5 Sports Cars You Can Barely Enter (or Exit)
These European cars may have doors, but good luck getting past them.
Some road cars, especially road cars based on race cars, are nearly as impossible to enter and exit. Some embarrass the driver, making him appear geriatric and clumsy as he valets in front of the hotel. Others simply cause indescribable pain. Sports car owners put up with it, because once they've nestled inside, the driving experience makes it worth the chiropractic bills.
Here are five European sports cars that don't bat an eye to ergonomics, whether now or two decades prior. Read on, then tell us in the comments section about more cars -- everyday cars -- that likewise belong in this category.
Compromises come readily in the CLK-GTR. The 26 street versions were more powerful -- upwards of 700 horsepower -- than the race cars with which Mercedeswon the 1997 and 1998 FIA championships. For $1 million, there was no sound deadening, nor any presumption of ride quality -- just an engine compartment and a steering wheel. On the track, they became surface-to-air missiles. The butterfly doors were minuscule and cut only halfway down the body, leaving a massive, knee-high frame structure in the way before you bruised your forehead on the door frame (see the video below at 4:18). By comparison, the SLS AMG is like stepping out of a Corolla.
Now discontinued in the U.S. due to smart airbag rules, the Elise, with its sub-1-ton weight and manual steering, is one of the most pure, unfiltered sports cars in the world. But with the seats bolted below the height of most guardrails, you can imagine the difficulty in trying to leave this pint-size Lotus. The open-top Elise (below), is already an impossible situation. Now imagine a roof, and you've got the hell known as the Exige.
The back seat of the Jaguar XK
Insurance companies, and the lower rates they typically provide to cars with more than two seats, are a big reason behind every "2+2" coupe on the market. While they're fantastic for securing shopping bags with a seatbelt, actual people must revert to a fetal position. In the XK, the rear seats are curved like a scorpion, and that stinging feeling is from the blood trapped in your craned neck. At least the leather and Alcantara smell delicious. (For my friend Julien, below in the XKR Convertible, only his back and knees suffered.)
I felt cramped in a Countach when I crawled inside at age 8, so I've no idea how a fully grown man can try to drive one of these claustrophobic Italian wedges. As "Top Gear" co-host Jeremy Clarkson proves below, the low-ceiling Countach apparently wasn't built to be entered, driven or parked.
When I visited Sweden in January, luck had it that the Koenigsegg factory was only two hours south of my Gothenburg hotel. While there, I had the blessed opportunity to sit in a jet-black Agera R, which is just as hard to enter as the jet fighters upon which it's based. To make matters worse, if you've parked within a foot of the curb, the scissor doors will smash the concrete. Once inside this 1,115-horsepower car, though, you realize you'll never again sit in another 1,115-horsepower car. That perspective changes everything.
Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving and riding in cars he doesn't own. He was raised in Volvos and has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He lives in Boston, is a member of the New England Motor Press Association, and has reported for The Boston Globe, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, and The Times of London.
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