10.BMW M3 $60,100
BMW’s 3-series is already used as the benchmark for sports-sedans and coupes all over the world. It’s well balanced, has power going to the rear-wheels, and is a fine combination of fun and sportiness. But for those looking for more sport in a car will opt for the M3. Unlike it’s competition from Mercedes, the M3 is still available with a six-speed manual transmission-a key requirement for many track-serious drivers. It can also be had with a dual-clutch automatic that can outperform your own skills, but isn’t perhaps as fun. The M3′s 4.0-liter V8 pumps out 414-hp and 295 ft-lb of torque, and a whole 8,400 rpms to explore all that power.
When asked, the M3 will blast to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, but that’s not all it will do. Thanks to an impressive amount of high-tech goodies, the M3 will hunker down and take on the track in a way that reminiscent of the brand’s DTM race-cars. Like other cars on this list, the M3 features a locking differential that will help deliver more traction and power coming out of a turn. The M3 also features electronic dampening control, so the car will feel softer when its not on the track.
Sure our first car on the list breaks the $60K mark right off the bat, but if you can’t land one for under asking, you’re not trying hard enough – especially now that the M3 is at the end of its life-cycle.
And if you do have more to spend, for an extra $10,000 there’s the Lime Rock Park Edition (seen above).
Check our review of the BMW M3 with the competition package, where it was tested on the big and fast Road America track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
9.Audi TT-RS $58,095
Audi has proven itself on the global stage with its LeMans victories, having won the past three 24-hours of LeMans, and winning 11 times since 2000. While the TT might not look like a race car, it is an established coupe and when Audi decided to give the little coupe the RS treatment, they went all out.
The TT-RS gets a turbocharged five-cylinder engine which puts out 360-horsepower. That power goes to all four wheels thanks to Audi’s quattro AWD system, and helps the TT-RS get to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. The TT’s short wheelbase is a great handling feature, but thanks to an upgraded magnetic shocks system it’s even more lively around the track.
Want more for track-use? The TT-RS has performance rated 255/35 performance tires strapped to 19-inch alloy wheels. Then there’s the weight. The TT-RS weighs only 3,306 lbs, just 100lbs more than the TT-S coupe, even though it has much larger engine and brakes.
For further proof of the Audi TT-RS’s performance, read the full review with video.
8. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 $56,550
Chevrolet’s Camaro has been stuck in the shadow of being Bumblebee for far too long. With the ZL1 package the muscle-car is all beefed up and is ready to take on the rest of these track specials. Thanks to a supercharger, the ZL1 now makes a whopping 580-hp, allowing it to hit 60mph in under 4 seconds. The ZL1 isn’t just a supercharger strapped to a V8 though. It’s impressive handling upgrades were put to the ultimate test in Germany, with the crazy Camaro achieving a 7:41.27 lap time around the famous Nurburgring race track.
The ZL1′s magnetic ride control helps the big car handle so well, allowing suspension settings to be adjusted up to 1,000 times per second. This allows the car to be as responsive as possible, and provides precision on the track, and comfort on the street. This all works with the ZL1′s impressive traction control, which is taken straight from Chevy’s most menacing vehicle, the Corvette ZR1.
Helping keep the ZL1 under control are massive Brembo brakes, and unique Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G2 tires that were developed specifically for the ZL1. All this performance for under $60,000 make the top-dog Camaro a choice for those looking for the most bang for their buck.
For those looking for a cheaper option there’s another Camaro worth mentioning. The Camaro SS 1LE is only $37,035. This is an extra package tacked on top of the normal SS and features a lot of the track-ready design that went into the ZL1. It all works together to make the normal Camaro SS withstand a serious trip on the track. It also features the same set of tires as the ZL1. The true test of the 1LE package will come soon. Chevrolet is hard at work at getting the 1LE SCCA approved for the Touring Class competition.
Wannabe track stars should read our Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 review while those on a budget should definitely read the Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE review
7. Nissan 370Z NISMO $43,020
Nissan’s Motorsports division, NISMO got their hands on the already impressive 370Z and made it even more spirited. While the NISMO Z weighs a bit more than the normal Z (including the convertible) it also packs in 18-hp and 6 lb-ft of torque. While extra power does help, the NISMO Z also gets a tuned suspension setup with increased spring, dampening and stabilizer rates, in order to help out when the track gets busy. The NISMO also gets vented sport brakes with more durable hoses and special fluids. Finally, to prove it’s worth to the enthusiasts, the NISMO is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission, although for track novices a SynchroRev Match transmission is a good choice with its awesome automatic rev-matching.
The NISMO Z needs a bit more attention for more intense track use, especially in regards to cooling. To see more about the Nissan 370Z NISMO, read our review, which even has a video of its track performance.