Expert Car Picks: Best road-going track toys? Here's what our car journos would buy
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So it’s time for a bit of frivolous fun, with a budget of $200,000 to buy one vehicle that can cover off the daily commute to work, and also a track day once-a-month track day. No hardcore, tube-frame track-day specials here, because of the need to get it to work on Monday morning. And no soft motorway barges, as it needs to tick over respectable fastest laps without catching fire or rolling over on a warm-up lap.
Editor, Dean Evans: Tesla Model S Performance
It may look silly at first glance, but stick with me here. I’m a big believer in separating road and track, as I’ve driven both road car on track and track car on road, and neither is particularly satisfying. However, I’d typically lean towards an Evolution X, but they’re no longer on sale. Renault’s Megane RS is good, just not fast enough, plus I’d already picked it in our Hot Hatches story. Ford’s Focus RS is no longer on sale, and the ST isn’t hard enough. Honda Civic Type R/Mugen RR? Part of me wants to choose it for Matt, in his departed-from-DRIVEN honour. But with a $200k budget, we can do better than that.
Porsche? No doubt David will choose the best one he can squeeze under budget and Andrew will pick a VW (nothing fast enough) or a BMW (plenty to choose from), so my affection for being a little off-centre autonomously steers me towards a Tesla Model S.
Based purely on maths, one track day a month is just 3 percent of its life, so I’ve really put a priority on the 97% road driving aspect, with its premium interior and internet streaming sound. I’ll have the carbon fibre interior (standard) and the spoiler, thanks. And autopilot is included, though I still can’t bring myself to fork out $11k for the Full-Self-Driving mode, just like I did when we chose our best cars for under $100k.
At $177,990, it’s well under ‘budget’, and dual motor all-wheel drive, with minimal maintenance, so no oil changes after each track day, either.
I’d also choose the Red Multi-Coat paint, a $4100 option, and though I love the look of the 21-inch Sonic Carbon Twin Turbine wheels, at $5700 I’ll pass, however I will fork out similar for a set of spare set of track day wheels and tyres to swap over, and some spare brake pads.
Crucially, the Tesla S Performance also includes Ludicrous mode, which is awesome purely for the ability to tell people you have it; offering 0-100km/h in 2.5 seconds and a top speed of 261km/h and a road-driving range of 593km.
Which segues into the obvious question: sure it’s quick around a track, and I’ll happily challenge the other guys, whatever they choose.
But battery life on track and charging? There’s a fast charger at Hampton Downs, for example, so with time between track sessions to top up, and a big break for lunch, I’d only need 2-3 laps per session to have some fun – around 10 mins per session, so that ‘should’ leave me with just enough volts to get me home again.
The Tesla Model S Performance the anti-hero that’s not expected to win, but that makes its performance as a track-day car that much sweeter – it’s the unexpected underdog, which makes it that much sweeter. On a set of semi-slick R-compound tyres, it’d clean up most performance cars, and then drive home semi-autonomously with a freshly washed feeling of smugness.
Prove it to me that it’s not the best choice here (just don’t mention the overheating issues on-track).
Deputy Editor, David Linklater: Porsche 718 Cayman GTS
Choosing a car that works well on both road and track is theoretically a daunting task, because the requirements for each are so very different and excellence in one generally has a negative effect on the other.
But great news: Porsche makes a 718 Cayman specifically for this dual purpose.
I’m not talking about the new GT4, which is a wonderful thing but arguably a bit too circuit-focused – it’s pretty raw in parts and the gearing isn’t quite right for (legal) road driving.
Besides, it’s a bit over budget at $217,000.
The perfect fit is the 718 Cayman GTS at $173,700, or the 718 Boxster GTS roadster at $175,800. Porsche’s précis of the GTS line is exactly the brief of this DRIVEN exercise: to combine the roadgoing manners and refinement of a premium sports car with proper circuit ability.
With the 718 GTS you still get the mighty naturally aspirated 4.0-litre boxer-six engine with 294kW and 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds.
In true track-Porsche tradition, you can also have it in lurid primary colours like red, yellow, green or orange. Go on, you know you want to.
Digital Writer, Andrew Sluys: BMW M2 Competition
If you're planning on buying something that can perform daily commuting duties as well as offer thrilling rides on the track, you want something that falls in the middle.
In my opinion, David has gone too track orientated with the Porsche Cayman - aren't back seats needed for daily duties? And Dean has chosen a glorified vacuum cleaner that will leave him stranded after just one lap with the hammer down.
The obvious choice is a BMW, and while it's hard to go wrong with any 'M' model in line-up, I've gone with the smallest, because it offers the best driving dynamics.
Unlike the Porsche, the M2 Competition is offered in New Zealand exclusively with a seven-speed DCT, which isn't an ideal start, I know, but wait for the rest of it.
The twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six sends a hefty 302kW and 550Nm to the rear wheels, meaning that the coupe can hit 100km/h from a standstill in just over four seconds.
When it comes to track time, those DCT shifts are lightning-fast, and turning off the traction control only makes everything more enjoyable across the tarmac.
And then there's the practicality of having four seats, even though normal-sized adults may find those rear ones a squeeze, the option is there.
At $129,990, you're left with a large chunk of change from the $200k budget, so opting for the sportier M2 CS might be an option, but NZ pricing and availability information is scarce.