By Cars.com EditorsAugust 17, 2018
About the video
We put the pricey 2018 BMW M4 with Competition Package against the more affordable 2018 Ford Mustang GT with Performance Package Level 2 on the track. Which one provided the most bang for the buck?
Track day, there isn't a car enthusiast on the planet that either hasn't been to one or who doesn't want to go to one and for good reason. It's a heck of a lot of fun. And one of the best cars to take to a track day might just be this one.
This is the 2018 BMW M4. This one even has the competition package. It has everything you could possibly need to go fast on the track and have a really good time doing so. It's got a 444 horsepower twin turbo charged inline six cylinder engine. You've got 19 inch Michelin Super Sport tires. You've got a seven speed dual clutch automatic transmission, rear wheel drive, adjustable everything. The thing goes zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds, according to BMW. There's only one problem. It costs $87,000, and we thought to ourselves, "Can you have as much fun on a track day for a little bit less money?" Well, Ford answered our question. They sent us this. This is the 2018 Mustang GT with the Performance Pack two. It has a lot of the same numbers as the BMW, except for one. It only costs $46,000. Now we've decided to have our own track day here at GingerMan Raceway in western Michigan to see how the two of these compare out there. (car motor revving) Now, despite the price difference, these two really aren't as different as you might think. They both weigh about the same. They both have a super powerful engine. In the case of the Mustang, it's a 460 horsepower naturally aspirated five liter V8. You've got a six speed manual transmission, and the tires on this thing are Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires. These are basically racing tires with a minimal grove. You don't really want to drive them in the wet, but here at the dry track, it should be a lot of fun. (car motor humming) The Performance Pack Two really does change how the Mustang feels. Performance Pack One is still decent. I mean, you've got the thicker stabilizer bars. You've got a different shock too, and you got a different tune to the mack and ride as well. But for Performance Pack Two, all of that gets amped up even more. And that totally transforms how the Mustang GT feels. It is so much lighter than the last one, not in terms of actual pounds, but how the front end responds when you turn into a corner. It is so much more direct. It is so much more linear. There's a lot of feedback as well. It's progressive. It's really quite good. It reminds me a lot of the Camaro SS one LE package, which honestly, the Performance Pack Two was designed to fight. The grip from these tires is really quite fantastic. You're rolling on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2's. Sport Cup 2's are basically racing tires. They have a little bit of a groove to them but really not much, so they're slicks. And when you get 'em hot, the width of these things really helps this Mustang stick to whatever track you've taken it on. (car motor humming) And listen to this noise! (car motor accelerating) That is pure American glory, friends. It doesn't sound any better than that. Wanna hear it again? I wanna hear it again. (car motor accelerating) Absolutely. So both this and the M4 have an electronic suspension. The Mustang has the MagneRide dampers, as they're called, and it's always adjusting things. It's reading the pavement. It's reading your inputs. It's reading where the wheels are, and it's always making changes so that it can optimize what the car is doing. Out on the street it really provides an excellent balance in terms of handling and ride quality. And here on the track, you put the thing in track mode, it firms it up nicely, but it's never punishing. Even in the firmest mode it's really not a penalty box at all. It's still very supple. It's still really well damped. You don't have to basically go to the bathroom every time you get out of the thing because it's punched your kidneys for the last 10 miles. It really is tuned beautifully. (car motor accelerating) One of the M4's biggest differences from the Mustang is the amount of adjustability and customization you have with all of the settings in here, steering feel, transmission shift points, suspension firmness. All of it is variable in a number of different ways. There is no sport mode in the M4. You've got a bunch of different variables that you could program into your own custom sport mode. There are a couple of buttons on the steering wheel here, M1 and M2, and you can set all of these things in whatever combination you want and just turn them on with a push of a button. And that's kind of neat if you're driving it to the track and you want it to be comfortable. And once you get to the track, pop one button, turns it from a street cruiser into a track machine. (tires squealing) The problem I have with the M4 is that there's, I think, too much electronic wizardry happening between you and the machine itself. It's certainly fast but any kind of certain kind of spiritual connection that you get with the Mustang and the kind of bond between person and machine that I think is important when you're doing a kind of track day event when you're out driving for fun instead of driving for transportation. So yes, it definitely goes fast, but it goes fast in a more clinical kind of way. It's a very different approach to speed than we see with the American Mustang. This is really all about technical precision, less about the feel of it, I think. One of the strengths of the M4, definitely these brakes. These are carbon ceramic brakes. They're not cheap. And normally carbon ceramics aren't one you really want to drive on the street. They make a lot of noise when they're cold. They don't stop really well when they're cold. I don't notice any of those issues with these. I mean, yeah, they're over $8,000 for the optional brakes, but out here on the track around and around again and again, you stomp on these things, you get some heat in them, they do not fade. They do not judder. The rotors are rock solid. There's no warping feel at all. It is just going fast, stopping hard again and again and again. <v Announcer>We enlisted the help of pro driver, Holly Heiser from CGI Motor Sports. GingerMan Raceway is her home track. She knows it maybe better than anybody else on the planet. Here's what she thought about these cars. <v Holly>For myself, I prefer the M4. <v Aaron>Yeah. Over the, yeah, PP2. The BMW to me, like I really like that noise. I don't know. I love the noise that it makes. I felt like the turn-ins were a little bit crisper on the BMW for me. The way I was steering in and the way that it was responding, I felt really, really confident in that car. Seating position was good. Seats were good. Seats were good in this one too. I really like the seats here, but I think I could get up a little bit better. And just where I was, I felt more confident. Yeah, the suspension I thought was great. It felt super planted. Everywhere I told it to go, it went. So I really liked that car a lot. How much do you think the difference in the width of these tires makes in the handling of these two vehicles because the BMW's are wide, but the Mustang is crazy wide? <v Holly>Yeah, crazy wide. And I mean, just looking at the tires themselves, you know, like we've got a huge difference in what... <v Aaron>What little tread we've left on the Mustang. <v Holly>Yeah, what we were dealing with here. So, you know, that's another thing that probably gave me more confidence going in because I didn't have as much slide in the BMW as I did in the Mustang. So I mean the wider tires are going to give you a lot more grip, but they've got to have the grip on them to give us. <v Aaron>Yeah. <v Holly>So, I mean, it was a big difference between that. This with fresh tires on it, would've made a big difference, I think, but yeah, I just, I felt more comfortable in the BMW, and I really thought that the transmission was shifting and responding. The acceleration was a lot, like a lot more. It really was pulling out of those corners quick, so. So let me ask the question for you then. Is this $40,000 more fun than that is? From the laps that I took? No, no, no, not $40,000 more. <v Aaron>That's a big gap. <v Holly>Yeah, that's a huge gap. I mean, I've got $40,000, I'd rather, you know, buy the Mustang and put a little bit of money into it to even make it better for my driving style, so. <v Aaron>This comes in at 46 grand, which is, I think frankly, a screaming deal for what this thing can do. <v Holly>It's a definite bargain. Neither one of these is lacking for power. I mean, you've got, you got a 460 horsepower V8 versus a 444 horsepower straight six. So coming out of corners, I, you put your foot down. If you're in the right gear, there's no problem at all. <v Holly>Yeah, it goes. It definitely goes. And in the BMW, too, when you really get out, it knows what gear to be in. And it goes really, really well. So I liked it both. I prefer the exhaust, though, on the M4 just because I really liked the way that it growls. I always likened it to a tiger cub instead of an actual tiger. <v Aaron>Yeah. So it's got a little bit more of a tiger cub roar than an actual tiger, but I like that. It sounds fast, and it is. It pulls out really well. <v Aaron>But you can't top the roar of a Mustang. The thing just bellows off the hills if you put it in track mode. It's so much noise coming out of this, but it's kind of appropriate for it. I mean, it certainly doesn't sound like a horse, but it's just this guttural base note. Yeah, American muscle, like this sound coming out. This one is louder. (car motor revving) That one I think is a little bit higher pitch, but still has that growl that I like. I didn't find this one as appealing to me. To me, this sounds like a tractor. I understand it's making a lot of very precise very technical noise, but this to me, it has to have some kind of spirit. That's really the thing that I object most to about the M4. It's fast. It's fun to drive, but there's no, there's no spirit to it. You know, it's a go fast machine. It's a machine designed by the Germans to actually do one thing. That is go fast, and you can go very fast in it. But to me, this goes fast and it has a lot of soul to it, a lot of character to it as well. And the fact that you can buy almost two of them for the price of the M4, this, I would give the nod to the Mustang in this heads up. <v Holly>Yeah, I think I would too, just based on price alone actually 'cause it's still a great car, but that price difference is too big. <v Aaron>Yeah. <v Holly>Yeah. The Mustang was a full two seconds faster than the M4 around GingerMan Raceway thanks to its tires, aerodynamics, and retuned suspension, but we wanted to see what its raw acceleration numbers were. At Great Lakes Dragaway, we got our answer. Discovering that the BMW's transmission gave it a slight advantage in a straight line, streaking from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 4.15 seconds versus 5.32 seconds for the stick shift Mustang. (car motor revving) We totaled up all our scores. We consulted our hired pro driver. And at the end of the day, we discovered that the Mustang actually came out on top in this challenge, which just kind of goes to show us that you really don't have to spend a huge amount of money to get a super capable brand new track car. Although honestly, it does help to spend a big amount of money. If you'd like to see how the two of these stacked up and more head-to-head challenges, go visit us at cars.com. (upbeat music)