Sports cars aren’t known for having great gas mileage. That’s because their powerful engines need a lot of gas, and performance driving moves, like accelerating and braking hard, are among the least efficient ways to drive.
But that’s starting to change. While sports cars still tend to have lower fuel economy estimates than other cars, they can still turn in some respectable fuel economy numbers. New technologies like direct injection and gas/electric hybrid powertrains are helping sports cars keep their performance strong and their fuel consumption low.
Fuel-Sipping Sports Cars
Most buyers wouldn’t consider the Lexus CT200h a sports car, but it is a sporty hybrid car, combining a four-cylinder engine with an electric motor. It also lets drivers select from four different driving modes: Normal, Eco, EV and Sport. EV mode keeps the CT200h running on electric power alone as long as there’s enough of a charge in the battery. Eco mode dampens the CT200h’s throttle response to get the best fuel economy possible, while Sport improves throttle response for slightly more spirited driving. The Lexus CT200h gets an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 43/40 mpg city/highway.
If you want a true sports car, you’ll have to stick with a traditional internal combustion engine. You can still get decent gas mileage numbers, though your fuel economy won't be as good as a hybrid's. Weight is the enemy of good handling, and thus most sports cars are designed to be fairly lightweight. This is good news for fuel economy, as a lighter vehicle requires less power to get moving, which means less fuel is needed. Small sports cars like the Porsche Boxster, for example, get up to 20/30 mpg city/highway, according to the EPA. The less-expensive Mazda MX-5 Miata gets 22/28 mpg city/highway.
Muscle cars are known for offering big power on a budget, and have started offering improved fuel economy. The Ford Mustang is the most fuel-efficient muscle car, getting up to 31 mpg on the highway in V6 models. Opting for muscle cars with larger engines, like the Dodge Challenger SRT8, will decrease your gas mileage, but if you want classic muscle car looks without a penalty at the pump, V6-powered models are the way to go.
When you move up to more expensive sports cars, you’ll compromise even more on fuel economy. Luxury sports cars tend to outweigh and outperform their more affordable counterparts. The 556-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V Wagon gets as little as 12/18 mpg city/highway with an automatic transmission. If you drive frugally and opt for a smaller, lighter luxury sports car, you can save a little at the pump. The Audi TT Coupe gets an EPA-estimated 22/31 mpg city/highway.
Driving a Sports Car Efficiently
If you plan on primarily using your sports car to race down back roads and the track, fuel economy probably isn’t one of your major concerns. But if you plan on using your sports car as a daily driver, fuel economy will likely be more important. No matter which type of sports car you buy, the most important factor in getting good gas mileage comes down to your driving style. That’s why the EPA says that your mileage may vary from its projected fuel economy estimates. The conditions in which you drive your sports car and the way you drive it have a major impact on gas mileage.
To improve gas mileage, avoid accelerating and stopping hard. When it’s time to move, accelerate slowly, letting your momentum build up to help pull you along. If you see brake lights up ahead (and it’s safe to do so), coast up to them before stopping rather than accelerating toward them and slamming on the brakes at the last second. Stops rob your car of momentum and your car has to work extra hard to get going again. Instead of accelerating and braking through stop-and-go traffic, you can try coasting and rolling as much as possible. Then, when you really want to open your sports car up and see what it can do, you’ll have plenty of gas in your tank to fuel your fun.