By on November 7, 2012

The V6 Mustang reviewed yesterday wouldn’t be the car it was without the Track Package, which provides pretty substantial upgrades to the brakes and suspension.

As Sympatico’s Brian Makse points out, most performance packages are nothing more than new wheels and tires, but the Mustang really delves into the nitty-gritty. Items like the brake booster and control arms are borrowed from the track-ready Shelby GT500.

With plenty of you having track experience in one form or another, it’s worth asking, what makes a good track package, and who does it right. Conversely, who does it poorly? If I had to give my two cents, I’d say good brakes are worth more than anything when it comes to a factory track car. In our comparison test with the Scion FR-S, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the Mazda MX-5 the lower weight and tossable handling of the FR-S and overall fun factor of the MX-5 were both worth little when they had to be brought in after a few laps. The Genesis, with its superior Brembos, resisted a brake apocalypse far longer than the other two.

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31 Comments on “QOTD: What Makes A Good Track Package...”

  • avatar

    I got my 2013 Charger R/T with the Track Pack. I haven’t tracked it yet to find out where it actually performs, but seems pretty capable thus far.

    The Track Pack in this case includes a better rear end ratio for quicker acceleration, flappy paddles that actually shift decently and hold the gear, higher speed limiter, selectable sport mode engine control mapping, performance tires, a somewhat more defeatable stability control system, SRT bolstered seats, a black grille treatment and bigger emblems.

    For the price of it (~$1500) seems worth it.

    My personal favorite “Track Package” would be the Boss 302 TracKey. The transformation is pretty incredible.

  • avatar

    1) Brakes
    2) Seats

    A decent seat is underrated. I drove a ‘Vette on track and spent the whole lap sliding back and forth between the door and the massive transmission tunnel.

    My Evo VIII didn’t have a “track pack”. All I did was put in DOT 4 brake fluid and it was good to go.

  • avatar

    As a track-oriented person myself, a good track pack involves a few must-haves, and then some nice to haves.

    My must have list:
    Upgraded brakes, or at least pads.
    stiffer suspension
    More aggressive alignment
    UHP Summer or better tires

    Nice to have list:
    Cooling upgrades – Radiator, brake ducting
    Bigger bolstered bucket seats
    Short throw shifter
    Functional Aero kit

    I extensivel modified my last car and am mildly modifying my current one for track usage. 99% of things can stay stock and are often better than the aftermarket can provide that way, but brakes are an absolute must. here is what I’ve learned:

    In my experience, an OE, or OE tuning house (mugen, Mopar, TRD, etc.) suspension is almost always superior to all but the priciest suspensions out there. If the factory produces an upgraded suspension it’s generally worthwhile, especially if you are lucky enough to have one branded bilstein like the Evo and certain miata years.

    Crazy brembos are not necessary with the proper pads, but they do look cool, if it’s a relatively inexpensive factory option go for it though. Brakes can be accomplished for less than $200 with a proper pad/fluid swap for most cars and is arguably the most important thing to keep you out of the gravel traps. Ducting is nice and helps alot with pad life, but not much with fade, keeps consumable costs lower which is always good for the track.

    • 0 avatar

      In the case of suspension on the Miata, the concensus actually seems to be that the Bilsteins aren’t a very good factory upgrade. While immensely durable, especially compared to the 50k mile Showas on the base models, the Billies are often panned for being overdamped, undersprung and needlessly harsh on low speed while not offering enough damping on high speed impacts. This appears to be a case of the aftermarket supplying better alternatives than the factory suspension.

  • avatar

    Having autocrossed, lapped, and done bracket racing I’ll wade into this.

    1) Adequate seating with appropriate steering wheel and shifter. Driving position, comfort, being held in the seat, a proper dead pedal, a smaller, thick steering wheel that is easy to grip, with easy to use/access paddle shifters if an automatic, or a short throw with go action manual. A good action manualmatic is OK in lieu of paddle shifters.

    2) Limited slip differential – FWD or RWD. Aids in getting the power to the ground.

    3) Keep the oversized donk tires away. Get past 18″ in rim size and your choice of racing tires become slim to none. At 18″ offerings are thin. 17″ or 18″ rim maximum, with a very stick summer high performance tire.

    4) Beyond adequate brakes. Brakes that can take being hammered over and over and over again without or with minimal fade. Rotors that can take extreme heat and not warp or worse crack. Brakes that are balanced, not just slapping big Brembos up front and calling it good.

    5) Weight reduction. Track packages aren’t about noise reduction – get rid of the insulation, get rid of weight and/or power robbing options. I don’t think you have to bake in the summer if its your daily drive and eliminate AC – but make it an option. Drop the jack and include an inflator kit.

    6) Engine improvements. I say improvements because it depends on the engine. Address any weakness the regular engine may have. For the FR-S address the dip in the torque curve. For another engine it might be more low end grunt, for another more high end grunt, for others it may be stronger materials to take the rigor of track use – or all of the above.

    7) Mounting points for roll cage – especially if the performance of the car is such that SCCA, NHRA or other regulations would require a cage to be installed to participate in even the most basic of events.

    8) Ability to turn off stability control and traction control 100% at the push of a button.

    9) Proper set of gauges – given the rapidly growing adoption of TFT displays, having a secondary TFT display tied to the OBDII data and giving the user a choice of the 2 to 4 gauges they want displayed.

    10) Improved suspension, again address the key weaknesses or under performing areas. That may be stiffer shocks/struts, stouter sway bars, lowering springs, different bushings, combination, all of the above.

    That would be my ideal track pack.

  • avatar

    A driver’s school. End of story.

  • avatar

    Two words: racing stripes.

  • avatar

    Limited slip (which honestly I think EVERY car/truck/SUV should have from the factory – screw the computerized traction control) and better brakes. Most cars that would have a “track pack” already have a pretty decent suspension and you’ll only make it “stiffer” which is not always a good thing.

    Tires? Don’t go rubber band thin and I guess summer tires are mandatory so better get some winter rubber for that track car.

    • 0 avatar

      I strongly disagree about the LSD unless you never drive where it is slippery. Yes, an LSD will help a bit in not getting stuck. But it is a double-edged sword – WHEN, not if, you put a little too much power to the road in the slipperies, you lose most all directional control. BTDT in BMWs and Peugeots. Not as much of a problem in the Pugs due to lack of power and longer wheelbases. Volvo had the best solution for snow in the auto-locking and unlocking diff they offered in the 7/940. Locked with wheelspin up to 19mph, then unlocked. If you only drive the car on dry roads, then an LSD is great.

      The best track package is a dedicated track car that you can afford to destroy on the track. For financial mere mortals a BMW e30 is about perfect. Fast enough, tough enough, cheap enough, and very easy to upgrade. A zillion wins in LeMons racing can’t be argued with.

  • avatar

    I’ve yet to track my Z but everything I’ve read screams (yes in all caps) BRAKES!!!

    Which brings up a question that has driven me crazy for years: why are brakes almost never a subject of comparisons between cars? The buff books will list the stopping distance but you rarely hear the manufactures making a big deal about it. All we hear about is horsepower, improved grip/handling, Bluetooth and airbags. Yet the single best safety feature on most cars would be a simple brake upgrade. Case in point: I put upgraded slotted discs and performance pads on my Dakota that I use for towing and difference was night and day – no more mushy pedal, no more burnt smell, firm smooth stops every time even after repeated heavy use. Given the brake dust and squeaks I’m getting on my 350Z its time for it to be upgraded too.

    • 0 avatar

      Brake performance and brake upgrades are about rational understanding of needs.

      Nothing about the promotion or selling of cars has anything to do with reason. It’s all about triggering an emotional respose, be it in the crotch, (POWER!!!!!111!1) the geek brain (Bluetooth! Voice control! Touchscreen!), or the lazy “do it all for me” driver who really would rather not have to pay any attention whatsoever (lane departure systems which take over steering, adaptive cruise control, “blind spot” warnings).

      Brake upgrades are steak. All the attention goes to the sizzle.

      • 0 avatar

        I hear ya… brakes aren’t sexy, but what about the safety angle? A car that stops even a footer shorter means the difference between a wreck (along with a big repair bill) and a “oh snap, that was close” moment. I’d think the insurance companies would be all over this by now. About the only thing that ever gained any notable mention was ABS stopping systems.

      • 0 avatar

        Better brakes don’t reduce collisions. Most drivers now are so unfamiliar with the capabilities of their vehicles that they tend to lift OUT of the brakes in a emergency stop because the braking G scares them. Mercedes (and probably now others) programs their ABS to detect emergency stops based on pedal application speed, and take the car to maximum stopping even when the driver reduces pressure on the pedal.

        I doubt there are any vehicles available now which can’t lock their tires with ease. “Better” brakes in that context are about improving sensitivily and feel, and increased fade resistance. Neither of which are of much importance in everyday driving.

      • 0 avatar

        @Steve65 – That’s something that drove me nuts about the rental E350 I was recently in for six weeks.

        Benz electronic nannying is really annoying. The first time I swung the tail out, I almost freaked out when the windows and the sunroof closed on their own.

  • avatar

    The thing that gets me is all those things listed would seem to be ideal for a production car as well. Have “more brake” in the real world doesn’t seem to hurt. Having “track” pads might but where do you go to find out which is which?

    BTW, where’s Jack?

    • 0 avatar

      “More brake” is just heat capacity. No help at all for the first few stops.

      What you want is more tire. I’ll never understand the logic that mandates hundreds of pounds and thousands of dollars of post crash mitigation in every car and then delivers it on hard skinny tires.

      • 0 avatar

        Dan nails it. A lot of cars have great brakes today – for the first 3 to 10 hard stops on the pedal. Now for dealing with say some road raging driver in the real world, that might be all you need to save your bacon. On a lapping day you could hopelessly overheat your brakes on the first lap. A good example of this was the first model year of the rebooted Taurus SHO which was infamous for crappy brakes. The G8 GT (not the GXP) also suffers from great brakes for street use, even extreme braking. But take it on a track and run lap after lap – they overheat and fade. Stock brakes on the Audi A6, the 350 and 370Z, the…

      • 0 avatar

        +1 on this point as well. I put wider tires on a Civic of mine a few years back and was thrilled with the increase in handling, braking, grip and overall control in general.

        However, right now the big trend is fuel savings – thus hard, thin tires are what the manufactures are providing. However it seems downright dangerous to design the best car in the world with all these fancy gizmos (airbags, traction control, etc) then handicap the whole vehicle dynamics with some cheap donuts tires. It always amazes me just how small of a contact patch your average vehicle has, the physics seem out of portion. After all its where the rubber meets the road – and tires make ALL the difference.

        But aren’t bigger brakes also going to help on stop #1? Granted if the tires don’t hold those Brembos are worthless unsprung weight, but when I look at most vehicles it just seems (I’m no engineer) that their discs are too small to handle the load (like SUVs for example). I think we need a truth about brakes/tires article ;)

      • 0 avatar

        Assuming a constant-size tire, the difference in fuel economy is strictly from the rolling resistance. This will impact fuel economy (ratings!) in the city, but becomes pretty much irrelevant at highway speeds.

        I buy tires for the best combination of grip and ride comfort, price is pretty much irrelevant. A set of Michelin Pilot Super Sports is outstanding on both counts and a set still costs only about 2% of the price of my car — and will last 25-30K miles. Why should I compromise on the tires if I spent that much on the car itself?

    • 0 avatar

      “But aren’t bigger brakes also going to help on stop #1?”

      If you can lock the wheels (or engage the ABS), brakes aren’t the limiting factor. Tires are. And that holds from the first stop to the last.

      Smaller discs might overheat sooner, or wear out faster, but they don’t change stopping distance in modern vehicles, which typically have sufficient heat soak capacity that fade isn’t an inssue during a single stop.

  • avatar

    Brakes, tires and seat, in that order.

    Everything else is nice, but not strictly a deal killer.

  • avatar

    Call me crazy, but I think the Regal GS does a good job of this as far as the upgrades go. You can argue it is too heavy, but lets just look at the upgrades.

    More power (ehh, more optional in my opinion for a track pack)
    Transmission (probably not going to happen in most track packs)

  • avatar

    No. 1 would be cooling. Keep the stock size brakes, but add some ducts such that you can upgrade pads and fluid and not have them overheat. Make sure the engine, gearbox, diff and everything else have adequate cooling too.

    No. 2 would be camber. Especially for fwd cars, make the camber adjustable so that the car can be aligned tosuch theatrical the tire does not roll over onto its outside edge.

    No.3 would be engine tune. A quick way to disable any electronic nannies, including brake assist, and provide a direct, linear throttle response. That means no dbw tricks like increasing throttle response or reducing emmisions on throttle application or lift resulting in delayed response.

    Now we’re down to seats, diff, gear ratios, suspension.

  • avatar

    Brake upgrade(size, material, cooling), seat upgrade, tire upgrade(Max or above) and limited slip diff. I think the first. Brake is a must IMO, seat sorta depends on how good the regular ones are. I doubt OEM will give the car good enough tires, but better ones than the run of the mill all seasons that cars seem to come with these days would be nice. Most people who track will end up buying their own flavor of tires anyway. Factory installed LSD will always be a nice option…

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