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A sports car (sportscar) is a small, usually two seater, two door automobile designed for spirited performance and nimble handling. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first known use of the term was in 1928. Sports cars may be spartan or luxurious, but high maneuverability and minimum weight are requisite.
The drive train and engine layout significantly influences the handling characteristics of an automobile, and is crucially important in the design of a sports car.The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout (FR) is common to sports cars of any era and has survived longer in sports cars than in mainstream automobiles. Examples include the Caterham 7, Mazda MX-5, and the Chevrolet Corvette.
More specifically, many such sports cars have a FMR layout, with the centre of mass of the engine between the front axle and the firewall. In search of improved handling and weight distribution, other layouts are sometimes used. The RMR layout is commonly found only in sports cars—the motor is centre-mounted in the chassis (closer to and behind the driver),
and powers only the rear wheels. Some high-performance sports car manufacturers, such as Ferrari and Lamborghini have preferred this layout. Porsche is one of the few remaining manufacturers using the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout (RR). The motor's distributed weight across the wheels, in a Porsche 911, provides excellent traction, but the significant mass
behind the rear wheels makes it more prone to oversteer in some situations. Porsche has continuously refined the design and in recent years added electronic driving aids (i.e. computerised traction-stability control) to counteract these inherent design shortcomings.
The front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout (FF) layout which is the most common in sport compacts and hot hatches, and cars in general, is not generally used for sports cars. This layout is advantageous for small, light, lower power sports cars, as it avoids the extra weight, increased transmission power loss, and packaging problems of a long driveshaft and longitudinal engine of FR vehicles. However, its conservative handling effect, particularly understeer, and the fact that many drivers believe rear wheel drive is a more desirable layout for a sports car count against it.
The Fiat Barchetta, Saab Sonett, and Berkeley cars are sports cars with this layout.