7 Practical Mid-Engined Grand Tourers that Came Before the McLaren GT
Two of them are also McLarensby Ciprian Florea, on
The new McLaren GT took the market by storm as the most practical mid-engined sports car available. It has a combined 20.1 cubic feet of luggage room, luxury features inside the cabin, and a powerful V-8 engine. It’s definitely a unique car if you factor all these details in, but it’s not the first practical mid-engined car. This design goes back a few decades, and we’re going to check out some of the most interesting creations of the past 50 years.
One of the first mainstream sports cars with a midship layout and ample passenger room, the 914 was also a strange concept for the German company. Up until 1969, when it launched the 914, Porsche had only built rear-engined cars, like the 356 and the 911. The 914 arrived as a departure from Porsche’s traditional vehicle designs, mostly because it was co-developed with Volkswagen.
Thanks to a compact flat-four engine that fitted right behind the seats, the 914 had a full trunk available in the rear.
Porsche took full advantage of the car’s smart design and obtained more than just a small trunk for small items. Granted, the 914 rear trunk is far from massive, and it’s not very deep, but it can hold a few bags and more than just a set of golf clubs, like most sports cars. The 914 also has additional space under the front hood, where the spare wheel is located. It’s much smaller than the rear trunk, but you can keep some tools in here, so the rear trunk remains free for luggage.
Read our full review on the 1969-1976 Porsche 914
The 308 GT4 was very similar to the 914. Introduced in 1973 under the Dino badge, it was sold as a Ferrari starting 1976 when it was renamed the 208 GT4. Although it was powered by a V-8, it also had the engine behind the seats. Amazingly enough, Ferrari managed to squeeze a pair of rear seats too and add a trunk in the rear.
The GT4's trunk wasn't as big as the 914's, but it was deeper, so it had plenty of room for small bags and even a medium-sized troller.
The GT4 had a front trunk as well, but space was limited due to the battery and the spare wheel. The GT4 remained in production until 1980, when it was replaced by the Mondial. The latter also had a mid-engined layout, a 2+2 seating configuration, and a trunk behind the engine. Production of the Mondial lasted until 1993, stretching the lifetime of this body style to two decades.
Read our full review on the 1973 Ferrari Dino 308 GT4.
The first-generation Acura NSX is arguably the most iconic car on this list. Built between 1990 and 2005 with Honda and Acura badges, the NSX made a name for itself as a tremendous sports car that rivaled offerings from Ferrari and a practical grand tourer.
Using a recipe similar to the Porsche 914, Honda built a mid-engined sports car with plenty of passenger room and a large luggage compartment.
The rear trunk was quite spacious, having enough room for five big bags or a big troller and a couple of smaller bags. It was deep enough for large items, and it was wider compared to the Porsche 914 and Ferrari 308 GT4. Unlike other cars on this list, the NSX didn’t provide storage room under the front hood, but it was among the most practical sports cars of its time. The modern Acura NSX also has a trunk in the rear, but it’s much smaller.
Read our full review on the first generation Acura NSX.
Toyota had its very own mid-engined grand tourer in the 1980s, the MR2. Although the more familiar third-generation roadster we all know was cramped and far from practical, the second-generation coupe had a lot more space. Introduced in 1989 and kept into production until 1999, the W20-generation was sold with a variety of four-cylinder engines, including a turbo.
Its rear trunk was as spacious as the NSX's, with enough room for two trollers and another three or four small bags.
The front trunk was restricted to only small items because of the spare wheel, but the second-generation MR2 was roomy enough for long trips and vacations.
Read our full review on the 1991-1995 Toyota MR2.
McLaren’s first production model for the road, the F1 was by no means a grand tourer, but an ultra-light and ultra-fast supercar. But Gordon Murray’s innovative ideas enables this record-breaking vehicle to carry a respectable amount of luggage.
While it didn't have a conventional trunk in the front or the rear, the F1 had two compartments integrated into the rear fenders.
Suitable for two medium bags each, these were roomy enough for eight cubic feet of luggage. That’s not much compared to a hatchback or even a sedan, but it’s on par with one of McLaren’s more modern mid-engined supercars, the 570GT. Of course, the cool thing here is the unusual placement of the luggage compartments, a smart packaging idea that more supercar makers should learn from.
Read our full review on the 1993 McLaren F1
Porsche’s first mid-engined coupe since the 914, the 718 Cayman has a two-tier trunk in the back and a smaller compartment under the front hood. The rear trunk can hold about to three medium bags, although using the second tier hinders rearward visibility. The front compartment is obviously smaller and doesn’t provide room for more than one small bag, but the Cayman is a practical sports car overall.
The rear trunk has a 9.7-cubic-foot capacity, while the front trunk offers room for 5.2 cubic feet of luggage.
Overall luggage capacity is thus close to 15 cubic feet. Unfortunately, the 718 Cayman isn’t as powerful and luxurious as the McLaren GT, so it can’t really compete with the company’s newest mid-engined grand tourer. But it’s a solid competitor for the outgoing McLaren 570GT.
Read our full review on the 2019 Porsche 718 Cayman
Speaking of which, the 570GT is the GT’s spiritual predecessor. Heavily based on the 570S, it shares its underpinnings and much of the body style with the sports car, but it has a revised rear end that includes luggage space on top of the V-8 engine. This compartment offers 7.8 cubic feet of storage room, so it’s not exactly big, but there’s as much space as in the McLaren F1, but all in the same place. On the other hand, it falls behind the Porsche 718 Cayman.
Up front, the McLaren 570GT can swallow an additional 5.3 cubic feet of luggage, which increases total capacity to 13.1 cubic feet.
Needless to say, the McLaren GT is by far the most practical mid-engined sports car yet. But would you settle with it simply because it offers more room? If not, what car from this list would you pick? I wouldn’t mind owning a Porsche 914, to be honest. Let me know in the comments section.
Read our full review on the McLaren 570GT.
Read our full review on the 2020 McLaren GT.