It's important to recognize that each of our Automobile of the Year awards exists only at a specific time. The Dodge Neon seemed like a great pick in 1994, but soon thereafter our opinion changed. So, too, with the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: it was the best sports car when we gave it our coveted award in late 2013, but it could be dethroned at any time if a better car comes along.
To find out whether a regime change is in the works, we head to Michigan's Gingerman Raceway with a yellow 2015 BMW M4 and our white 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. The new M4 -- née M3 coupe -- has history on its side. Every version of the BMW M3 has been an enthusiast's dream, with sonorous engines and perfectly balanced chassis. The new 2015 model, with its torquey inline-six and perfectly tuned suspension, is the best expression of that idea yet. Surely this beacon of German engineering can outshine the Corvette?
As we set about lapping Gingerman, the same track used for our annual Automobile of the Year testing, a funny thing happens: the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray handily keeps pace with the M4. It's no surprise the cars are well-matched in a straight line, what with America bringing 460 hp to Germany’s 425 hp, but this Corvette keeps up everywhere on the track.
This isn't your uncle's Corvette. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray has all the fancy technologies of the M4 -- carbon-fiber body parts, electronic differential, adaptive suspension, direct injection, color head-up display -- and it matches the BMW's every move. Chevrolet has built the greatest Corvette ever, and it's good enough to keep pace with one of the best German cars money can buy. Its lone misstep is an occasional judder through the brake pedal after hard lapping, although they always halt the Corvette with authority.
We're having a riot battling the M4 on track, but also learn a lot on the ride home. Older Corvettes never matched the poise, the sophistication, and involvement of a classic M3. Times have changed. The 2015 BMW M4 is quieter, it soaks up freeway bumps more smoothly, and it has a plusher interior. But it also costs $18,140 more than our Four Seasons Corvette. More tellingly, the M4 fails to evoke the same response from drivers. Road test editor Christopher Nelson, an M4 champion who begged to take the BMW to the track, finally admits even he's jealous of our small-block Stingray.
“When I hear the sound of that V-8, and I see him ahead of me, I can't help thinking I'd have more fun in that car,” Nelson muses as he trails us around Gingerman. Sure enough, when it's time to drive home, he snags the Chevy keys and takes off before we have time to argue.
The 2015 BMW M4 is an incredible car. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is equally incredible. And that realization, that a Kentucky-built icon can stack up to Munich's legend, is the most incredible thing of all.