Best track day cars 2022
These are our picks of the best trackday cars for your 2022 season!
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in all sorts of track-focused sentiments when talking about high-performance cars, but unlike high-performance road cars, track cars have a much more narrow-minded focus, one that doesn’t always translate from what might be an otherwise brilliant road car.
So pushing to one side the frustrating remarks from marketing departments about what might feature track-focused dynamics, here’s our take on the best cars for your trackday desires, be that something designed specifically for the job, or a car with a broader remit.
This list will inevitably include multiple examples of trackday stalwarts from Caterham and Ariel, so rather than just pick one, we’ll give you a rundown of the highlights from each range, and what those models excel at, or indeed don’t.
There’s also a sense that a few of these cars are either soon to be or entirely now out of production, but being so close to new, we couldn’t help but throw them in for good measure, possibly making them a good long-term keeper considering their bombastic characteristics.
So without a particular order, here are the best trackday cars you can buy now that’ll make every turn-in, apex and straight a pleasure…
If we were to split Caterham’s range into individual entries on this list, you might find that ‘Best trackday cars’ would instead be ‘Best Caterhams, with an Ariel thrown in’, so vast and widely brilliant is the range. New for 2021 is the entry-level 170 model which pairs the Suzuki-sourced turbo triple with Japanese-spec axles to create not just the smallest Caterham in the range, but also the lightest, with the R coming in at barely 440kg.
Cycle through these super-lightweights and you arrive at the 360 and 420 models in the mid-range, the latter Sigma-engined 420 being particularly virile. The hypersonic 620 tops the range, and while most variants are available in both S and R forms, the latter is more track-focused. The nature of Caterham means you can essentially specify any model to your exact preference, creating what might be one of the all-time greats of trackday superstars. Even better, most are equally fabulous on the road, and they hold their value too. This list isn’t ranked, but Caterham Sevens sit at the top of this web page for a reason.
Similar deal here to the Caterham, as the Ariel Atom in pretty much all its forms represents a pinnacle of trackday thrills. Stick to the absolute current range and the Atom 4 is resplendent in its magnificence – intense, malleable and intoxicatingly quick. Some might prefer the instantaneous snap of the 3’s supercharged four-cylinder, but the 4’s turbocharged thrust is not only more powerful, but offers its own appeal from its boosty delivery.
If you’re after something a little bit different, the Nomad is also an absolute blast, and any preconceived notions that the naturally aspirated 2.4-litre engine might be more CR-V than Ariel are completely unfounded, as the extra torque gives the Nomad a different edge, so too its long-travel suspension and hilarious propensity to be able to traverse any terrain in any weather. Just make sure you’re wearing appropriate apparel.
Another British specialist, BAC’s Mono might also have some exposed front steering arms but it’s a much more serious proposition. This is reflected in the £250k asking price, putting it at the very very sharp end for something that, although technically road legal, really is just a toy.
Yet the pay-off is a unique experience dominated by the Mono’s truly astounding capability and speed. Anything this side of a GT3 racer will have some serious issues keeping up with the Mono, and almost nothing else combines its near-open-wheeler experience with such superb build quality.
The McLaren Sports Series has delivered some very impressive trackday cars over the years, but it took until the very end for the most extraordinary model to arrive. You might think this to be the 600LT, and brilliant though our eCoty winner is, it was the 620R that approached things from a new direction, not building on the road car with track-focused elements, but starting with the 570 GT4 racing car and then applying only the absolutely necessary elements to return to road legality.
The magic with the 620R is that this track focus doesn’t come at the expense of balance or approachability. The key McLaren elements of synaptic steering, confidence under braking and a delicate balance to the damping remain, but with more power, more grip and more capability than pretty much any other road-going car on sale.
Porsche 911 GT3
A Porsche 911 GT3 will always come with baggage, but when Porsche consistently delivers it is hard for it not to be the yardstick by which all others are judged. The 992 did start with one arm tied behind its back, though. The larger, heavier and more technically sophisticated 911 Carrera and Turbo models are undoubtedly impressive, but it almost felt like capability came at the expense of engagement – a trait we worried would translate to the new 992 GT3.
We needn’t have, as while the GT3’s immense performance and grip are almost otherworldly, when opened up on track there are few cars that have a more stirring and motorsport-like feel. The GT3’s 4-litre engine might share a cubic capacity with the lesser 718 GT4, but its extra 1000rpm of rev range does wonders on top of its obvious lift in power and torque, while the new double-wishbone suspension up front gives the nose a tenacious turn-in. Even better, push beyond those limits and the chassis is balanced and sweet.
Toyota GR Yaris
The GR Yaris might be a homologation special designed for unpaved road surfaces, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of its depth on the track. With space to push the GR beyond its prodigious grip limits, driving the Yaris on track is great fun, and gives you the chance to experience the true differences between the quite distinct driver modes, especially on the Circuit Pack model that has those front and rear locking differentials.
And with its short wheelbase and four-square stance, the GR’s occasional snappiness on road can be fully explored without fear. Meanwhile, the brilliant brakes and sheer speed capable from its terrific little turbo triple make this one of the very best hot hatchbacks to take on track. And we’d hazard a guess off track too...
Nissan GT-R Nismo
While the notion of a 1700kg-plus track car might challenge natural conventions, in the GT-R Nismo’s case most of that weight is derived from the oily bits that make it stop, corner and go. And, boy, does it. The GT-R’s track focus has waned over this generation, but in latest MY21 Nismo form its uprated brakes and storming V6 twin-turbo engine make it a devastatingly quick track car with resilience to back it up.
The Nismo’s brilliant all-wheel-drive system does its best to keep that forward momentum going as efficiently as possible, but the playful edge to its dynamic character makes this a fantastic car to really push beyond its limits in the safety net of a circuit. Even on tighter tracks, the GT-R’s astonishing capability makes it one of the most entertaining track cars on sale right now, and crucially a brilliantly distinctive experience that could only be delivered in something with a GT-R badge affixed to the rump.
Lotus Exige Cup 410
Lotus might be on the cusp of introducing its next generation of vehicles in the Emira, Evija and forthcoming SUV, but before they arrive there’s just enough time to run out and grab the last of the historic nameplates that have been teaching the competition about dynamics for the best part of 25 years.
The Exige Cup 410 was arguably the ultimate of these late models, with the full-fat 406bhp supercharged V6 engine, the wider and more aggressive body, hardcore suspension set-up and stripped-out cabin. These Final Editions represent everything Lotus stands for in the current era, so it’ll be fascinating to see how Lotus’s next generation evolves.
Lamborghini Huracán STO
Lamborghini has gone down the stripped-out route with its Huracán before, but unlike the Performante, which introduced some clever aero and a small power bump to a fairly basic Huracán LP610-4, the STO is something rather different. Somehow, it looks the same, but different. The car’s wider, yes, but rather it's its construction that differs. The nose is now one carbonfibre clamshell. The rear quarter panels are also of carbon, and the rear screen is gone, replaced with a snorkel and slats.
These elements are for one reason – reduction of weight, which also explains this car’s lack of front driveshafts, its carbon buckets and simplified nature. Best of all, that supersonic V10 engine is in its brilliant 631bhp form, which combined with some superb calibration and tuning of both powertrain and chassis has made the STO the best Huracán on road and track yet.
Renault Mégane RS Trophy
So with the Civic Type R now offsale, the front-wheel-drive hot hatchback entries in our list this year are pretty thin. And while we prefer the Hyundai i30 N on road, its track capability is a little less impressive on account of its brakes and lardy kerb weight, so if you’re after the biggest on-track thrill from two driven front wheels, the Renault Mégane RS Trophy is the hot hatchback of the moment.
We find its set-up a bit much for the road, pummelling its way down the tarmac without much finesse, but on track this relates to rock-solid body control that allows you to throw the RS around with the confidence that it will stick. The new DCT transmission is also great, and with its rear-wheel steering system it’ll happily back itself into every corner come rain, hail or shine.
Find more on track cars, track days and track driving through the links below...