Key Takeaways

  • Sports cars and muscle cars are very different.
  • Muscle cars have V8 engines while sports cars have any size.
  • Sports cars focus on advanced handling.
  • Muscle cars focus on straight line acceleration
  • Body types between muscle cars and sports cars differ greatly.  

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“That’s a muscle car!”, “No, that's a sports car!” Well, what is the difference between a muscle vs sports car?

Sports cars can come from any country and when built, are built to focus on handling and speed. Whereas muscle cars are usually built in America and focus on power. Muscle cars usually have a V-8 engine or more whereas sports cars can sport any type of engine.

I’m a mechanic with five years experience diagnosing and repairing vehicles. I went to an accredited university and received my Associate’s degree in automotive repair. I have been trained with the latest tools and technology and receive up to date training on different repair methods.

Table of Contents

Sports Car

A sports car is a type of car that’s focus is on performance, handling, agility, speed, and style.

These cars are typically compact and lightweight with engines that are very powerful and have suspension systems that allow for quick cornering and advanced steering techniques.

Sports cars typically have an aerodynamic body that give it a sporty look with lines that are sleek and aesthetic.

Sports cars also have a very aggressive look that makes them look fast. Sports cars typically have lots of power underneath the hood despite which size engine’s they have.

Whether it’s an inline 4, or a V8, the engine of a sports car is designed to achieve high speeds and quick acceleration.

The suspension systems of sports cars are designed to have precise handling at high speeds.

These suspension systems use a combination of highcost springs, struts, and shocks to control the movement of the vehicle at high speeds.

Sports cars are also typically seen as status symbols as well as performance beasts. They mean something to own them.

When you have one, it means you can afford one, which means something. Sports cars can range up to the 6 figure range and therefore owning one means you have some money in the bank.

Muscle Cars

A muscle car is typically an American made vehicle with a V8 engine and sports a bold, aggressive design along with powerful performance.

The term muscle car originated in the 1960’s that emphasized cars that were built for straight line acceleration and raw power.

Muscle cars usually have very long hoods and a wide body stance that gives them a very commanding presence on the road.

Almost every muscle car has a V8 engine for its motor.

These V8 engines typically have high displacement which means they can create lots of horsepower and torque.

An example of a powerful muscle car engine is the Chevy Small Block V8. A True muscle car also has advanced transmission systems, high performance suspension systems, and great braking systems.

Muscle cars focus on straight line acceleration so the braking system must be able to stop in a line.

Muscle cars are usually an American treasure, so you probably have an idea of what an American muscle car is.

For example, think Dom Toretto’s muscle car in The Fast and The Furious, compared to whatever Paul Walker was driving.

Today, muscle cars have evolved past straight line acceleration and can handle cornering just as well as sports cars.

American muscle cars are popular among car enthusiasts and classic muscle cars are still considered to be collectors items for car enthusiasts.

The Engine Size

A major difference between a muscle car and a sports car is the engine size. American muscle cars will typically have one engine size, which is a V8.

For example, the following muscle cars all have V8 engines. Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, Pontiac GTO, Chevrolet Chevelle, Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Impala, and the Pontiac Firebird.

These muscle cars all have the same sized engine when it comes to cylinder count. This is because muscle cars typically all have V8 engines.

Whereas compared to sports cars, sports cars can have any size engine. They can range from inline 4’s to V12 engines.

Sports cars are focused on handling and high performance in any condition, not just straight line acceleration, so you may see more advanced engine performance technology inside a sports car engine.

Or you may see a simple 4 cylinder engine inside a sports car with lots of different additions to make it go faster such as a turbo or a supercharger.

Some of the fastest cars I’ve seen were Honda Civic sports cars with a 4 cylinder engine but a really fast turbo added onto the vehicle.

This made the car a 6 second car at the track, way faster than an American muscle car that’s right out of the box. So to conclude, engine size is a major difference between the muscle car, and the sports car.


American muscle cars are built to provide torque to the wheels in order to gain straight line acceleration. With muscle cars, think cars at the drag strip.

These muscle cars are meant to go straight, very fast with lots of torque and horsepower.

A Classic muscle car has raw power dumped at the wheels and its quarter mile time is meant to be shorter at the track than a traditional vehicle.

In the muscle cars vs sports car debate, the American muscle cars are meant to outperform sports cars in drag racing.

This is because sports cars are designed for precision handling while muscle cars are meant to go fast in a straight line very well.

The power from a muscle car is raw and enfettered while a sports car has power coming from many different sources and not just the engine.

A sports car engine has lots of different devices to add power such as a turbo or Nitrous and can divert power to all four wheels or two depending on the make and model.

Sports cars have more intricacies compared to a simple muscle car. Sports cars have lots of different devices and technology that support its PCM and can deliver extra power when needed.

A muscle car just delivers power to the wheels without asking any other device for permission.

A sports car will deliver speed and also advanced handling when asked if the vehicle comes under a duress situation such as a steep corner, whereas a muscle car’s only job is to deliver torque to the wheels.

Body Style

The body style of a muscle car vs a sports car is very different.

The body style of a sports car is usually more aerodynamic with aggressive lines that give it a sporty and mean look.

A sports car looks like it's going fast despite it just sitting in your driveway. The body of an American muscle car may look as if it’s a force to be reckoned with.

Like its presence is that of a US General sitting in your driveway staring you down giving you orders.

The presence of the latter is commanding while the presence of a sports car is almost attractive and appealing.

Like you want to chase after it. The body of muscle cars usually have very long hoods with a short deck lid.

And the body of a sports car is sleek and aerodynamic.

The aerodynamic body of a sports car helps when maneuvering at high speeds, whereas with a muscle car, you technically don’t need aerodynamics at high speeds because you are only worried about going fast in a straight line.

In the muscle cars vs sports car debate, the more common look you will see today is the sports car so you may be more inclined to like that style. But you may also like the Dodge Challenger’s more modern look as well.

It’s really a preference that’s up to the consumer.

American Muscle Car Vs Sports Cars

Below is a list of Sports cars and muscle cars.

Muscle Cars Sports Cars
Chevrolet Camaro Porsche 911
Ford Mustang Chevy Corvette
Dodge Challenger Audi R8
Pontiac GTO Nissan GT-R
Chevrolet Chevelle McLaren 720S
Plymouth Barracuda Acura NSX
Dodge Charger Lamborghini Huracan
Chevrolet Impala SS Mercedes-AMG GT
Buick GSX Ford Mustang GT
Pontiac Firebird BMW M Series.
Muscle Vs. Sports Car (List Of Differences)

About The Author

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks has been servicing vehicles since 2012. After completing the automotive studies program at Camden County College, he was awarded an Associates's Degree in Applied Science. His first job was a lube-tech at Jiffy Lube, and is currently an independent B-Technician servicing vehicles for the United States Postal Service. Christopher is ASE certified and loves rebuilding engines.

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