Good track day performers, part three

Here’s the third and final segment of our three-part look at good track day performers— specifically, modern cars where practicality (grocery-getting, people-hauling, etc.) is indeed something of an object. To us, this is the most interesting of the lot, since we’ve always had a soft spot for sporty wagons, hatches, and sedans. They are near and dear to our hearts.

You can find the introductory post (with all the boring stipulations and so on) and part one of the list here, and part two of the list here.

MkIV R32. Its narrow-angle VR6 is still one of the best-sounding six cylinder engines, in our opinion.

MkV/MkVI four-door GTI (MkVI shown). For a sporty daily with no motorsport pretensions (serious ones, anyway) it remains surprisingly capable— its generous low-end torque and point-and-squirt nature will often let it play with cars it has no business playing with (ask us how we know). Adding thicker sway bars all but eliminates the factory understeer. Not the most athletic, but arguably the best all-around package among its peer group (its interior frequently touted as being Audi-like) and certainly the most quintessential and iconic— the one that started it all.

MkVI four-door Golf R. Like the GTI, but with AWD, a remapped ECU, and an even more luxurious interior. Expect to pay dearly for those upgrades. And because they share the same base 2.0T (which comes severely detuned from the factory – in the case of the GTI – and can quickly and inexpensively be retuned via aftermarket software), the difference to us is less compelling than the difference between the MkV GTI and the MkV R32, which at least differentiated itself with a stirring six-cylinder note in addition to the AWD.

Mazdaspeed3 (first generation). Cheapspeed3. Cheap, but good.

Mazdaspeed6. Not the prettiest car – its looks have not aged well, especially the front and rear – but still a legitimate sleeper, and moreso with each passing year.

WRX wagon (2006-2007)/Saab 9-2X Aero (9-2X Aero shown). The best car Saab never made is essentially a WRX with Saab trim. Either one – the Subaru or the “Saabaru” – would do nicely.

Five-door WRX (2009-present). Not a looker, but stupidly fast— especially considering the price. And its AWD system is the ace up its sleeve versus the likeminded MS3, which goes after the same buyer. If style, cheap speed and practicality are your only requirements, then look no further. Yeah, we’d roll one, warts and all.

B8 S4. The car that would give the 335i a serious run for its money.

E90 335i. We remain impressed as ever with these cars. They drive great. They sound terrific. They look sharp enough, the E90’s ubiquity notwithstanding. They really do represent the single do-it-all car we’d most like to have (under X amount of dollars, that is— otherwise, give us the M3), assuming we could only have one car.

E36 or E90 four-door M3 (E36 shown). Because a four-door M3 is preferable to a two-door M3.

E46 M3. Two doors limits its practicality somewhat, but it still packs plenty of cargo and passenger volume. And we probably love no M engine more than we love the E46 M3’s S54B32, whose praises have been sung far and wide.

Z3 M Coupe. Two words: shooting brake. You can fit a lot of junk in that trunk.

E28 or E34 M5 (E28 shown). This could have also appeared on part one of this list.

Honorable mentions

Two more that could have appeared on either list. The challenge with these is finding good ones— if you’re able to find one at all. Cars that were rare here to begin with are now exceedingly rare thanks to the unforgiving ravages of time. Good ones should be cherished and given the care they deserve.

Alfa 75/Milano:

Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16:

Let us know what else you think deserves to be on this particular list (again, modern cars where practicality is indeed something of an object).

Hope you enjoyed this three-part feature!

~ by velofinds on May 12, 2011.

15 Responses to “Good track day performers, part three”

  1. Not a huge fan of them but since this post was all about practical track toys I figured the Mitsubishi Evo would have found its way on the list.
    Anyway, I Really loved this three part feature. I hope to see more post like this in the future.

  2. i’m a fan of the evo, especially the evo x. but it is too much like the wrx sti (they are direct competitors, after all), and for this list i have tried to select 1) five doors over four (and four doors over two), and 2) value wherever possible. which is how i ended up with a five-door wrx, as opposed to a wrx sti or an evo. can’t beat the base wrx for practicality + value for the dollar.

    evos are sweet cars though. i’d love a base evo x with the vishnu programming.

  3. No love for the B5 S4? Although it has its maintenance issues, it still performs amazing and has a massive amount of aftermarket options.

    • no. i wouldn’t refuse one (especially an imola yellow or nogaro blue avant, which look terrific), but nor would i ever shop for one. there are simply too many other options for the same or less money that i’d rather have.

      if i needed to roll an avant as an occasional track car, i think a chipped b7 a4 2.0t (quattro, not fronttrak) would make the far better platform.

  4. I realize you touched on this earlier in the comments and that I am SEVERELY biased, but I would have liked to see the GR Chassis STI on the list. I realize that you were minding budget/value and that is why you opted for the WRX over the STI, but at the same time you had 3 different Golfs (the MKVI being priced at or above the STI). For the extra money, you are getting an extremely robust 6-speed, a driver controlled center diff, wider track and more POWAH! Alright, I’ll end my STI rant. I cannot help it, I smile every time I drive in a snow storm or load it up with more Ikea boxes than most people put in their Expeditions.

    Also, on the Mitsubishi argument, their Lancer Ralliart Sportback is compelling. You only get their flappy paddle trans, but I have seen a few built into some respectable track demons that can fit all four R-Comps in the back. Worth Mentioning.

    • haha, fair enough. just as you are sti-biased, so, too, am i golf-biased. i agree that the extra money for an sti is well spent, but for a lot of people (even enthusiasts), a wrx will be good enough. and that’s no knock on the sti— it’s a testament to how much the wrx gives you for relatively so little.

      i don’t buy the argument for the lancer ralliart sportback, however, because a wrx will eat its lunch all day. all. day.

    • also, i may have three VWs there, but i also have two subies 😉

      • I only say this because Automobiliac got to have his GTV6 on the list in Part one, and I didn’t want Bradley to have hold that over me.

        And I definitely want a Saabaru as a winter/daily when the STI works it’s way into a more track oriented state.

        • i wouldn’t sweat that. that’s like me putting a base gtv6 on the list and bradley has a callaway twin turbo gtv6— he automatically makes it.

  5. Alfa 75 all the way.

  6. e90 335i for me. Would love the M3, but to much$ at this point. I just hope they hold up better than my 325i has, the electronics in that car are worse than a Chevy.

  7. One car I’ll nominate that’s all too often overlooked is the 2002 – 2004 Ford Focus SVT. Fantastic handling, a fun high revving motor that was co-developed with Cosworth, and best of all, CHEAP! I just got mine for $4900 with 60k on the dial.

  8. i have to say i really enjoyed this. regardless of the cars included/not included some good ideas here. I’d go for the M coupe

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