Have you ever pilled up to a stop light, minding your own business, and the most incredible car pulls up quickly stopping next to you? Then, after staring at the car and then being caught by the driver, you can not help but wonder what is that? You've never seen anything like it an yet you think, is that the car I just read about in my favorite car magazine?
So, do you find yourself wondering, exactly what is an exotic car? To start with, as with any explanation, it helps to begin with the official definition of "Exotic".
ex · ot · ic / ggzɒtkk / Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation [ig-zot-ik]
1. of foreign origin or character; not native; introduced from abroad, but not fully naturalized or acclimatized: exotic foods; exotic plants.
2. strikingly unusual or strange in effect or appearance: an exotic hairstyle.
3. of a definitely new or experimental nature: exotic weapons.
4. of, referring to, or involving stripteasing: the exotic clubs where strippers are featured.
5. something that is exotic: The flower show included several tropical exotics with showy blooms.
6. an exotic dancer; stripper.
In this case, we'll go with number 2, simply because the others do not fit when referencing an automobile. We'll avoid the initial, number 1 definition as not all exotic cars are foreign in the US and the last term has nothing to do with cars, except that most exotic cars are considered sexy. That's all that will be stated on that subject.
There are a variety of "laymen" definitions for what an exotic car may be described. Some think that it's a car that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not necessarily true. A humbly priced Lotus Elise is considered exotic, yet is priced around $ 50K. Others view an exotic car as one that has doors that spring forward or are gulled like wings. There are a number of exotics that have "normal" opening doors, so that's not necessarily an accurate approach. For the most uninitiated, they may surmise that an exotic is only of Italian or German decent and manufacture. Again, not necessarily true. There have been numerous British exotics, America has it's share of specialty exotic manufactures and the Netherlands has yet it's own form of exotic car builder.
Probably the best most common thought about what an exotic car is, can be boiled down to one simple statement. Do you see one every day? Or, simply put, would you see one on your bumper to bumper traffic laden commute? If the answer is no, then it's probably close to being exotic. If you live near a Ferrari or Lamborghini dealer, hob knob in Beverly Hills or have a home near Miami, then it may not be an fair assessment. However, for the 99% of us that live in average city locations, typically seeing an exotic every day is not normal. There are some that have only seen such cars at car shows and or on the rare occasion on a major freeway connecting two cities. Since there are numerous web sites with "Sighting" posting sections, it's probably a pretty accurate definition on the "rarity" of an exotic, making this a pretty accurate layman's definition of "exotic car".
With that in mind, an exotic car can also be considered a daily driver, but rarely seen. Many exotic car owners like to drive their cars as much as possible, but keep it to a minimum due to mileage restrictions that they put on themselves so as to keep the resale value high. In most major cities, there are usually a higher number of exotic car owners than one may perceive. Most exotic cars spend time in garages, show rooms and / or collections. However, there are still a larger number of owners that prefer to take their car out on special occasions and just drive it.
There are many additional areas that can make up an exotic car definition besides just rarity. Items such as extremely different shape and size are common elements of an exotic car. Special composites that make up the frame or body are also areas that set an exotic car apart from their daily commuter brethren. Powerful engines typically installed in the rear are one of the more commonly thought about elements. Shifting mechanisms, starter buttons and flat bottom steering wheels are a few other less unusual, but common amongst exotics.
Shape. Many exotics have an extremely uncommon shape. They typically are very "Striking" or notice able both sitting at a light, gas pump or being driven down the road. Most exotics have taken on shapes that rival many show cars or concept cars, but that have been put into production as a fully operational drive capable car. Shapes like wedges and hour glass are common visions.
Size. A number of exotics are actually small by comparison to the standard sedan or coupe. Almost all exotics are a 2 seater, with the occasional version that may have a "token" back seat. Some of the larger exotics, such as the Bentley are getting large enough in size to actually accommodate rear passengers. However, many of the truly exotics are made for two and commonly are less than 3 feet tall. Egress can be challenging at times, which makes for another case for definition of an exotic and it's non-commonality. The majority of exotics are sports related with small sizes and big powerful engines.
Composites. Many if not all exotics are made up of space age or light weight materials slowly finding their way into the larger auto makers. Most of today's aluminum's and carbon fibers were first made popular on one exotic brand or another. Light material or new composites that make up the engine compartment are very common amongst exotics.
Engines and weight. A majority of exotics are made up of small size in stature and length, usually outfitted with large powerful engines. The power to weight ratio make it a lethal if not down right illegal combination, so making it even more exotic.
All in all, exotics are not your run of the mill daily driver. Rather, they are something striking and unusual, yet beautiful and very very eye catching. Most if not all are rarely seen and thus make it the primary definition for the majority of our population. Regardless of your gender, it's almost impossible to not stare at the unusual, strikingly different exotic car sitting next to you at that red light. Go ahead and stare. It may be a while before you see another exotic car!