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What is a GT Car?

You may have seen the letters "GT" on various car models. Yet, what do these letters mean, and what is a GT car? GT stands for "Gran Turismo," meaning "Grand Touring" in Italian.


In other words, a GT car is designed not only to impress but is also built for touring on the open road. In terms of performance, a GT car is made to match the speed and handling of a sports car. At the same time, it features the interior comforts and elegant bodywork of a luxury car. In short, a GT car is a mix between a sports car and a luxury car, offering the best elements of both.


GT cars are nothing new. In fact, they have been around for almost a century! They were most prevalent in the 1950s and 60s, and since then, the GT designation has appeared on many car models. Therefore, it is useful to look at what features make a GT car what it is. What characteristics does it share with both a luxury and a sports car, and how do they differ? Finally, what are the benefits of having a GT car, and are there any downsides?


A brief history of the GT car

Before we examine the features and benefits of GT cars, let us take a quick look at the history of this vehicle. The first GT car was the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Turismo, released in 1930. It used two 1.75 litre engines, which provided more power and torque than the earlier 6C 1500 models. In addition, the 6C 1750 Gran Turismo featured an updated frame that was lightweight yet designed to adjust to any road conditions. The 6C 1750 range was a huge success for Alfa Romeo, winning every major racing event it entered. Since then, the quality and performance of the 6C 1750 Gran Turismo became the benchmark for many GT cars that followed. Some notable GTs that the 6C 1750 Gran Turismo influenced include:

  • 1935 Fiat 508 Balilla S Berlinetta

  • 1949 Ferrari 166 Inter

  • 1951 Lancia Aurelia B20 GT

GT cars became hugely popular during the 1950s through to the 60s. They were a staple of the prestigious Mille Miglia race, which took place in Italy from 1927 to 1957. Even after the conclusion of the Mille Miglia, GT cars were a popular choice for subsequent motor racing events such as the FIA World Sportscar Championship. Outside of the world of motor racing, GT cars came to represent the height of luxury and chic. This image was not only the case in Italy but elsewhere, particularly in the USA and the UK. Manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Mercedez-Benz, Ferarri, and Ford contributed GT models built for competitive racing and driving enthusiasts.


Today, many car models feature the GT moniker. Yet, since the 1980s, not all cars that feature GT in their name match the traditional definition of a GT car. So, let us look at what features a genuine GT car should have.

GT stands for "Gran Turismo", or "Grand Touring

Features of a GT car

A GT car needs to embody both the performance of a sports car and the comforts of a luxury car. In addition, they should generally have the following features:

  • Extra seating: a GT should have enough space for two seats at a minimum. Many GT cars will have a standard 2+2 configuration as you would expect in a luxury vehicle. This feature compares to supercars and hypercars on the market today, as these minimise interior space in favour of performance.

  • High functionality: a GT should give the driver full control over all its features and amenities. Whether you are looking for high performance and speed or simply a long drive in comfort and luxury, the GT car puts it all in your hands.

  • Full comfort: GTs must feature a chassis and suspension capable of handling any road condition. Not only does this allow for tighter handling, but it also ensures that all occupants travel in complete comfort throughout the journey.

  • High performance: not only do GT cars need to be built for a comfortable journey, but they also need features that give them maximum performance. In particular, they need engines that can reach the upper limits of their capabilities and maintain them over an extended period.


A GT vs a sports car

While GT cars are built for high performance, they generally won't match the highest speeds of true sports cars. Like GT cars, many vehicles labelled as sports cars don't match the original definition. However, true sports cars are always built with performance in mind in terms of speed and handling. Most have cruder designs than GT cars in terms of features and engineering, with bodies lower to the ground and higher output engines. Any space is dedicated purely to performance at the expense of any other luxuries or amenities. However, some modern sports cars have made improvements in terms of elegant design, including supercars and hypercars.


The supercar is the next step above the average sports car in terms of performance. Modern Ferrari cars are often classified as supercars due to their aerodynamic engineering, enhanced driving technologies and power-to-weight ratio. The Ferrari 488 GTB, for example, can reach speeds of 330 km/h and go from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3 seconds.


Hypercars, such as the Ferrari LaFerrari, go even further regarding performance. This car can reach a speed of 350 km/h and go from a standstill to 100 km/h in 2.5 seconds. Compared to these high-performance vehicles, the average GT car usually reaches maximum speeds of 290 km/h. If you are purely focused on speed and performance, a sports car might suit you better. However, if you want high performance combined with other luxury features, then the GT car is the better choice.


Luxury features of GT cars


In addition to high performance, the other notable element of GT cars is a comfortable interior. Traditionally, this meant enough space for extra passengers, plus luggage in the back. Today, however, many GT cars feature a range of luxury additions. Here are some of the common luxury features you can find in today's cars:

  • Temperature-controlled steering wheels: driving in cold weather can be uncomfortable, and if the steering wheel is icy to touch, it can make driving potentially difficult. Heated steering wheels have coils inside that warm up with the touch of a button. This feature helps you keep your grip on the wheel even on cold days.

  • Adjustable seating: many GT cars now feature more ergonomic and comfortable seating than standard car seats. These include multi-contour seats that adjust to the occupant's spine, automatic comfort fit seat belts and 12-way seat adjustability. Some even include inbuilt massagers and ventilation for extra comfort.

  • Automatic safety features: modern GTs offer a range of safety features designed to automatically deploy in an emergency. These can include anti-lock brakes and stability control to prevent loss of control while driving, airbags for front, side and overhead impacts, and pre-tensioners for keeping seatbelts tight. You can even have a security system that disables the engine and ignition when an intrusion is detected.

  • Entertainment/infotainment systems: technology has advanced over the decades to the point where a range of audio and visual features is available. Many modern GTs have features to keep you informed and entertained over long journeys, from touch screens with built-in features, like GPS and rear-view cameras, to audio device capabilities for listening to music and podcasts.


Pros and cons of GT cars

So, you know what is a GT car but is it worth investing in one? A GT offers an excellent combination of performance and luxury. Yet, you should be aware of some downsides to this type of vehicle if you plan to purchase one. First, let us look at the benefits of owning a GT car:

  • Stylish looks: not only are GTs built for performance, but they also look amazing. Manufacturers are always improving the design of these vehicles, and there is a definite prestige that comes with owning one.

  • High performance: while they may not be as fast as a sports car, GTs are still high-performance vehicles. Plus, with superior handling and adaptability to any road condition, this is a great car for both speed and extended drives.

  • Luxury interior: GTs are designed to keep all occupants comfortable throughout the entire journey. With plenty of space and a range of luxury features available, you can enjoy those long trips on the road with no discomfort.


Now that you know what is a GT car, here are some downsides of owning a GT:

  • Expensive price tag: while you may be able to find an older model at an affordable price, many GT cars have a very high purchase price. Unfortunately, this puts them out of the range of most car enthusiasts.

  • Higher depreciation: even after a few years, your GT car will be superseded by others with more advanced features and designs. Whether or not the features of your GT car are worth the loss in value over time is up to you.

  • High maintenance: along with high price tags, GTs need frequent maintenance to keep them in top condition. Everything from insurance to general repairs will cost more than your average city car. In addition, some GT cars have a low fuel economy, making them unsuitable for everyday driving.

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