I still remember driving the C8 Corvette Stingray and realizing what a game changer it is. For under $70,000, the Corvette Stingray offers customers a mid-engine supercar with 500 horsepower, a dual-clutch transmission, and a 0-60 mph time of under three seconds. I distinctly remembering asking myself “Why would anyone buy an M4 instead?” I still don’t have an answer to that question. So now that the Corvette Z06 has been revealed, and journalists have gotten their grubby paws on it, a new question arises—why would anyone buy an M4 CSL instead?
Here’s the rundown of the new 2023 Corvette Z06 really quick. It’s a wider, lower, stiffer, more track-focused version of the C8 Corvette and it gets an all-new engine. For the first time in history, Chevrolet is offering a flat-plane crank V8, replacing the old cross-plane crank, pushrod V8s of yesteryear. Because of that new flat-plane crank design, the new 5.5-liter V8 revs to 8,500 rpm and makes 670 horsepower. From a naturally aspirated engine. That actually makes it the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 in the world. According to Chevy, the Z06 nails 60 mph in 2.6 seconds. That’s faster than any production BMW in history.
But it also gets stiffer bushing, stiffer springs, reworked MagnaRide dampers, massive 345-section rear tires, and a massive suite of changes to the chassis. It’s now stiffer, sharper, and far more capable than before.
M4 CSL is Good Too
Let’s compare that to the BMW M4 CSL for a moment. The M4 CSL is the fastest, most hardcore version of the new M4, itself the fastest, most capable M3/M4 ever made. Its 3.0-liter twin-turbo I6 makes 543 horsepower and it’s also lighter, stiffer, and more track-focused than ever before. The M4 CSL hits 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and it also features reworked suspension, steering, and brakes, to make it sharper and more aggressive than the standard M4. Its super-aggressive Michelin Cup 2 tires are ultra-sticky in dry weather and it has a bit of added aero.
Both cars are also about the same weight, around 3,600 lbs. That gives the Z06 a far better power-to-weight ratio, due to having far more power, and its mid-engine design is also more aerodynamic. So the Z06 has a few natural advantages.
However, here’s the kicker, and the real reason why I ask why anyone would buy the M4 CSL—the Corvette is cheaper. Not by much admittedly, but it’s still cheaper. The Z06 starts at $127,185, whereas the M4 CSL starts at $140,895. While $13,000 might not seem like much in the grand scheme of six-figure, ultra special sports cars, it’s not an insignificant amount of money, either. Plus, when the cheaper car gives you more power, more performance, and (sorry, M4 owners) better looks, it really begins to seem like the far better value.
Of course, pricing is sort of a moot point with both cars because snagging an allocation for either is nigh-impossible and dealers are likely going to mark them both up with eye-watering ADM (Adjusted Dealer Markup). However, even with that said, the Z06 is going to be easier to get, as it isn’t limited. BMW is only making 1,000 CSLs, while Chevy isn’t limiting the Z06. So if you want the CSL but can’t get one, the Z06 will be there for you.
Which Will Be the Better Buy?
I haven’t driven either car just yet, so I won’t say that the Z06 is absolutely the better buy (although, I’ll be driving the M4 CSL in November and will be asking Chevy for a Z06 as soon as possible). However, I’ve driven both the Corvette Stingray Z51 and the M4 Competition and there’s no question I’d buy the former over the latter, as it’s just the more fun car to drive. The Corvette is objectively a better car and that’s coming from someone who likes the M4 a lot. The M4 is good, the Corvette is great. And if you extrapolate that out to their higher-performance models, you might be asking yourself the same question I am.