There are fast cars, and then there are cars that only look fast. For some enthusiasts, that's enough. High horsepower numbers are not always warranted by an aggressive appearance or even features, and in many cases, horsepower truly is just a number not indicative of the car's true performance on the road. To showcase this, we have chosen to fill this list with the most interesting (and some very competent) sports cars that yet somehow surprise us with their power output. So, sit back and enjoy our picks for the 10 most surprisingly underpowered sports cars!
10 2019 Porsche 718 Cayman
For a brand-new sports car bearing a Porsche emblem, the Cayman disappoints when it comes to the power it produces. Although the car is exquisitely engineered, the small turbocharged 2.0L packed under the hood provides no more than 300 horsepower to the rear wheels. This is however, enough to warrant a 0-60 acceleration time of up to 4.5 seconds, given the Porsche's optional Sport Chrono Package and a choice of a dual-clutch transmission. Nevertheless, the 2-liter easily powers the Cayman to a respectable top speed of 171 mph.
9 2016 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
With a best-in-class power to weight ratio and a center of gravity only 15 inches from the ground, the 124 Spider offers everything buyers are looking for in a sporty roadster, and all that for a starting price of under thirty thousand dollars. It even offers an attractive, aggressive look featuring an open roof and quad exhausts.
Yet, its small 1.4L Turbo MultiAir inline four-cylinder sends only 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, allowing it to reach 60 mph in 6.8 sec and top out at about 142 mph.
8 2002 Porsche Boxster
The Boxster has gotten a lot of attention in the early 2000's as a relatively affordable exotic convertible that's more than capable of tearing up the tarmac. Powering it is a naturally aspirated 2.7L 6-cylinder that allows it to accelerate to 60 mph from a standstill in 6.4 seconds and easily reach a top speed 155 mph. However, it does this wile utilizing a maximum power output of just 217 horsepower – a surprising feat given the almost 2800-lb curb weight of this car surpasses most other cars featured in this list.
7 2018 Subaru BRZ
Continuing Subaru's successful sports legacy, the new BRZ carries the visage of a true sportster. This is the only model in the Subaru lineup to push power to the ground using only the back wheels.
At a base price of roughly $25,000, buyers are getting a slung down sports coupe with an aggressive exterior design, a huge rear spoiler, and dual exhausts. Yet, its power output is modest. Courtesy of a 2.0L flat-four engine, the BRZ generates 205 horsepower, and an even more underwhelming torque figure of just 156 lb-ft.
6 2010 Ginetta G40
Not many of us have heard about the Ginetta G40, and those who have are aware that this car spells "fun." With a total curb weight of just over 1800 lbs, it offers both the design and the driving experience of a true sports coupe. It's been offered since 2010 by Ginetta Cars - a 61-year British race and road car company - as both an entry-level motor sports and a fully-legal road car.
Sealed inside the bonnet is a 1.8L 4-cylinder Zetec engine producing only 135 bhp. The fact is more impressive when you consider that in the case of G40, this equals to roughly 160 bhp per a ton of weight.
5 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C
Exceptionally sleek and aesthetic, this Italian sports coupe indeed delivers on the road. Its small yet extremely efficient 1750 Turbocharged four-cylinder roars as it launches the 4C to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, powering it to a top speed of 160 mph. The carbon fiber chassis helps save on a lot of precious weight, bringing the car down to under 2250 lbs.
This weight reduction might explain why the 4C, starting at only $66,900, is a valid alternative to a Porsche or a Ferrari when it comes to performance. Even more surprising is the fact it delivers this performance using a power output of just 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque being sent to the rear wheels.
4 2005 Lotus Elise
Known for its miniature stature warranting extreme agility and maneuverability, the Elise is a sports roadster that made its debut in 2005. It serves as an affordable solution for anyone wishing to sacrifice some luxury for admirable performance on the road as well as on the track. The small 2-door comes in at only 1975 lbs, which is why its tuned Toyota 1.8-liter four-cylinder producing 190 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque gives it more than enough power to slingshot it from 0 to 60 in an astonishing 3.8 seconds.
3 2005 Opel Speedster
You'd look at the Speedster - backed up by such a name, with its very aggressive mid-engine design and an amazingly low ground clearance - and you'd think this has to be a supercar. And to some extent, you'd be right. It does perform excellently on the tarmac, and can shuttle itself to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. However, it's less powerful than the previously mentioned Lotus Elise, yet it weighs almost the same. The Speedster is powered by GM's 2.2L Ecotec engine producing only 147 hp. Admittedly, this is still more than enough to make the car of this size exciting on the road.
2 1982 Maserati Merak
The Merak burst on the automotive scene in mid 1970's as a sleek sportster whose design alluded to the era's most competent supercars. The Merak was sold as a cheaper alternative to the then-popular Maserati Bora but has gone on to outlive it, and today it's actually a remarkably rare model that can fetch a fortune in the right auction. Although its low-slung, mid-engine design is reminiscent of an 1980's Lamborghini Countach or the popular Ferrari Testarossa, it's not half as powerful. Inside the Merak is a 3.0L V6 producing a modest figure of 190 horsepower.
1 2014 Mitsouka Orochi
Unusual and intriguing, the Orochi terrified the automotive community in 2001 when it was presented as a concept model, only to see the production line in 2006. Created by Mitsouka - a Japanese sports car company, the controversial 2-door embodies a low, mid-engine supercar look. It even packs huge side-vents and a rear spoiler (and a gaping mouth?), yet the company may have disappointed some enthusiasts by fitting the Orochi with an underwhelming 3.3L V6 that produces just 233 horsepower. The car is no longer in production, and a limited number of Final Edition models priced in excess of $100,000 were sold in 2014 as a final send-off to the Orochi.