2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club – 3:20.8

Base Price: $32,820
As-Tested Price: $33,320
155 hp | 2309 lb | 14.9 lb/hp

Think of Mazda’s affable roadster as Snuggle, the giggling fabric-softener bear, in the form of a sports car. Bend the MX-5 into the right-hander at Horse Shoe and the inside wheels droop hilariously, the gaps yawning at the high afternoon sun. Bomb over the curbing through the uphill esses like you would in a Nissan GT-R and it becomes a sad bear, the hard impacts upsetting the body and the tires’ traction. READ MORE ››

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost – 3:15.6

Base Price: $29,790
As-Tested Price: $38,660
310 hp | 3658 lb | 11.8 lb/hp

Our first suspicion was a tank of 87 octane. At least, we think that’s why the Mustang EcoBoost refused to make any boost. High ambient temps probably didn’t help, either. So we burned off the first tank of fuel and started over with a tank of 93 octane. READ MORE ››

2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop John Cooper Works – 3:15.4

Base Price: $32,950
As-Tested Price: $34,850
228 hp | 2862 lb | 12.6 lb/hp

With the Mini’s tires pumped to their recommended high-speed pressures—45 psi in front and 42 out back—the 2862-pound JCW lapped like a dinghy in rough seas. Never mind that the freshly paved outer ring of the Grand West Course is rather smooth; the JCW hopped side to side while running down the straights. It wagged its rear end under braking and overzealously pivoted into turns. READ MORE ››

2015 Volkswagen GTI with Performance Package – 3:14.6

Base Price: $27,100
As-Tested Price: $28,095
220 hp | 3076 lb | 14.0 lb/hp

The return of the seventh-generation GTI to Lightning Lap is a rare second chance. Last year, the Mark VII GTI only matched the time of the Mark VI, but this year the GTI ran 4.7 seconds quicker. What gives? Well, it’s better equipped for the task at hand this time, wearing two doors instead of four and sporting a manual transmission in place of the dual-clutch automatic for a 59-pound weight advantage. More important, though, this year’s car included the optional (and unavailable in ’14) Perform­ance package with an extra 10 horsepower, for a total of 220. It also has larger brakes and a proper limited-slip differential; all of these additions are significant enough for us to give it another shot. READ MORE ››

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