Track and Field: Today's Track Day Cars Offer More for Less
By Jake Lingeman
The imminent arrival of the Scion FR-S and the Subaru BRZ have many enthusiasts thinking about the track-day-filled summer ahead. Since both of these rear-wheel-drive coupes will be available in limited numbers, we're going to explore some other options for track-day cars that could be as fun as the new sheetmetal from Japan.
We'll start with the less expensive stuff and work our way up, without crossing the $50,000 threshold. We will also rank the cars by power-to-weight-ratio and cost-to-power ratio.
The Hyundai Genesis coupe will set buyers back $22,250. It's the least expensive of the group, and it provides a touch more power (210 hp) than the Scion-Subaru pair. Unfortunately it's a bit heavier than the competition, resulting in a power-to-weight ratio of 15.7 pounds per pony. So, in power-to-weight it ranks second to last in our group of eight. However, the cost-to-power ratio is the second best of the group, at only $106 per horsepower.
The legendary Mazda MX-5 is next on the list. It has the least amount of power (167 hp), but also weighs in at a svelte 2,447 pounds, burdening each horse with just 14.7 pounds. The MX-5 roadster is on the less expensive end of the spectrum, costing $23,985 at the dealership, which gives it a middling cost of $144 per horsepower.
It seemed almost unfair to include the Nissan 370Z; after hearing the numbers, you'll know why. The Z car dominates the competition with a power-to-weight ratio of just 9.5 pounds per horse. The 3.7-liter V6 pumps out 350 hp, and the car weighs just 3,314 pounds. It wins in the cost comparison, too. Nissan only charges $91 for a horse, 15 bucks less than the next closest vehicle. If you're looking for a great value in a track-able two-seater, this may be it at $31,910. But let's move up in price anyway and see what we find.
The BMW 1-Series starts at $32,095 for the I6-powered 128i. That translates to a cost of $140 per horsepower, placing it in fifth on our list. The rock-solid chassis, six-speed manual and rear-wheel-drive setup make the base 1-series a good choice for a few hours at the track. It's the third most powerful, with 230 hp, but its curb weight of almost 3,500 pounds lands it low (15.2) on the power-to-weight scale.
Moving from Munich to Stuttgart, the Mercedes-Benz SLK250 comes in with a base price of $43,375. That puts the roadster in last place in cost to power ($216), and its curb weight puts it last for power to weight (16.5). The SLK justifies its cost with standard features such as rain-sensing wipers, power-folding mirrors and an HD radio—though much of that is useless on a track-day weekend.
The last car in our comparison is the Porsche Boxster. Its weight has been reduced, its body stiffened and its price increased. The base model now costs $49,500, making it the most expensive on our list. It's the second most powerful, with 255 hp, and power to weight is good for second on the list at just 11.5 pounds per pony. Porsche charges $194 per horsepower.
So, the Nissan 370Z seems to be the best value. It makes the most power out of our selection of short-wheelbase, rear-wheel-drive cars, but it sits in the middle of the price chart. With just a limited number of BRZ and FR-S coupes available, plenty of enthusiasts will be leaving Scion and Subaru dealerships empty-handed this spring. Luckily, there are plenty of other options available to those who are planning on some track time this summer.
Or what about the Genesis V6? Isn't that one north of 300hp?
Out of the cars written about, I like the Nissan Z. I love the styling, and that's a very respectable power output from a n/a V6.
I have to say I think the Mustang BOSS 302 is missing from this list. It's already been proven it'll take a M3 around the track, and it's priced less than the vastly underpowered Porsche and MB on this list.
Although this list is for new cars, a few used cars come to mind as well. Obviously older M3's. Also the Pontiac Solstice GXP....picture a Miata with alomst 100more hp. And the '98-'02 GM F-Bodies (Camaro/Firebird). For under ten grand, you get an all aluminum 305 hp (in reality underrated from an actual output of 345) 5.7L V8, and a six speed manual. Parts are readily available to make these corner carvers or straight line monsters. For the doubters, look up Sam Strano. There are in-car videos of him passing 911's in races with his modded 4th gen LS1 Camaro. It's actually very impressive, and can be done for relatively cheap money too, as compared to purchasing a brand new car.
I hope Mr. Condon reads this, but if your comparing vehicles and including the fr-s and brz which are brand new models I hope you would look at the new Genesis coupe which base model comes in at 274 hp not the old 210hp, big difference. Yes it also cost like 2k more but well woth the price jump
Yes it also cost like 2k more but well woth(sic) the price jump
The one thing that you neglect is that the base $24k Hyundai Genesis Coupe has an open differential, whereas all the other choices except for the Miata come with limited slip differentials standard. To get a Torsen limited slip differential, you have to buy the $26k Hyundai Genesis R-Spec. However, I feel the R-Spec is well worth the price with the improved suspension, thicker roll bars, better brakes, and the aforementioned Torsen. That puts it into good competition with the FR-S, which does have a Torsen standard at $25k.
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