As the popularity of track day has grown over time, so too has the market for suitable high-performance rides. And it’s not without good reason; after all, adhering to the speed limit makes for some pretty hum-drum driving, so it’s an invigorating experience when you venture outside of your comfort zone and push a car to its limits. Free from the threat of tickets and the danger of other drivers, you can finally unleash every horse for what it’s worth and wrestle all of the traction you can from the tires. Just one problem: if you want to extract the most performance you can, you’ll have to cut some weight. Which likely means buying a car for the track. Which, in turn, means you’ll need a truck and a trailer to get it there.
Well, unless you can find one you can drive on the road, that is. For you see, over the past decade, automakers have been increasingly building their track toys for the street, ensuring that they meet the necessary safety and emissions regulations whilst still offering raw, unadulterated driver’s thrills. Some are basically production cars after an extensive makeover, first put on an aggressive diet and then dressed to the nines with carbon fiber parts. Others, however, barely skirt legality and are more race cars than they are road vehicles. Granted, they may have all the right fixins to be considered compliant, but the six-point safety harness, open-top design, and stiff suspension aren’t fooling anyone. No matter which strikes your fancy, though, know that we’ve looked all over to find the best street-legal track cars money can buy. Read on to find out.
2021 BMW M2 Competition
If you’re feeling put off by the nearly 90-grand that BMW’s asking for the M2 CS, don’t fret; the Competition spec offers practically all of the same componentry in a slightly less exclusive (and therefore more affordable) package. Under the hood, it comes powered by a twin-turbo 3.0L inline-six good for 405hp and 406lb-ft of torque — enough to take the car to 60mph in 4.2s. And while it’s available with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, the fact that it’s still offered with a 6-speed manual is a true testament to its driver-focused intent. Riding on a set of 19″ M wheels with 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brakes, the 2-series may be the littlest BMW to get the M treatment over here in the US, but it’s just as performance-focused as its more powerful siblings.
Engine: Twin-Turbo 3.0L Inline-Six
2021 Caterham Seven 620
Ever since Colin Chapman designed the original back in 1957, the Seven has catered to high-octane enthusiasts far and wide with its exceptionally low weight and responsive handling. As the fastest production car Caterham has ever built, the 620 increments upon its predecessors’ success in the best way possible: power. Churning out some 310 horses courtesy of a supercharged 2.0L Ford Duratec inline-four, it’ll rocket you to 62mph in just 2.7s with just a few quick changes of its 5-speed shifter. When specced in its road-going S configuration, it comes with all of the usual track-ready accouterments — like 4-point harnesses, carbon fiber paneling, and a dry-sump oil system — in addition to more practical additions such as some higher-riding 15″ Orcus alloys; a full windscreen, roof, and side-screens; as well a factory heat system.
Engine: Supercharged 2.0L Inline-Four
2021 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE
Sure, by and large, muscle cars don’t belong within spitting distance of a corner, but the Camaro is one option that proves an exception to the rule. That’s because Chevy’s 1LE tuning package is actually quite the competent track upgrade, adding magnetic ride control, powerful Brembo brakes, and an electronic limited-slip diff amongst a slew of other performance-focused features. While it’s available across the entirety of the ‘Maro range, we’d have it in the range-topping ZL1 shown here. With its ultra-aero carbon bodywork and 650hp supercharged 6.2L V8, it’ll put your average straight-line American sprinter to shame.
Engine: Supercharged 6.2L V8
2021 Ariel Atom 4
No list of street-legal track toys would be complete without the Atom, a car that’s not just Ariel’s claim to fame but one that’s also responsible for many of the lightweight rockets currently on the road today. A true parts bin special created in the pursuit of all-out thrills, it’s fitted with the cream of the suspension crop, such as Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs, and AP Racing brakes. Not only that but it also features a turbocharged 2.0L Honda i-VTEC engine, offering iron-clad durability and over 500hp per ton. When you consider that it’ll do 0-60mph faster than a Ferrari (2.8s) with more grip than a Porsche, the result is a stripped-back racer that has everything required to be a true supercar killer.
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L Inline-Four
2021 Lotus Evora GT
With Lotus in the process of transitioning towards a fully electric lineup, the Evora GT represents one of the last opportunities you’ll have to get your hands on a petrol-powered car from Norfolk. Sure, it’s a bit antiquated by today’s standards (especially the infotainment display), but this isn’t a car you buy for the comfort of ownership. Rather, with its lively 416hp supercharged 3.5L V6, lightweight chassis, and engaging shift setup, the latest edition of the Evora makes for an exciting driver’s car that’s just begging to be brought to the track. It looks great in any color, but we’d have ours in racing green with some sporty yellow calipers.
Engine: Supercharged 3.5L V6
2022 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
With the 911 now more of a sedate grand tourer than it is a spritely sports car, it’s fallen to the 718 series to carry on the platform’s legacy. And while that’s a pretty tall order for more middling-spec Caymans and Boxsters, the GT4 is one option that does so with flying colors. In losing its two turbos for an extra liter of displacement, the 4.0L flat-six has rediscovered its soul, adding an extra 40-odd horsepower — bringing it to a total of 414 — and angrily snarling all the way to 8,000rpm. Complemented by a grip of choice-cut components pulled from Porsche’s high-performing GT3 cars and a manual-only transmission option, it makes for an exercise in scalpel-like precision.
Engine: 4.0L Flat-Six
2021 KTM X-Bow R
If you’re familiar with KTM for its extensive lineup of award-winning motorcycles, then you’ll be pleased to know that its two-wheeled expertise translates well into the world of automobiles. In the case of the X-Bow, you’re getting a radical, open-topped race car with a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis, a mid-mounted 300hp Audi engine, and a completely flat undercarriage that’s been optimized for aerodynamic efficiency. It doesn’t come with doors, a “real” windscreen, or any semblance of modern-day creature comforts, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a car that’s any more purpose-built for carving corners.
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L Inline-Four
2021 Radical RXC GT
As the first closed-top coupe Radical has ever built, the RXC makes the British automaker’s track-tested engineering more fit for the road than ever before. Wearing a body inspired by LMP racers, the car generates nearly 2,000lbs of downforce, ensuring that it’s capable of up to 2.1G in the turns and a mere 2.8-second 0-60mph time under the power of its 400hp 3.5L twin-turbo EcoBoost V6. and while Radical has specced the RXC standard with the usual mix of race harnesses, roll cages, and bucket seats, you do have the option to add things like air conditioning and ABS braking should you want it to be a bit easier to tame during rush-hour traffic.
Engine: Twin-Turbo 3.5L V6
2019 Jaguar XE SV Project 8
Okay, so technically the XE was killed off in the states after the 2020 model year, meaning it’ll take some patience if you’re trying to track down a Project 8. However, assuming you can get your paws on one of these hot little numbers, know that your efforts will be well-rewarded. Billed as the “most extreme performance Jaguar ever” at the time of its debut, it’s a true animal of a car that hides a 592hp V8 under the hood, wears a crop of aerodynamic carbon-fiber add-ons, and rides on motorsport-derived suspension. Oh, and if you’re really set on track day dominance, you can even have yours specced with four-point racing harnesses, carbon-fiber bucket seats, and the rear bench removed.
Engine: Supercharged 5.0L V8
2021 BAC Mono
From its single-seat cockpit to its scant 1,257-pound curb weight, the Mono is a vehicle that’s minimalist in every sense of the word. Of course, BAC’s offering is a far sight less practical than most road-going production cars — what with its track-tuned suspension and its noticeably absent flyscreen — but that’s because it’s a vehicle that pushes the very limits of street legality. Powered by a mid-mounted, Mountune-developed 2.5L inline-four, it takes just 2.7s to leap to 60mph before finally ripping your face off at 170mph. If you need any further proof of the Mono’s race car pedigree, just check out its grippy Pirelli tires, dorsal intake, and open-wheel rear end.
Engine: 2.5L Inline-Four
2020 Donkervoort D8 GTO JD70
Built in honor of founder Joop Donkervoort’s 70th birthday, the 415hp D8 GTO-JD70 is the most powerful car the Dutch automaker has ever produced. And while that in itself is no small feat, the rest of the package proves even more impressive. Coming in at less than 1,542lbs because of its extensive carbon fiber bodywork (95%, to be exact) and lightweight battery setup, the D8 GTO-JD70 is the world’s first supercar capable of exceeding 2Gs as it corners. Even in straight lines, it’s a pretty formidable opponent, matching the above Mono’s 0-60 time and requiring a mere five seconds more in order to reach 124mph. With only examples 70 total, though, you better be on Mr. Dronkervoort’s good side if you want one of these exclusive open-topped beasts for yourself.
Engine: 2.5L Audi Inline-Five
2021 McLaren 620R
The 620R is essentially what would happen if you were to take McLaren’s 570S GT4 race car, free it from all restrictions, and somehow register it for use on the road. Because let’s face it. Even though the 620R may have all of the essentials — brake lights, turn signals, etc. — the street-legal getup isn’t very convincing; this is a vehicle that’s been bred for the track. The cabin is spartan, the ride harsh, and the ground clearance non-existent, but the 620R is a surgical tool through the turns and a blunt instrument on the straight-aways, speeding along to 60mph in 2.8s thanks to its 612hp twin-turbo V8.
Engine: Twin-Turbo 3.8L V8
2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series
As the fastest production car to ever lap the legendary Nurbürgring, the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series is about as track-optimized as you can get while still rocking a set of plates. Under the hood, power comes from a 720hp twin-turbo 4.0L V8 with a newly-developed flat-plane crankshaft for improved balance. Around the outside, it’s shod in a generous swathe of lightweight carbon fiber bodywork, with aerodynamic dressings coming in the form of an extended front diffuser, an adjustable rear wing, and air-channeling vents and intakes as far as the eye can see. It makes for a pretty marked improvement over its predecessor — the GT R — but it’s one that’ll certainly cost you at nearly double the price.
Engine: 5.2L V10
2022 Lamborghini Huracan STO
Since 2009, Lamborghini has been holding its one-make Super Trofeo series in an effort to put the Squadra Corse’s automotive mastery on full display. With the addition of the Huracán STO, the illustrious Italian marque essentially took the event’s Huracán EVO racer and made it legal for the road. Much more than a mere derivative, however, it sheds nearly 95lbs from the lightweight Performante car, whilst being some 37% more efficient in the wind and making as much as 53% more downforce. Add to that one of the Raging Bull’s naturally-aspirated 5.2L V10s and you have a car that’ll do 62mph in 3.0s flat, 214mph in 9.0s flat, and climb all the way to 192.
Engine: Twin-Turbo 4.0L V8
2021 Ford GT
The Ford GT is a car that’s proved itself at Le Mans time and time again, first in its defeat of Ferrari in 1966, then with its 50th-anniversary victory in 2016, and most recently in 2019 before the race program was shut down. And here’s the thing — in spite of its performance pedigree, the new GT makes for a surprisingly manageable supercar for real-world living. At the back, it’s driven by a 3.5L twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, allowing it to produce a thundering 660 horses whilst still attaining 18mpg on the highway. And because it rides on active, adjustable multi-mode suspension, all it takes is a push of a button and the car goes from daily driver to tire slayer before you can say “Shelby.”
Engine: 3.5L Twin-Turbo V6
Caught On A Technicality
Factory Five GTM Supercar
If you’re looking to build your own street-able track car on a budget, you can’t go wrong with Factory Five’s GTM Supercar kit. Assembling at home with in-depth instructions and everyday hand-tools, it comes with practically everything you need apart from an engine and some assorted running gear pieces. Because it’s a roller, performance is ultimately left up to you; however, Factory Five recommends dropping in an LS pulled from a C5 Corvette. Just imagine the pride you’ll feel when rolling up to the track in a car built in your garage.
The 10 Best Race Tracks In The USA
Now that you have a handle on what road cars offer the most race-ready performance, it’s time to find a suitable proving ground to test your skills. If you find yourself in the lower 48, be sure to check out our guide to the best race tracks in the USA.
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