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Saturday, June 21, 2014

10 greatest racetrack special editions

 

Popular Mechanics
 
Click for gallery: Ferrari 458 Speciale
 

Track-edition cars are talented and tough enough to handle a day of hot lapping and yet docile enough for an easy cruise home. The last decade has seen an incredible spike in these rare dual-purpose sports cars. Here are ten that nail the formula.

2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale


Few cars are as rewarding to drive, devastatingly quick, and downright gorgeous as
Ferrari's 458 Italia. But this is Ferrari, with its long and glorious history in motorsports, so the inevitable track version of the 458 debuts this year.
 
 The $300,000 Speciale packs more technology than any track-edition car the company has ever produced. This 458 has shed about 200 pounds, so it's even more agile.
 
 And Ferrari has specified a firmer suspension for the Speciale along with new electronics that can alter the car's track attitude through its electronic rear differential and a new Side Slip Control (SSP).
 
The SSP can analyze your driving style and make near instantaneous adjustments to keep the car on point.

Active aerodynamics? Yes it has that too. And there's more heat under that rear hatch—597 hp, to be exact.
 
 More importantly, the Speciale produces that thrust way up at 9000 rpm (!) with a soundtrack that is likely better than any production car available today. Sixty mph is less than 3 seconds away, and this car is quicker around Ferrari's own test track than the Enzo.
Click for gallery: Porsche Cayman R
 
 
Ever since the Cayman arrived in 2006, this lighter more nimble mid-engined model has threatened the supremacy of the 911 as the most rewarding Porsche in the line.


 Things really got serious when Porsche delivered the Cayman R, the most capable and most involving Cayman the company had ever made. Compared to the Cayman S, Porsche stripped out 121 pounds and added a lowered ride height, wider track, and revised anti-roll bars. It got a limited-slip differential too.


 There was only a 10 hp boost, to 330, but that was plenty. Inside, the R was all business with supportive carbon fiber shell seats and fabric door pulls, just like a 911 GT3. The feedback from the fat Alcantara steering wheel was direct and brilliant.


 The suspension tune is equally wonderful on any surface. And typically any car with an "R" in its name would have an uncomfortable ride, but not here.

The nearly $80,000 Cayman R took everything that's important about a sports car and amplified it. Make ours Peridot Metallic.
Click for gallery: Ford Mustang Boss 302
 
 Ford Mustang Boss 302

The original Ford Mustang Boss 302 captured the magic of the muscle car era. The original 1969-1970 cars were higher-revving performance Mustangs built to be exceptional (for the time) handling machines.
 
 In 2012 Ford revived the legendary nameplate and packed the new Boss 302 with an upgraded 444-hp version of the new 5.0 (302 cid) V-8 that exhaled through a side exhaust with a downright ferocious growl and revved to 7500 rpm, rather astounding for a domestic V-8.
 
 The suspension was massaged for increased performance with lower, firmer springs and dampers.

The Laguna Seca Edition, named after the famed California racetrack, took that capability even further with an even more aggressive suspension tuning and a huge X brace that took the place of the rear seats. It reportedly added huge gains in body rigidity.

The Laguna Seca Edition also wore a giant aero splitter on the front end and a larger wing out back for increased track grip at higher speeds. Less than two thousand were produced so it's already a one of the most rare and desirable modern Mustangs.

 

Plenty of potent Mercedes-Benz AMG cars hit our roads over the past decade. But there are only a handful of AMG Black Series cars. The Black Series cars are track capable at a level above the normal AMG machines.
 
 Only a few cars are ever designated to become Black Series models and one of our favorites was the C63 AMG Black Series.


 This model cranked the horsepower from 451 in the pedestrian C63 up to 510, and delivered a thunderous blast of exhaust.

To make this coupe a real track star, the original suspension was swapped for adjustable coil-overs, the stance was widened and the corners capped with carbon-ceramic brakes.


 Of course, there were options too like R compound tires, serious carbon-fiber aero pieces and a transmission oil cooler.


 Less than 100 of these $130,000 monsters reportedly came across the pond. But they were incredibly fun to thrash around a racetrack, with a nimbleness and directness unlike just about any other Mercedes-Benz model except perhaps the mighty SLS.
Click for gallery: Chevrolet Corvette Z06
 



The Corvette Z06 has been a performance icon since the first one rolled onto the roads and racetracks across the country back in 2001.

 The first two generations of Z06 were impressive, but the all-new 2015 car promises to be the quickest and most well rounded.
 
 It's a supercharged track beast capable of matching the old ZR1's moves out of the gate, thanks to 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque—Chevy says it's quicker around the company's Milford Road Course.


 With its track-focused version of the new C7 Corvette chassis, the new Z06 is likely to be one of the best handling Corvettes, too.

There are specific upgrades to the bodywork, too, designed to cool, vent or deliver more downforce where needed.


What's new is that there will be an automatic transmission available as well as a lift-out roof panel, making this Z06 slightly less hardcore but more driver-friendly than any before it.
Click for gallery: BMW M3 Lime Rock Park Edition
 



The E92-generation M3 felt organic and potent on a canyon road or a tight and twisty track. Perhaps the high point in that car's development was the 2011 GTS with its full roll cage, increased power (444 hp) and reduced weight.


 But that car was never offered in the US. We did get the near $80,000 Lime Rock Park Edition—a bright orange tribute to all that is great about the M3.


There were only 200 of these cars made and each one wore the Competition Package with its lowered and firmed suspension and beefy 19-inch wheels.


 BMW also added a weight-saving titanium muffler and carbon fiber aero package. And BMW's the glorious manual transmission was the only one offered. We miss this generation already.
 
2008-2010 Dodge Viper SRT-10 ACR



It's difficult to imagine anyone driving a normal 600-hp Viper and then wanting for a more brutish sports car experience.


 But in 2008, Dodge launched the ACR model—a car that devoured tracks around the world and held the production car lap record at the famed Nurburgring twice during its production run.

The ACR didn't receive any power boost—it didn't need one. Instead, the ACR wore firmer adjustable KW coil-over dampers, new stabilizer bars, and lighter wheels and tires, as well as a humongous rear wing and carbon front splitters said to generate more than half a ton of downforce at 150 mph.


 It was essentially a race machine that happened to be street legal. Before winding down Viper production for that generation, Dodge produced a few specialty ACRs including the Voodoo, 1:33 Edition (named for setting the lap record at Laguna Seca), and ACR-X, a full-bore race Viper.
Click for gallery: Nissan GT-R Nismo
 



Since its inception, the Nissan GTR has been a spiritual cousin to the Corvette Z06—a budget supercar that could devour a racetrack.


 To ensure Nissan's super sports car could hang with the modern exotics, the company has delivered the Nismo (Nissan Motorsports) edition packing 600 horsepower, an upgraded suspension with Bilstein dampers, wider wheels and tires, body structure stiffening, and fewer pounds to haul around.

Nissan says it will do just 4 mph shy of 200 mph.

Anyone who doesn't believe this GTR will be quite aggressive enough for track work might have an even wilder option coming.


Nissan plans to launch the "N-Attack" package with an Ohilns suspension, adjustable anti-swaybars, and carbon composite aerodynamics. This could be the ultimate expression of what a track-ready GTR can be.

Click for gallery: Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
 



Like the Boss 302, the Z/28 has its roots in the SCCA's Trans Am racing series of the 1960s. But the Z/28 lived a much longer life: It became the top Camaro performance model from the 1970s to the early 2000s.

 After a 12-year hiatus, the package is back, fiercer and more dedicated to track performance than ever. In fact, Chevy actually discourages the use of this $75,000 Camaro as a daily driver—GM wants these cars to be used on tracks.

Chevy trimmed the weight from a Camaro SS by about 100 pounds. Under the hood is the previous Corvette Z06's magical 505 hp 7.0-liter V-8 paired to a 6-speed manual. Overall, the Z/28 has nearly 200 unique parts all selected to make this car seriously cook around a racetrack.


 The suspension is unique to the Z/28 and includes Multimatic dampers that racing teams have been proving on tracks since 2002. The R compound tires on the Z/28 (305/30ZR-19) are the largest ever fitted to the front of any production car and help this Camaro generate 1.08 G's, according to Chevy. The result is a car that can lap the Nurburgring quicker than a Porsche 911 Carrera S.
 



The Evo is one of our favorite track cars of all time. It's fun, capable, and predictable as it approaches the limit.
 
 The Evo packs a 271 hp turbocharged four-cylinder along with a sophisticated all-wheel drive system and a track-tested suspension.
 
 It's a rally legend—built to dominate paved tracks, dirt roads and even snowy forest roads.

In that sense, the Evo RS might seem like it's out of place on this list of ultra-performance machines. After all, the RS package doesn't add much besides a mechanical front limited slip differential—instead it removes stuff like air conditioning, sound deadening, ABS, and the rear wing.
 
 But when all that stuff is gone, so to is 234 pounds. That means that the RS is basically a stripped down scorcher that can storm to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds.
 
It's in many ways the RS is the perfect blank slate awaiting specific high performance track modifications from the aftermarket.