Lightness is one of the best qualities to have in a sports car.
In a world where cars are typically judged by their zero-to-60 times or horsepower figures, it’s easy to overlook the importance of an optimal power-to-weight ratio. AutoGuide.com is throwing out acceleration times and horsepower numbers for now to bring you a list of 10 lightweight vehicles from various segments that are under 3,000 pounds and are simply fun to drive.
Caterham Seven 620 R – 1,201 lbs
As the fastest road car ever made by Caterham, the Seven 620 R is powered by a supercharged 2.0-liter Ford engine with 310 horsepower and 219 pound-feet of torque. By weighing in at a scant 1,201 pounds, the Caterham Seven 620 R goes zero to 60 in just 2.79 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph.
Ariel Atom 3.5R – 1,212 lbs
Some would argue that the Ariel Atom 3.5R is the most fun car in the world to drive, and very few have been fortunate enough to get behind the wheel of one. Powered by a supercharged four-cylinder engine sourced from Honda, the Atom 3.5R has 350 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque to propel a 1,212-lb body to 62 mph from a standstill in just 2.5 seconds. But it’s the suspension that makes the Ariel Atom 3.5R such a blast to drive, with a set of fully adjustable Öhlins TTX dampers and Öhlins springs. It’s seriously like driving a go-kart on the streets, except it’s so much faster.
KTM X-Bow GT – 1,867 lbs
Although there are more extreme versions of the KTM X-Bow, we chose the GT because it’s the most capable model for being driven on the streets. The KTM X-Bow GT has a frameless windshield, side mirrors, sun visors, a wind deflector mounted between the seats, an upgraded heater, a center console, a fabric soft top and even a luggage system. With an empty fuel tank, the X-Bow GT tips the scales at 1,867 lbs. Powering the X-Bow GT is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine from Audi with 285 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque, enabling the GT to go zero to 62 in 4.1 seconds. If you want something more extreme, the X-Bow RR weighs 1,785 lbs and has its power output bumped to 300 hp.
Lotus Elise – 1,931 lbs
You’ve arrived at some more realistic and somewhat more practical cars, starting with the Lotus Elise. The Lotus Elise 1.6 tips the scales at 1,931 lbs, thanks to a lightweight composite body and an aluminum chassis. It might not have ridiculous specifications, with a 1.6-liter engine providing 134 hp and 118 lb-ft of torque, but the Elise is arguably the most fun car you can feasibly drive on the streets everyday. Its zero-to-60 time isn’t going to make you go crazy at six seconds flat, but those who have driven an Elise knows what we’re talking about.
Mazda MX-5 Miata – 2,332 lbs
The all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is 148 lbs lighter than its predecessor, coming in at 2,332 lbs when equipped with a manual transmission. Opting for an automatic (why would you?!) adds 49 lbs to the weight. The MX-5 Miata has a rich history of being a fun-to-drive, lightweight roadster and Mazda is quite proud of the latest model’s perfect balance. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers are just slightly better than a Honda Civic’s 143 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque, but we don’t think you’ll find a single person that says a Civic is more fun to drive than a Miata.
Alfa Romeo 4C – 2,495 lbs
If you want lightweight Italian performance, then the Alfa Romeo 4C belongs on the top of your list. The Alfa Romeo 4C was built from the ground up to be a pure driver’s car, so it tossed out any optional amenities and stripped it down for an unadulterated experience. In fact, there’s no power steering in the Alfa Romeo 4C and its suspension and lightweight chassis will rattle your bones. Powering the 4C is a 1.75-liter turbocharged engine with 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and the sports car will constantly remind you of that when you’re stomping on the go-fast pedal. Maybe the biggest complaint we have for the 4C is that there’s no manual transmission option.
Noble M600 – 2,645 lbs
The Noble M600 is one of the more powerful vehicles on our list, sporting a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that can have its output range from 450 hp to 650 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. Considering the M600 weighs just 2,645 lbs, its zero-to-60 time of three seconds flat shouldn’t be surprising. Oh, it also has a top speed of 225 mph.
Don’t let the car’s exterior fool you into believing it’s packed with luxury amenities on the inside. It’s back to basics for the M600 with no climate control or no large infotainment screen – just an interior with bucket seats to hold you firmly in place.
Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ – 2,758 lbs
It’s no real secret that the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ are fun-to-drive cars. Ever since the two emerged onto the market, they have been praised for their excellent driving dynamics with a lightweight, front engine, rear-wheel-drive platform. Sure, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 200 hp leaves a bit to be desired, especially since the coupe goes zero to 60 in 6.4 seconds, but take it anywhere that has a few turns, and you’ll quickly have a smile on your face.
McLaren 675LT – 2,927 lbs
It has 666 hp, 515 lb-ft of torque and weighs under 3,000 lbs. The McLaren 675LT goes zero to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds, thanks to the British automaker’s 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 engine and it’s perfectly acceptable to just stare. The 675LT pays homage to the 1997 McLaren F1 GTR “Longtail” and features plenty of lightweight suspension hardware. According to McLaren, the steering rack is 10 percent faster than what’s found in the rest of the Super Series lineup and it’s even faster than the McLaren P1.
Porsche Cayman GT4 – 2,955 lbs
Porsche had a bit of a surprise in store when it decided to announce the Cayman GT4 with a 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine churning 385 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque. Sure the zero-to-60 time of 4.2 seconds is great, but what really stole the headlines was the Cayman GT4’s Nurburgring time. The luxury sports coupe lapped the world-famous track in 7 minutes 40 seconds, making it faster than the previous-generation Porsche 911 GT3 RS. And just to give you an idea of how Porsche knew its Cayman GT4 woudl be a blast to drive, it’s only available with a manual transmission (for now). Kudos, Porsche, kudos.