Track days are something every petrolhead has grown up dreaming about. The sheer freedom of using up all the road to push your car’s limits, the sporting spirit at the race, the feel of your car screaming away to glory: racing is an addiction.
However, most of us mere mortals are denied access to the holy grounds on grounds of not possessing a car worthy of the track. After all, not every car is made to race. Even if such cars were entered in races, they would end up being obstacles for faster ones.
So we decided which were the cheapest performance coupes that could still cut it with the best of them in the UAE. Here are four such contenders.
The heading literally screams out “Hellcat”, doesn’t it? Dodge unleashed the monstrous 707-hp Challenger Hellcat in 2017 to critical acclaim. Although the Hellcat costs more than twice the price cap we are talking about, the American muscle car also comes with a 3.6-litre V6 engine that makes 305hp and 363Nm. Add to it the comprehensive electronics package Dodge offers with the car, and you get a proper racetrack machine without burning a hole in your pocket.
You have to hand it to the Americans. These guys offer a lot of car for not so much money. A similarly equipped European coupe would cost at least twice. Sure, American firms don’t do interiors and creature comforts as well as the Europeans, but these things are secondary at the track in the pursuit of speed.
The Chevrolet Camaro is one such car. Chevrolet has endowed the Camaro with the best of the Corvette’s DNA without robbing it of its muscle car identity. The entry-level trim of the Camaro uses a 3.6-litre V6 for motive power. The engine is good for 323hp and 377Nm, propelling the car to the ton in 4.6 seconds. With its sharper (than the Challenger) dynamics, the Chevrolet Camaro is sure to show you a good time at the races.
It goes without saying: If the Camaro and Challenger are in the game, the Mustang’s in it too. This pony is the most famous car in the world that Ford has ever made. While people would say it is blasphemy to buy a Mustang with any other engine than the celebrated V8, the fact is that other engines Ford offers are also up for the racetrack shenanigans you have in mind.
The base Ford Mustang comes with a 3.7-litre V6 that makes 300hp and 380Nm paired to a slick-shifting manual gearbox. Speaking frankly, the Mustang won’t be the fastest around the track with the V6, but the grin it will plaster across your face the entire track session will have you coming back for more of the pony madness.
The Nissan 370Z is an underdog continually overshadowed by the mighty Nissan GT-R aka ‘Godzilla’. While people go gaga over the GT-R’s advanced technology which allows you to extract an ungodly amount of power and torque, the 370Z is relegated to the sidelines due to its weaker credentials.
That’s not to say it is actually weak. The coupe still boasts of a 3.7-litre V6 that puts down 328hp and 362Nm. With the power sent to the rear wheels, it really is up to you whether you want to come out of a corner in the most efficient manner or would prefer to exit slideways, smoke coming out of the rear tyres like the car wants to make its own fluffy cloud.
The Toyota GT86, or just 86, is the Japanese carmaker’s attempt to revive an old icon. You see, the Corolla AE86 is one of the most celebrated sports cars in Toyota’s book of legends. It could regularly be seen going sideways on the Tokyo drifting circuits. The AE86 also kept up with the best of them in the various touring car championships in the world.
The Toyota GT86 uses the same formula as its predecessor: a small engine with decent power spinning the rear wheels. In its current avatar, the 86 makes 197hp and 205Nm out of a 2.0-litre inline-four engine that powers the rear wheels. On paper, the numbers are unimpressive. Yet when you drive this car, you will realize the 86 is very light on its feet. With a direct, responsive steering, a wide track, and a slick gearbox, bigger cars can be left behind if you know just how to push the little Toyota around.
That concludes our list of inexpensive cars you can take to the racetrack. Although the Dubai Autodrome has no restrictions on what type of car you can bring to the races, wouldn’t it be better if you took a purpose-built machine for those high-adrenaline track weekends?