Performance cars require a special kind of attention and don’t take kindly to apathy. Some are more temperamental than others, and when things go wrong they can get expensive. That said, there are some sports cars out there which feature overbuilt engines and solid construction. Others manage to be reliable while still being affordable. These are just a few of the most reliable sports cars ever made.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX
The Lancer Evolution started out as a homologated race car for Group B rally. That ended in the 1980s, but Mitsubishi kept producing the Evolution until its 10th iteration. The Evolution IX marks the end of a particular era, made famous by its engine, the 4G63T. It was a 2.0-liter cast-iron inline-four, with a turbocharger helping it send 300 horsepower to all four wheels.
The official horsepower number varies depending on the source, suffice it to say many Japanese performance cars of this era weren’t accurately represented. The iron-block engine was robust and could take a lot of boost. Supposedly, the engine could take 19 psi of boost pressure in stock form, according to Robert Brown’s How to Build Max-Performance Mitsubishi 4G63t Engines (p. 34). If in the market for an Evo IX, opt for the five-speed, non-MR model. The six-speed transmissions are known to break without much encouragement.
Ford Mustang GT
Virtually any generation Mustang GT is a reliable sports car. All of the V8s used last many hundreds of thousands of miles with proper care, transmissions and rear ends are robust as well. Some things may break, like the cheap interior plastic, but the drivetrain is solid. Certain years are better than others. For instance, not all V8s of the Fox Body era are the same.
The 4.9-liter “5.0” V8 from 1987-1992 used forged pistons, and with the cast-iron block, could handle a lot of power. When shopping for a Mustang, be wary of the V6 engines and automatic transmissions. Those are wrought with issues that don’t plague the V8 manuals, including the ECM pulling timing, select shift malfunction, and lurching forward while coming to a stop.
Lexus SC 300
Toyotas, especially Lexus, get lots of praise for being reliable. The SC 300 is a proper sports car. Its first generation used an inline-six that produced 250 horsepower and mated to a manual transmission. The car had two doors and was rear-wheel-drive. The SC 300 was a bit on the heavy side at 3,485 pounds, but its engine, the 2JZGE, is known as one of the most reliable engines, and one of the most overbuilt inline-sixes ever made. It was a cast-iron block and used a dual-mode crankshaft damper pulley, designed to reduce vibration. The 2JZ made several Toyotas reliable sports cars.
Honda Integra Type-R
No reliability list would be complete without a Honda. The Integra Type-R was a lightweight performance variant of the front-wheel-drive Integra. It used a 1.8-liter inline-four, aided by V-TEC, and produced 195 horsepower, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. It was lowered on stiff suspension and got a five-lug conversion with big brakes. Even though the car was built for performance and developed on Japanese racetracks, the Type-R was more reliable than most sports cars.
Sixth-generation Corvettes are the whole package for someone looking at reliable horsepower. They used a 400 horsepower 6.0-liter V8 for the first few years, then switched to the mighty 430 horsepower 6.2-liter LS3 from 2008. The C6 Z06 is a better performer, thanks to its bigger engine, aluminum frame, and stiffer suspension, but the base model is still plenty of car, as long as it has the 6.2-liter. Corvettes have a rich history of being reliable sports cars, and the C6 thankfully didn’t break that tradition.
Special mention: German cars
BMW and Mercedes-Benz make extraordinarily reliable engines that last for hundreds of thousands of miles. They are as dependable as the sun rising every morning, but where they falter is in the peripherals. The electric seats may stop working, the passenger side mirror motor may stop functioning. These aren’t problems that prevent the car from running but require special attention nonetheless. Buying a reliable sports car isn’t difficult, but keeping it reliable deserves lots of due diligence. Don’t forget, even German sports cars can be reliable and affordable as well.