The E36, or the 3 Series made from 1991 to 1999, is an extremely well-rounded car, which is exactly what you want for autocross. The engine has plenty of low-end torque, which you need for when you come out of a tight corner. The narrow body and responsive suspension also help considerably with handling, making the car easy to throw around turns precisely.
The Ten Best Cars for Autocross
If you want to participate in automotive racing but have an aversion to crashing and dying in a fiery wreck, you should give autocross a try. Autocross is low risk, since the worst thing you can do is crush an orange cone. There are no cars you can run into, no walls to scrape against and no mounds of gravel you can launch your car off of and into a barrier. Autocross is not a cakewalk since it requires drivers to push themselves and their car's ability to the max if they want to win the event. It is precision driving that often is elusive to newbie drivers, yet over time builds excellent skills. One of the best things you can do to prepare for an autocross event is to choose the best vehicle possible. Any of the following ten will help you make the most of your skills as a driver.
Even though the car hasn't been a huge smash hit with consumers, the RX-8 makes a solid autocross car. The driver enjoys a solid presence on the course, with the car feeling firmly planted even when it's whipping through a corner. The suspension is responsive and the steering is balanced. The added bonus is the car is a more practical everyday driver than some other autocross options, yet it still has the sleek look of a coupe.
There's a reason the Integra R is a legend amongst the Honda fanboys. The little car won't be outrunning any Corvettes in stock form at the drag strip, but autocross is a horse of a completely different color. The engine revs high and hard, pumping out a healthy dose of horsepower considering the car's curb weight. Combine that with a taut suspension and you have a mean little car that can fly through a cone course with high levels of precision.
Mazda set out to build a tribute to the old British roadsters, in the process creating something truly special: a fun little roadster that is also reliable. The result is a car that almost feels like it was engineered for autocross. While all generation of the Miata are good for autocross, models from the first generation perform the best, especially the 1995 with the R-Package.
In the past, all-wheel drive vehicles did not do well at autocross simply because they would resist flying around tight corners like how rear-wheel and even front-wheel cars. That all changed with the Evo IX, an all-wheel drive car that can get the job done on a tight autocross course. Sure, the Subaru STI is fast and handles well, but the Evo edges it out when it comes to tight handling.
The Elise, and especially the Exige if you have the finances for it, was engineered to handle like a champion and produce bursts of speed -- exactly what a good autocross car needs to deliver. It also helps that the car doesn't cost much for what it is and that it's quite reliable, meaning you won't have to constantly be making repairs.
Honda blessed us with one of the best, purest form of a sports car conceived in recent history. The car is no-nonsense, which translates into a real killer on an autocross course. The engine is strong and loves to rev to high RPMs, while the chassis and suspension are right and rigid enough to keep the car glued to the ground as you fly through incredibly tight turns. The regular S2000 does quite well, while the Club Racer variety is even better.
Now that the C7 has been unleashed on the public, everyone can see that General Motors was not just talking a lot and not delivering anything solid. The Corvette Stingray is the real deal when it comes to automotive performance. Low end torque is nothing short of wicked, handling is razor sharp, and the suspension is incredibly responsive in tight turning scenarios. Forget all of those stereotypes of American sports cars handling like garbage, because the C7 changes everything.
Rumor has it that the joint engineering team that developed this Toyota-Subaru hybrid designed the car specifically excel at autocross. Both models have the Boxer engine that keeps the weight low on the car, plus a balance of weight that lends itself to otherworldly handling. The engine is punchy, which is exactly what you need as you come out of the turns on an autocross course.
Even though the E36 is already mentioned on the list, the M3 from the same generation is excellent at autocross for all of the same reasons, only with things dialed up a few notches. The only bad thing is finding one that is inside your budget constraints, which unfortunately might be difficult if your finances are very constrained.