The world is full of cars. Almost everybody owns one, some more than one, and they’re used mainly to go from point A to point B, typically going to work and then back home.
There’s a little bit of variety, but the most common types of cars can be divided into three categories. Off-road enthusiasts prefer SUVs and off-road ready machines, with the pickup truck variation for those who need to carry stuff, then there’s the compact car, sedan or a similar variety, which most people use to drive to work, and vans which are primarily used as a utilitarian vehicle.
And these are the types of cars most people would think about when they think cars. They might also think about high performance sports cars or luxury vehicles, and that’s about it. But there’s more to it than most of us know about.
There are other, less known categories that share the same roads, but are not that well represented in numbers and surely aren’t used as day to day vehicles.
Meet the go-karts!
You might know them as exocars or trikes. Some even think they’re just alternatives to motorcycles, but these are street legal high performance stripped down speedsters. You surely won’t be taking them to the office or on a shopping run, but you would have so much fun driving one far and fast into the horizon.
These are lightweight, high end vehicles with a tremendous amount of power available, stripped down of everything non essential like radio, AC, or other features you’d normally see in a usual car.
When you hear go-karts, you may also think about those very small karts you see in various competitions around the world, taking place on very small circuits, usually surrounded by car tires for protection, the kind which many legendary race drivers have started their career on.
The ones we’re talking about here are just higher performance versions and a lot better looking, and what matters most, they’re street legal.
Let’s take a look at the best of the best.
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- 15. Vanderhall Edison²
- 14. Caterham Seven 360
- 13. Donkervoort D8 GTO-RS
- 12. Polaris Slingshot SLR
- 11. BAC Mono
- 10. Ariel Atom 3RS
- 9. Drakan Spyder
- 8. Elemental RP1
- 7. Vanderhall Carmel Roadster
- 6. Polaris Slingshot Signature LE
- 5. Ariel Atom 4
- 4. Caterham Seven 620
- 3. Polaris Slingshot Grand Touring LE
- 2. KTM X-Bow GT
- 1. Campagna T-Rex 16SP
15. Vanderhall Edison²
Vanderhall is one of the best manufacturers when it comes to go-karts, and their creations are incredibly sleek and beautiful three wheeled machines. And the Edison² is even better than most since it’s an all electric vehicle, ready for the future.
The Edison² is a very comfortable two seater, and comes very light at just 1,400 pounds, which is quite a feat when you think of the amazing power it makes. It’s capable of 180 horsepower and 240 ft-lbs of torque, and all that comes from the twin electric motors.
If that doesn’t seem like a lot, there’s more interesting figures. It does 0 to 60 mph in just 4 seconds. Another thing you might be interested in knowing is the 200 mile range per charge. It may not be a lot, but given the performance and the size of the vehicle, we’d say it suffices.
The design of the Vanderhall Edison², with its aluminum monocoque, reminds of racing cars of old, and will surely attract some views when going down the road.
14. Caterham Seven 360
The Caterham Seven is already a legend among these types of vehicles. Its history goes back to the mid 1950s, when the British carmaker Lotus began to build its version of the Seven to replace their Mark VI. The result was so successful that the Seven became a legend in the world of auto racing, but Lotus stopped the production in 1972.
Later on, Caterham managed to buy the rights to the design and the Seven was reborn. Nowadays, Caterham Seven comes in several variants, with the 360 being their most cherished, a wonderful result of the decades of engineering and racing that went into the car’s development.
The Caterham Seven 360 comes with an impressive power to weight ratio, capable of 180 horsepower and 143 ft-lbs of torque, and with its curb weight of only 1,290 pounds, thanks to the many parts from carbon fiber, makes for an insanely powerful car.
13. Donkervoort D8 GTO-RS
The guys at Donkervoort are building some of the most interesting and spirited vehicles we’ve ever come across. The trouble is that they are made for the track only. Save for one. Their D8 GTO-RS is the only road legal beautiful beast they’ve made.
It’s one of the most beautiful go-karts on the road today, one that benefits from an Audi 2.5 liter R5 TFSI engine making no less than 380 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque. Combine that with the car’s weight of only 1,532 pounds and you’ll get an insane performance.
That means less than 3 seconds for a 0 to 60 mph run, putting it on par with supercars such as the Porsche 911 Turbo. The D8’s body has been improved over the years to optimize the downforce and improve the aerodynamics, without messing with the iconic style.
The only downside of this model is that it’s not available to buy new anymore, so if you want to get your hands on one, you’d have to look for a used one.
12. Polaris Slingshot SLR
The Polaris Slingshot is probably one of the most well known go-karts roaming around the streets. It might look very strange to some, but it’s an extremely appealing vehicle for others, because they know what the Slingshot is capable of.
It’s a very fun trike, and the SLR trim only makes it more impressive, capable of 173 horsepower and 166 foot-pounds of torque, with a total weight of 1,743 pounds. It’s a little heavier than other vehicles on this list, but it’s a street legal speed demon nonetheless.
Beyond the road manners and capabilities, it features a nice full color 7 inch display complete with navigation system, a very capable sound system, and an optional removable top.
11. BAC Mono
BAC is short for Briggs Automotive Company, and their Mono is the closest thing to a Formula 1 car you’ll ever get to drive on the street. And, at least in our opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful four wheelers we’ve ever looked at. It’s got an almost perfect design, a jaw-dropping sight for anyone who’s seen one on the street.
Going beyond the mesmerizing looks, under the hood comes with no less than 285 horses of power and 227 foot-pounds of torque, making it one of the most powerful go-karts around as well.
The downside, or maybe it’s not a downside at all, is that it’s a one seater, so you can only enjoy by yourself.
10. Ariel Atom 3RS
Coming from the British carmaker Ariel, the Atom 3RS has the classic looks of a remote control car we loved to play in childhood, only that it’s full sized and ready for fun on the road.
Powered by a turbocharged 2.4 liter, with a 6 speed manual transmission and 425 horsepower, the Ariel Atom 3RS is a go-kart in its purest form. It’s a high performance no nonsense race track ready machine, but build to be taken on the road as well.
With a top speed of 155 mph and an acceleration of 2.5 seconds from 0 to 60, the only question that remains is if you’ve got $120,000 around to spare.
9. Drakan Spyder
The name is intimidating, the car’s performance is intimidating, and the price as is intimidating as well, but if you’re ok with them all, the Drakan Spyder might be exactly the street legal beast you’re looking for.
It costs upwards of $125,000, it’s powered by a naturally aspirated LS3 E-Rod V8 engine capable of 430 horsepower, 424 foot-pounds of torque, a top speed of 165 mph, and can do 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. What else could you wish for?
Driving the Drakan Spyder is one of the most thrilling experiences you can have, and if you’re a gearhead, you can have only the rolling chassis version for $25k less and then fit an engine of your choice in there and make it even crazier than it already is.
8. Elemental RP1
The Elemental RP1 is probably the closest thing to a full chassis car and a good match for those who don’t like the stripped down skeletal sci-fi looking go-karts on this list.
But since looks aren’t everything, the RP1 comes with two motorization options, a 2.0 liter EcoBoost or a 2.3 liter variant, making the car capable of 280 or 320 horsepower, a 0 to 60 mph acceleration between 2.8 and 2.6 seconds, and a top speed between 155 and 165 mph, depending on the engine variant you choose.
7. Vanderhall Carmel Roadster
The Vanderhall Carmel Roadster is another very pretty and luxurious three wheeler, with glass black hoops, wooden-chrome steering wheel, upright mirrors, heated seats, and a 1.5 liter engine capable of 194 horsepower and 203 foot-pounds of torque.
In terms of looks, the old-school racecar inspired dashboard and interior exudes elegance and sophistication. Beyond that, it features swing-out doors, and a removable roof, plus a set of 19 inch wheels that match the trike’s overall elegance.
6. Polaris Slingshot Signature LE
The latest and greatest Slingshot from Polaris, their 2022 Signature LE sports newer and better features than any Slingshot that came before it. There’s a new Vented Sport Hood and wheel designs, 10 spoke matte bronze wheels, so it can turn even more heads than before when cruising down the road, plus a very rich and modern tech package.
The Signature LE features RIDE COMMAND, GPS navigation system, RIDE COMMAND+ connected services, heated and cooled seats, Stage 3 Rockford Fosgate audio, Apple CarPlay, and plenty more.
5. Ariel Atom 4
The Ariel Atom 4 is the more affordable brother of the Atom 3RS, costing half the price, but without lacking in the fun department. It’s the same no nonsense stripped down vehicle, without body panels and roof or the many creature comforts you might be used with, keeping only the bare essentials in its cockpit. Practically it’s a superbike with two extra wheels.
Power comes from a Honda Civic Type R 2.0 liter engine capable of 320 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque, a 2.8 second 0 to 60 mph run and top speed of 162 miles per hour. As you might have guessed, the Atom 4 is made for performance and not at all for comfort.
4. Caterham Seven 620
Caterham Seven 620 is the better brother of the already popular Seven 360 and it’s the fastest car ever produced by the guys at Caterham.
It comes with a unique gunmetal chassis, with a two size chassis option, standard or large, and it’s equipped with a race developed cooling package and powered by a supercharged 2.0 liter 310 horsepower Ford Duratec engine that’s able to push the car to a max speed of 155 mph and a 0 to 60 run in 2.8 seconds.
The supercharged engine and the extra 130 horsepower that it won over the Seven 360 variant makes it one of the most thrilling cars you could drive today.
3. Polaris Slingshot Grand Touring LE
The Grand Touring LE is the 2020 version of the Polaris Slingshot and one of the most prized of all Slingshots, having made many owners happy with their purchase.
The car’s 173 horsepower performance is very respectable thanks to the 2.4 liter four cylinder GM engine, and the creature comforts inside its cockpit, especially the quilted touring seats, make it a solid choice for those who want to go beyond what an automobile means today.
2. KTM X-Bow GT
A wacky creation, the KTM X-Bow GT is a four wheeled go-kart that impresses in every aspect, starting of course with its futuristic design. It looks like it’s taken out from the Transformers film.
When it comes to the unseen features, it’s got 300 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque, with a top speed of 144 miles per hour. It does 0 to 62 mph in 4.1 seconds, and compared to other go-karts, the wider chassis and lower center of gravity makes it a lot more stable and safer on the road.
It comes with a racing developed suspension, underside protection, Recaro seats, but also a heftier price tag, starting at $139,000.
1. Campagna T-Rex 16SP
The Campagna T-Rex 16SP is one of the oddest looking trikes out there, but it’s also one of the most lightweight, weighing in at only 1,199 pounds, which combined with the powerful enough 160 hp engine, it makes for a very fun ride.
It’s also the only one with a roll cage, a safety feature that might make the difference between life and death should an accident occur.
But what matters most to some, beyond the design, the features, or the power, is the price of acquisition, which amounts to almost $60k, which is a nice one compared to the more pricier contenders. Sure, it’s not the cheapest, but taking into account the very different design and that safety roll cage, it makes for a very good option for a go-kart.
There aren’t many high performance road legal go-karts around, and these are the best of the best, and the most beautiful of all.
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