Taka recently purchased (stole) this beautiful black sapphire metallic 2001 M Coupe and is fortunate to also own a 2005 Corvette in millenium yellow. In his words, here’s how they compare:
The Corvette is a lot of fun to drive, but in a very different way. I think the car is more suited to use at a road course, especially if it’s not too tight, so you can really stretch the car’s legs and use that V-8 for what it’s worth. It’s definitely a lot faster than the M- having another 85 hp and only 200 lbs. would do that. My car has long tube headers, exhaust and will eventually have an intake and a tune, so I’d say it probably has a tad more than 400hp- I could feel the difference in power output even with the stock tune when I added the headers. I also never had traction issues with the stock manifolds (esp. with 305 Bridgestone RE-11), but I do now that I have the headers installed.
However, turn-in is much slower in the Corvette (the big difference in wheelbase is probably why) and you don’t get the feedback from the wheel and the seat of your pants that you do in the M- it’s more blind faith to really push the Corvette hard. It doesn’t help that the seats suck- they’re comfy on long trips but they give you zero lateral support- I’m really tempted to buy a Recaro Pole Position and use it as the normal seat so I don’t have to brace myself driving the car. The M’s seats are much more supportive- I don’t feel like I’m sliding around when I push the car a little. Note that I used to daily drive my Miata with a Recaro Profi SPG (the narrower seat compared to the Pole Position) and I’m not a skinny guy.
The exhaust note is much better in the Corvette- it sounds like thunder when you open the throttle. The BMW I-6, while being exemplary in its smoothness, has a terrible exhaust note- whatever BMW did to the S38, that engine sounds awesome. The S54 has none of that. Reminds me more of a big motorcycle engine.
The control interface is generally better in the Corvette- I find the pedal arrangement to be much better- I have a lot of trouble heel-and-toeing the M- the brake pedal and the accelerator are on a vastly different plane. The shifters in both cars suck- the Corvette shifter is heavy, imprecise and notchy (I made it even notchier and heavier switching to the MGW shifter, but a great deal more precise- I still think it shifts like a truck); the BMW shifter is very light (which is okay), has very little self-centering and the gates don’t feel precise (I’m thinking about getting a UUC Evo 3 to fix that). If you’ve driven a Miata or a S2000, you’ll know what I mean when the shifters in those cars are damn near perfect.
I also miss not having tilt and telescope adjustment in the M, as well as seat tilt, which a lot of people complain about.
With all of that, I think the M Coupe is a much more entertaining car to drive than the Corvette. I’m a little afraid that I’m not going to keep the Corvette (I’ve wanted one for years though and I’ve always wanted an American V-8 sports car) because the BMW is more involving to drive. Tactile feedback is better, the powerband is ridiculously good (I can lug it from 1500 rpm and wind it out to 7600, I don’t know any other car that can do that) and the handling is quite good (but can really be scary- this car will definitely bite you if you screw up). I doubt that I’d get rid of the Corvette, though- the only car I could think of replacing it with is a Porsche 997 GT3RS or possibly a C6 Z06 with Z07 (carbon ceramic brakes from the ZR1, shocks from ZR1, wheels and roof from ZR1).
They’re pretty much sports cars from very different perspectives and I count myself to be very fortunate to have both.
If you have a comparison to share, please send it to me at email@example.com and I’ll post it.