie concludes with his opinion on car-buying: “most of the time we base our car purchases on emotion. We think we buy cars with our head, but we really buy them with our heart.” If it were the other way around, then “we would all be driving Buicks.”
Fair enough, Jim Kenzie. At the end of the day, we drive the cars we drive because our emotional impulses have guided us in that direction.