A hot hatch, a German sports coupe, and a mid-engine V10 supercar all make the cut.
2022 was a big year for performance cars and track weapons alike, not just in the form of high-power hypercars and track-only specials but hot hatches that can hang with the big dogs, too. Picking our three finalists proved tricky, as not only were there a plethora of track-ready cars to choose from, but we also limited the eligibility of contenders to those we've driven in the calendar year. Without that caveat, the Track Weapon award for 2022 could easily have been the Porsche 911 GT3 RS or Chevy Corvette Z06 - instead, those will hopefully be in with a strong shout for next year's awards.
Still, we weren't short of options, with cars like the Lamborghini Aventador Ultimae, Nissan Z, Honda Civic Type R, and Porsche 911 T failing to make the final cut. The three that did are some of the finest track tools, irrespective of price, showcasing that a track weapon need not be all wings and horsepower to be taken seriously.
As a 50th birthday present to itself, the BMW M4 CSL was bound to be remarkable. After all, the CSL nameplate has only been used twice prior in BMW's illustrious history. Meant to be a track-focused street car, we found the M4 CSL acceptable but not at home on regular city streets. But that's perfectly OK because the rear seats have been removed, a set of staunch buckets have been equipped for the two remaining occupants, and BMW has dialed up every other aspect of the sports coupe.
Weight savings of 110 pounds make it the most agile of all current-gen M4 Coupes, while its unique styling, specialized paintwork, and abundance of carbon fiber make it look suitably aggressive. The 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six has been worked over by M's finest to produce 543 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque, sent to the rear axle via an eight-speed automatic. 0-60 mph takes 3.6 seconds, it'll reach a top speed of 191 mph, and it'll lap the Nurburgring in 7:20.2.
Built as the final send-off for the second-generation Audi R8 and the naturally aspirated V10 that powers it, the 2023 Audi R8 GT is a highly exclusive super sports car of which only 333 will be built globally, with 150 coming to America at $249,900 each.
More hardcore than ever, it channels 602 hp in US spec to the rear wheels alone, with revised gearing for the seven-speed DCT, a new suspension system (adjustable in Europe but fixed in America), and CFRP anti-roll bars. A carbon fiber aero kit develops more than 600 lbs of downforce at a top lick of 199 mph, with 0-60 mph taking 3.4 seconds.
The R8 GT isn't the most rapid around any circuit, nor does it rewrite any laws of physics when accelerating from a standstill. Instead, it refines an older supercar recipe to perfection and celebrates an era when sound, emotion, and connection mattered more than mere numbers. It's a perfect send-off to the V10 and will remain an icon forevermore.
Even the regular Toyota GR Corolla could've made it onto this list, but it's the Morizo Edition that makes the final cut because it is just that good. Named after Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda's racing pseudonym, the Morizo Edition takes the back seat and rear windscreen wiper out of the regular GR Corolla, along with some of the sound deadening to trim 100 lbs of excess fat.
The 1.6-liter three-cylinder motor also gets an extra dose of torque, with 295 lb-ft of the stuff accompanied by 300 hp. That goes out to all four corners via a revised six-speed manual gearbox with shorter ratios than the standard car. Oh, and the AWD system has adjustable torque settings that can apportion up to 70% of the twist to the rear axle to turn this rally-inspired hot hatch into a drift weapon.
The result is nothing short of spectacular and left CarBuzz Editor-at-Large Jared Rosenholtz trembling with excitement after he'd spent time with it on track. We never thought we'd see the day a Toyota Corolla would be considered alongside a mid-engined V10 supercar and a BMW CSL model for track weapon, but it's that good.