BMW‘s latest attempt at living up to its Ultimate Driving Machine claims doesn’t feel quite as special as previous iterations. The M4 is a quick, powerful, capable car, but as we mentioned in a comparison test against the Camaro SS, “What’s missing is any trace of that special sauce that used to make BMWs worth the additional price: tuning.” With its twin-turbocharged inline-six and plush interior, the M4 isn’t a bad choice if you’re looking for a luxurious sport coupe. But for $10,000 less, you could have a mid-engine V-8 sports car.
BMW Z4 sDrive M40i: $64,695
The new BMW Z4 is a fabulous roadster in its own right—especially the M40i with its 382-hp turbo inline-six under the hood. Our First Drive found the Z4 to be a composed, refined car with lots of mechanical grip and an excellent top-down driving experience. At $65,000, though, some might find it hard to justify the price difference over a C8 Corvette. Plus, the ‘Vette has a standard removable roof panel for open-top motoring and a naturally aspirated (and more powerful) V-8 engine providing the soundtrack.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT350: $60,235
The GT350 and GT350R just might be the best Mustangs ever built. Their high-revving flat-plane-crank V-8 makes 526 hp and a sound you just don’t hear from other American powerplants. The GT350 is, however, still a Mustang, which means it’s heavy—about 3,800 pounds. Chevy says the Corvette has a dry weight of 3,366 pounds, and because it’s mid-engine, that weight should naturally be better distributed. It’s unclear whether the C8 will still come in below $60,000 after destination charge is factored in, but even if the 2020 Corvette is a hair over the Shelby’s price, it’ll be hard to argue that the GT350 is the better performance deal.
Jaguar F-Type: $62,625
It’s hard not to love the Jaguar F-Type. I mean, just look at it. Since its debut in 2014, Jaguar has done a lot of work to expand the F-Type lineup, at the top of which sits the 575-hp animal that is the F-Type SVR. Problem is, even the entry-level four-cylinder F-Type starts at more than $62K. In four-cylinder guise the F-Type is still a sweetheart, but many will find it difficult to justify when, for less cash, you could get a mid-engine Corvette with a couple hundred extra horses and a naturally aspirated V-8 right behind your head.
Lexus RC F: $66,800
Beside the Mustang, the Lexus RC F is one of only two naturally aspirated V-8-powered cars on this list. You might not be in love with its styling, but we have no complaints with what’s under the hood. However, even more so than the GT350, the RC F is something of a porker. Its platform is a mashup of no less than three Lexus models, slapped together to achieve structural rigidity at low cost, but the result is a car that weighs more than 4,000 pounds. The RC F is a compelling alternative to a car like the M4, but it’s hard to make an argument for the $67,000 Lexus when the lighter, more powerful Corvette starts at less than $60K.
Mercedes-AMG SLC 43: $63,900
No direct successor is planned for the Mercedes-Benz SLC, and we’re sad to see another two-seat roadster going the way of the dinosaur. In AMG SLC 43 guise, the little Benz makes 385 hp and hits 60 mph in an estimated 4.6 seconds, but its 8-year-old platform is starting to show its age. There’s certainly a market for rear-drive, open-top performance cars, but it’s difficult to recommend the SLC 43 in a world where the Mazda Miata exists, let alone a mid-engine V-8-powered Corvette (with a standard removable roof panel) under $60K.
Porsche 718 Cayman S: $70,550
It’s safe to say that our biggest disappointment with the Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster lies in the engine compartment. All models (save the Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder) are powered by a turbocharged horizontally opposed four-cylinder, replacing the naturally aspirated flat-six engines that used to power Porsche’s mid-engine sports cars. The Cayman and Boxster still set a handling benchmark and their angry four-pots make these cars more capable and more efficient than ever, but they lack the aural excitement that made us fall for their predecessors. Perhaps the C8 Corvette can scratch that naturally aspirated mid-engine sports car itch, and if it can, it’ll do so with a $10,000 price advantage over a Cayman S.
Honorable mention: Toyota Land Cruiser: $86,460
We can’t imagine anyone will be cross-shopping a mid-engine Corvette and a Toyota Land Cruiser, but did you know that Toyota sells an $86,000 SUV? That’s right, the automaker known for cheap, reliable transportation machines sells a five-seat truck for almost as much as a new Porsche 911. It’s expensive because the Land Cruiser is borderline unstoppable off-road—it recently took first place in an off-road comparison test against a Jeep Wrangler and Mercedes G-Wagen—but it still manages to offer comfort and luxury when driving on pavement. But still! You can buy a V-8 mid-engine supercar for less than a Toyota!