Spannerhead Dot

5 Cars That Dropped in Weight
and Were the Better For It

May 8, 2013 by Matt

Call it The Car Diet Hall of Fame. The automotive win-win scenario, losing poundage benefits every performance metric, from acceleration and braking to handling and fuel economy. The only conceivable downside, besides the potential for a loss of interior space, is the surrender of protective bulk attenuating the force of a collision, but careful engineering can mitigate that disadvantage almost entirely.

Adding weight, more features, more space, more heft seems to be the path of least resistance when it comes to car development. The following, then, represent somewhat anomalous engineering solutions; they’re the exceptions, and deserve to be recognized as such:

1993 Mazda RX-7 RX7 FD Red

1993-1995 Mazda RX-7. Its explosive performance was as much a result of its 255 hp twin-turbo rotary engine as its 2,850 lb curb weight, a figure the wizards at Mazda managed to pare down by 100 lbs compared to the previous generation.

Lexus LS400 UCF20

1994-1997 Lexus LS400. Already covered in our “Underrated Lookers” series, Lexus was able to trim the original LS400’s weight by 200 lbs for the follow-up, down to a remarkable (especially nowadays) 3,600 lbs. Its lighter weight directly contributed to a Car and Driver comparo victory over such lofty competition as the BMW E38 and Mercedes W124 E-Class.

2014 New Mazda 6 Six Red

2014-present Mazda 6. When I first got wind that a new 6 was forthcoming, as much a fan as I am of the looks and execution, I was nervous about its performance vis-a-vis its competition, since I thought a 145 hp 4-cylinder would be the only engine available with a manual transmission option. Turns out not only was my worry unfounded—the new 6 weighs in at a very trim 3,100 lbs, making it easier for the supposed engine’s meager power to move around—the 189 hp engine is the lowest output available, and that with a 6-speed manual option to boot. Looks, handling, weight, power: Win-win-win-win.

1987 1988 Ford Thunderbird T-bird Tbird Turbo Coupe Super

9th-Generation Ford Thunderbird. The 8th generation really represented the initial downsizing after the brutish land yacht wasteland of the ’70s, but the 9th generation was arguably when the Thunderbird finally found its newer, smaller footing, appropriating the very serviceable Fox chassis from the contemporary Mustang and the clean aero styling from the Taurus. The newer, smaller package holds a lot of appeal.

1996 Lotus Elise Silver

Lotus Elise. Singlehandedly responsible for the renaissance of the moribund brand, the Elise’s back-to-basics philosophy is almost entirely built around its featherlight, sub-2,000 lb weight. 500 more pounds and it would have been a non-starter, and Lotus would most likely be dead.

Given that cars that undergo a diet are almost universally praised for their dynamic qualities, while the additional space (if present) and features of the outgoing cars are rarely missed, it’s surprising that more automakers don’t prioritize light weight.

Image credits:,

Filed under: Car Industry, Miscellaneous


  1. John D says:

    I hadn’t heard or seen anything about the new Mazda 6 until I saw one in a parking lot last week. Wow. Quite a looker. I liked the older Mazda 6, but this one actually makes me want to go buy one…if I didn’t need a truck almost all the time. But if I am ever in the market for that class of car, it will definitely be at the top of my list. Knowing that it’s lighter than ever makes it even more appealing…

    • Matt says:

      I test drove one last Saturday just for fun. Didn’t have a 6-speed on the lot so I had to make do with an auto. Very very nice car. Beautiful interior, lots of room under the hood. The test drive route was a little sedate so I didn’t get to sample the chassis very much. Only complaint is that rear visibility is a little restricted. If I were in the market for a new car a 6-speed would be at the top of my list; no hesitation. MSRP is just over $20K. Dunno if you’ve seen the latest issue of C&D but it clobbers the Accord in a head-to-head comparo.

      • John D says:

        I actually just read about it in C&D yesterday. Love the interior. Bring that 0-60 time down another second or so and it would be perfect (for the price). I just don’t think I would eve want a car that has a slower 0-60 time than the ’96 Camaro 3.8L that I had in college…that’s just going too much in the wrong direction for me. ;)

        • Matt says:

          I hear ya, and I’ve heard that complaint leveled at it before, but consider that it’s a family sedan; it’s easy to forget that the V6 Accord’s mid-6-second 0-60 time is the exception rather than the rule…

          • John D says:

            That’s not really a complaint/criteria I have for this car alone. It would apply to any car I ever wind up buying. I just flat out would not spend my money on a car that didn’t run (or have the easily accessible ability to run) a sub 6.5 sec 0-60 sprint. Let’s just say I’m spoiled by past experiences and anything slower than that just feels excruciatingly slow. I mean, the idea that I could be outrun by a Honda Accord would keep me from buying most anything. The only way I’ve worked around it lately is the fact that I don’t expect a truck to perform the way I would a car.

            Of course there is always the possibility of my making an exception, but it would have to be a darn good tradeoff to make me change my mind about sacrificing performance…

            • Matt says:

              That’s fair. If I let it, it makes me a little upset that Honda and other family sedan manufacturers have decided to break the mold and infuse their cars with so much straight-line performance. I’m all for speed, but don’t they know their place? :) (half-kidding)

Leave a Reply