BMW M4 vs. Chevrolet Corvette C8: In Search of the Best Sports Car

BMW M4 vs. Chevrolet Corvette C8: In Search of the Best Sports Car

  • From the test track to the racetrack and all the commuting in between, Edmunds finds the best sports car
  • Corvette leads performance figures, even if the M4 feels faster
  • Which is more comfortable on the road? The answer may surprise you

The 2021 BMW M4 Competition and 2020 Chevrolet Corvette seem like an odd pairing. After all, the BMW is based on the 3 Series sedan and Corvettes usually battle Porsche 911s in sports car face-offs. My, how things have changed.

The M4 Competition's potency becomes clear when you realize its 503 horsepower is more than you get in most Porsche 911 variants. Even better, the BMW has a competitive starting price of $75,695 (destination included).

If the M4's price-to-power ratio seems like a bargain, what do we make of the eighth-generation Corvette, or C8? It offers a similar output but also has a mid-engine layout and supercar styling for $60,995 to start.

So, Corvette vs. M4: Which of these two is the best sports car? We found the answer by evaluating their performance at our testing facility, their limit handling at the racetrack, and their road manners during the commute.

What do you get for your money?

Both the M4 and the C8 have two doors, rear-wheel drive and automatic transmissions. Both also feature a number of adjustments for things like the responsiveness of the gas and brake pedals, the volume of the exhaust and so on. The range of settings is so vast that both vehicles have two customizable settings for owners to use like radio presets.

What about differences? The M4's sedan underpinnings mean it's a bit longer and taller than the Corvette, whose chassis is purpose-built. The advantages of the BMW's layout come in the form of a back seat and a large trunk. In lieu of back seats, the Corvette offers a 6.2-liter V8 with 490 horsepower (an optional exhaust upgrade adds 5 hp).

The M4 features a twin-turbo inline-six engine with 473 hp in the standard configuration or 503 hp in the automatic-only Competition trim. Beyond the power upgrade, the Competition has additional upgrades including larger wheels and more robust cooling for track use. The M4 we received for testing totaled $101,995 due to a slew of costly options, including carbon-ceramic brakes and carbon bucket seats.

The 2020 C8 Corvette featured here is the same one we bought for a yearlong evaluation. Like the M4 Competition, it has upgraded brakes, seats, cooling and handling thanks to options including the Z51 Performance Pack and Magnetic Ride Control adaptive dampers. So equipped, it totals $80,660.

Which is quicker at the test track?

The C8's and M4's similarities come into focus at our test track. They each wear the same make and model of tire (Michelin Pilot Sport 4S) and are separated by a mere 131 pounds on our scales.

Both cars have launch control systems that require paging through a few too many options to set up. Once configured, the C8 gets off the line more quickly — an advantage of having the engine behind the cabin, which helps keep the rear end planted. As the race continues, the M4 starts reeling in the Corvette, evidenced by its higher trap speed. It's fair to say that the drag race is nearly a tie, but the Corvette edges out the M4 in our braking and handling tests.

Test
vehicle

Power-to-weight, lbs/hp

0-60 mph, sec (w/ 1-ft rollout)

Quarter mile, sec @ mph

60-0 mph, ft

Skidpad lateral acceleration,
lat g avg

BMW M4 Competition

7.5

3.7 (3.5)

11.6 @ 122.7

106

1.06

Chevrolet Corvette

7.4

3.4 (3.2)

11.5 @ 119.7

101

1.08

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

How do they compare at the racetrack?

We took both cars to Streets of Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California, to evaluate their limit handling. A tight video schedule precluded timed laps, but we had plenty of opportunities to wring out both cars.

The M4 immediately feels more exciting, but this may or may not be a good thing depending on what you seek from a sports car. The engine is the highlight. It feels more potent and stronger than the Corvette's V8, providing an organic swell of acceleration akin to an engine that doesn't have turbochargers. The responsiveness makes you feel like you're going even faster than you are.

What's not so fun is the difficulty the rear tires have with translating that thrust into forward movement. The M4 is a very loose car under power, requiring constant steering corrections to keep straight when you're exiting most corners. This is especially apparent through the 65- to 70-mph esses at the track, which require careful management in the M4. This is exciting the first few times but grows frustrating the longer your lapping sessions last.

The Corvette is far easier to control. Where the M4 requires incessant effort to keep the rear tires in check, the C8 hooks up. Perhaps it's because of the Vette's larger rear tires or the M4's surely underrated engine output, but the result is more confidence in the Corvette. You can apply the go pedal earlier and focus on your line and reference marks instead of managing oversteer.

Similarly, the C8 Corvette's V8 seems more relaxed. It's less exciting in its power delivery, even though you notice you're carrying the same speeds as the BMW when you check the instruments. But those partial to V8 soundtracks will appreciate the deep blat accompanying long straights and the crack after upshifts.

2021 BMW M4

2021 BMW M4

Which is a better daily driver?

Though not as exciting as powerslides and triple-digit speeds, commuting in comfort remains an important goal for owners of modern sports cars. The M4's sedan underpinnings give it a more usable interior thanks to the existence of a back seat. Cramped as that space may be, at least it's there. The C8 Corvette's two-seat layout sets a hard limiter to some families.

As for storage, the Corvette has more total cubic feet of cargo space, but that's because the measurement is combined from two trunks: one under the hood up front, the other behind the engine at the rear. The rear trunk is wide enough to take a golf bag, but items there can get hot because of the proximity to the engine and exhaust. The M4's cargo capacity is more accommodating overall.

On the road, the C8 is vastly more comfortable. Its adaptive dampers transmit fewer road imperfections, while the cabin is quieter at speed than that of the M4. An available front axle lift also means you won't scrape the nose on driveways either.

We realize fuel economy isn't a major selling point for sports cars, but here we find another similarity — both cars have a 19 mpg combined EPA rating. On our 115-mile real-world evaluation loop, the M4 overdelivered with an average of 26.6 mpg, while the C8 Corvette logged 20.1 mpg.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette

Edmunds says

2021 BMW M4

2021 BMW M4

M4 vs. Corvette: Who wins? The BMW M4 is more exciting thanks to its racier engine and oversteer-happy rear end. Its sedan roots make it slightly more functional on the road too. On the other hand, the Corvette delivers similar performance for significantly less money and offers more stability on the racetrack, making it a better experience. During normal driving, the C8 has a smoother ride, and its mid-engine layout feels more special from behind the wheel. This blend of performance, comfort and value is what makes the Corvette the best sports car.


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