For when you don't want to have to use a trailer.
Building a track weapon is a long and costly affair. Thankfully, many automakers breed their own versions of sports cars that you can drive to the track, thrash around, then drive back home in. There are also companies that specialize in building dedicated track cars that are also road legal. Often, factory track weapons are costly as they are performance bred specialty machines, but it's not always the case, and there are some affordable options on this list.
So, if you want to cut out the lost weekends in the garage, the strain on a marriage, or writing the big checks to specialty companies that will build and tune a weekend racer, these are some of the best street-legal track cars you can buy today.
If you think the E46 generation M3 was BMW at its finest, you might be right. However, the M2 Competition is right out of the same stable and has a wickedly sharp edge for the track. BMW strapped two turbochargers on its straight-six engine to bring the output up to 405 horsepower, and it comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. The engine has a wet-sump lubrication system, the drivetrain features an Active M Differential, and it grips and handles precisely as a hardcore M car should. It starts at $58,900, which feels like a steal in the world of BMW pricing.
The Honda Civic Type R is a monster on the road and the track. Somehow, Honda has managed to build a front-wheel-drive car with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque that doesn't try and torque steer you into the nearest tree. It's also a surprisingly comfortable daily driver, as well as a track-ready scalpel. The 2020 model year brings revisions to the front suspension and dampers to tighten up handling even more, and a set of revised brake rotors that will stay cooler for longer.
You could go for the Shelby GT350, making 526 hp from a 5.2-liter naturally-aspirated flat-plane crank V8, and nobody will think less of you. It's a wonderful way to spend just under $60,000. However, if you can write a bigger check, then $72,900 will get you a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 cross-plane crank engine with 760 hp from an engine that screams like a banshee. It's not just a straight line machine, though. Don't ask us to pronounce magnetorheological dampers, but the Shelby GT500 has them along with grip for days and handling that allows it to balance right on the edge at ten-tenths.
Anyone that tells you that the GT-R is outdated hasn't driven one. Masterpieces don't age, and the Nismo version has a few extra brushstrokes that turn it into one the most hardcore production cars that Nissan has built. The twin turbos replacing the stock ones on the hand-built 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 are the same design as the ones currently used on Nissan's GT3 race car. It produces 600 hp and 481 lb-ft of torque delivered to the ground through an all-wheel-drive system featuring a six-speed dual-clutch transaxle. It's explosive off the line, aggressive through the shifts and takes corners at a breathtaking pace. Even more breathtaking is the $210,740 price tag, but what you're getting is a Japanese supercar with a long pedigree that's been honed on the race track.
The GT4 version of the Porsche Cayman is back for 2020, and no longer is the turbocharged four-cylinder engine dulling the driving experience. Instead, the 2020 Cayman GT4 sports a naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six engine that will rev all the way to 8,000 rpm. It also generates 414 hp and 309 lb-ft of torque, and there's no other option than a six-speed manual transmission. On the track, it's handling and grip blend into harmony with the drivetrain and delivers an experience that rewards novice and skilled drivers alike. At $99,200, it's as close to the perfect sports car as Porsche offers.
You don't need to spend crazy money to drive straight from the dealership to the track and enjoy one of the finest sports cars on the planet. Spec the Club trim, and you get all the joy a Mazda MX-5 brings to the road, plus better and more track-tuned suspension and a limited-slip differential. You can then add bigger Brembo brakes and BBS wheels. It's a hell of a lot of driving fun for $30,290, particularly when you go sailing past more powerful cars on a track day because you've had to learn the art of maintaining momentum.
The Mercedes-AMG GT R is not only achingly beautiful to look at, but it also has one of the most vibrant V8 engines available today, generating 577 hp at 6,250 rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque at 1,900 rpm while sounding incredible. Anyone thinking that the AMG GT R might be a poser's track car should bear in mind it lapped the Nurburgring in 7:10.92, a full six seconds faster than the GT car. At $162,900 before adding any options, it's not cheap, though.
If you're not interested in driving to work every day in your track day car, then you can go for something raw and iconic. The Caterham Seven 620 is Caterham's fastest road-legal car in its lineup, and adding the R package hones it into one of the finest corner-carving knives you can buy for just over $65,000. The 620 comes with a supercharged Ford Duratec engine making over 300 hp and 160 lb-ft of torque in a car weighing just 1,344 lbs. The R pack adds a slew of extra features, ranging from a dry sump for the engine and a limited-slip differential to a race suspension package and four-point harnesses. It's a highly-strung car that's frighteningly quick and elementally brutal to drive. It's also way more fun than that last sentence suggests.
If two seats are one seat too many for your track car and you want to feel like a Formula racer, the BAC Mono is as hardcore as they come. There's an all-new version for 2020, and BAC has given it all-new aerodynamics while partnering with Mountune to create a dry sump system for the new 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The engine makes 332 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque while the car weighs just 1,256 lbs. It will hit 60 mph in 2.7 seconds, which is faster than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. All that performance and cutting edge tech doesn't come cheap though: the Mono will set you back $212,240.
Weirdly, the most track-honed car you can buy from Jaguar isn't based around the F-Type. Instead, it's the car Jaguar built to become the fastest four-door production car in the world, which it succeeding in doing - twice - when it cracked the Nurburgring in 7:18.361. It's all-wheel drive and comes powered by a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 producing 592 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Other features on top of the production car include bespoke carbon fiber body panels, carbon-ceramic brakes, lightweight forged alloy wheels, an adjustable front splitter, a functional rear diffuser, and a massive adjustable rear wing. The cost to own the fastest production four-door car is high, though, and will set you back $187,500.