Fab Five: Great vehicles that are track capable, street ready

BMW i8 7.jpg
BMW i8 (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

Each year, the Midwest Automotive Media Association hosts a couple of rallies, inviting area automotive journalists to a track and giving them the chance to drive street vehicles in a more aggressive manner.

It’s an opportunity to get a good sense of handling outside of regular driving conditions – without having to worry about a speeding ticket.

Now that the weather is starting to get nicer, we’re taking a look back at the Fall Rally at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, and we found five fab vehicles that easily make their way from street to track in a blink. Here are our faves.

BMW i8

  • Price: $148,495
  • Engine: 1.5-liter, TwinPower turbocharged 3-cylinder + AC synchronous electric motor
  • Horsepower: 369
  • Torque: 420 pound-feet

We’ve only had the chance to drive this vehicle in short spurts since it was launched in 2014. And this time at Autobahn was no different. But the hot laps on the track reinforced how much we like this car. Egress and ingress will be a bit difficult for taller drivers and passengers since the gullwing doors flip up, but once you’re settled behind the wheel, you’re in for a comfortable ride with cushy seats and a nice driving position. Then when you factor in the low ride height and 369 horsepower, you better make sure you’re buckled in tight before you tackle those aggressive corners – both on and off the track. The i8 handles pretty much everything you can throw at it with ease.

Ford Mustang Bullitt

  • Price: $47,590
  • Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
  • Horsepower: 460
  • Torque: 420 pound-feet

The Bullitt is an iconic vehicle with most Mustang badging replaced by a modified bulls-eye. Bred to be fast, this version of the popular pony car is completely new for the 2019 model year. The cue-ball gearshift is kitschy and cool, and the gears are easy to shift through. The clutch point is a bit high, and the clutch is a bit stiff, but it’s perfect for those quick shifts needed for aggressive driving. Be warned, however: The seats and suspension don’t lend themselves to long road trips, even if the trunk can fit suitcases for four.

Maserati Levante GTS

  • Price: $121,475
  • Engine: 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8
  • Horsepower: 550
  • Torque: 538 pound-feet

Oddly, even though the Levante GTS is an SUV, it’s well-equipped to handle a track. The well-tuned exhaust note, 550 horsepower and adaptable suspension allow you to hunker down for a sportier ride or give you a lift if you need some extra ground clearance. This is the second time we’ve driven the Levante GTS on the track, and we’ve thought it was a smooth operator both times. We also took the GTS out on some rough-hewn surface streets this time around, and thought it managed a comfortable ride in tough conditions. So, this car makes the list due to its versatility and Ferrari engine.

Mercedes-AMG GT R

  • Price: $157,995
  • Engine: 4.0-liter AMG V-8 biturbo
  • Horsepower: 577
  • Torque: 516 pound-feet

This car looks fast even when it’s standing still. The long nose and low center of gravity give the GT R grip through the corners, and the 577 horsepower gives it plenty of go on the straightaways. I love how this car looks, and sinking into the driver’s seat is like settling into a cocoon. You are perfectly enveloped by the sporty seats, and everything is easily at your fingertips. Petite drivers might sit a bit lower than they’d like, but the average driver will likely appreciate the low-slung seats.

Nissan GT-R

  • Price: $101,685
  • Engine: 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6
  • Horsepower: 565
  • Torque: 467 pound-feet

Dubbed Godzilla, the GT-R is a true beast on the track, but in recent years, it has become well-mannered on the street as well. The comfortable cockpit and excellent driving position, make it great for any kind of driving. And, even though it has a V-6 under the hood, it makes more than enough power to leave lesser cars in the dust. Just as quickly, it becomes an excellent touring car with a smooth ride and easy-to-pair Bluetooth and a clear phone connection.

The Bottom Line:

While most owners of these cars will never place a single tire on a track, there’s street cred in knowing they can. While every single one of these vehicles is awesome in its own right, I’d likely opt for an i8 or GT-R if I wanted to get the most out of track-ready and touring comfort.