The Chevrolet Corvette convertible and the Jaguar F-type V-8 S we’ve gathered here fulfill the basic tenets of the hot-rod faith. Window-shattering V-8? Check. Two seats tucked into a body that will draw longing stares and disapproving looks? Check. Guy behind the wheel wearing a Hawaiian shirt? Check.
But the Corvette and F-type do have differences. One has a DOHC engine with a supercharger on top, the other a pushrod V-8 that will send quivers through the body at idle. One looks like something a superhero would drive, the other something a superspy might buy. With all these commonalities and contrasts staring us in the face, we figured it appropriate to run our first test of the C7 convertible against its British foe to see who makes the better ride for the Hawaiian-shirt aficionado.
2014 Jaguar F-type V-8 S
Second place: Hot Seats.
While Americans were chopping, channeling, doo-wopping, and liking Ike, Jaguar was busy winning Le Mans with its C- and D-type racers. In the ’60s,Jaguar’s E-type defined sports-car style. After a four-decade hiatus, Jaguar is again building a knockout of a sports car. Staring isn’t enough; the F-type’s curves beg to be washed. It looks especially good from behind, yet the design is free of gaudiness or vulgarity.
Jag offers three engine options: a 340-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, a 380-hp version of that V-6, and a 495-hp supercharged 5.0-liter V-8. An intercooler is standard. When it came to choosing the right foil for the new Corvette, we selected the supercharged V-8. Hot rods don’t have V-6s (cough, Plymouth Prowler), and here we wanted performance parity between our two roadsters, even though it comes at the expense of price parity. Opting for the V-8 pushes the Jag’s starting price by $11,000 to $92,895, which is more than $15,000 over a loaded Stingray convertible. Our test example pushed even further with the $1925 Extended Leather pack and the $1200 Meridian sound system, right past common sense and to an as-tested price of $100,370.
At the test track, the Jaguar pushed us hard into its thinly padded leather seat. Acceleration to 60 matched the Corvette’s 3.7-second time with the F-type slightly pulling away past 100 mph. In addition to posting a higher power rating, the Jag’s V-8 also has more low-end torque than the Vette, which made launching the car without sending the tires up in smoke a bit of a challenge.
An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission available. Fortunately, it’s phenomenal and utterly convinced that it’s a dual-clutch automatic. It cracks off shifts without delay. Paddles behind the steering-wheel spokes call up the right gear instantly and the revs match perfectly on downshifts.
You’ll find yourself aimlessly dropping down a gear or two just to hear the cackling, metallic rap of the F-type’s four-pipe exhaust. It’s as loud and raucous as a Ferrari-built foghorn, likely to set off your neighbors’ car alarms. Then again, if you can afford this car, you probably don’t live very close to your neighbors.
We left suburbia and headed into the San Bernardino Mountains. The F-type shines bright on these canyon roads: There’s plenty of easily exploited grip, and the car locks into corners without any suspension squirminess or excessive body roll. Its steering efforts are marginally lighter than the Corvette’s, which helps hide the fact that the aluminum F-type weighs 464 pounds more than the aluminum-and-composite-plastic Chevy. Yet we only felt the Jag’s mass disadvantage and 52.5-percent front-weight bias in our slalom test. Through the cones, the F-type wasn’t quite as eager to turn as the Corvette. And once the nose was pointed, the rear tires would threaten to swing wide. It still managed a slalom speed of 48.3 mph, not far off the Corvette’s 48.7 mph.
The Jag’s nose heaviness can be blamed on its hulking supercharged DOHC V-8. Overhead cams, 32 valves, and a supercharger on top make for a bulkier engine than the 16-valve pushrod V-8 in the Chevy. The Jag’s engine forces a high hood and an equally high instrument panel, so visibility suffers slightly as you sit deep within the car’s black-leather cocoon. While you’re in there, you’ll notice that there’s not much room and that the touch-screen infotainment system appears to be from the year 2005.
We really liked this car’s steering and its playful exuberance, but the new Corvette nearly matches or beats the F-type everywhere, including price.
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible
First place: Hot Seats.
While Corvettes haven’t been known for refinement, luxury, or comfort, the seventh-generation Vette may change that. Equipped with the $8005 3LT trim that adds power everything, a useful head-up display, a few extra Corvette-insignia tramp stamps, a 10-speaker Bose audio system, and a leather-wrapped interior, the Chevy is dressed up with the kind of luxury you expect from, well, Jaguar. And it wasn’t just the interior that had us likening our Stingray to a Jag: This Corvette arrived wearing the traditional British color combo of dark green over tan.
We can’t remember the last time a Corvette had such good seats. Probably never. More forgiving than the Jaguar’s stiff saddles, the Chevy’s also hug better. Fake suede covers the inside of the windshield frame for an extra $495 (Porsche would charge double that), and bits of aluminum trim highlight the smooth swaths of leather. The displays are modern, attractive, and intuitive to use, if a bit slow to respond. Someone at GM finally sweated the interior details and the results are excellent. Our only gripe is that we wish we could smell the leather over the strong scent of plastic resin.
Insult to injury: The Corvette not only won this comparo, but it did so wearing a color conspicuously close to British Racing Green.
Refinement has come to the driving experience, too. Tire noise is subdued even though the Michelins will hum loudly on concrete freeways. Magnetorheological shocks add $1795 to the track-ready Z51 package, but despite the eager chassis, the ride is more compliant and comfortable than the Jaguar’s flinty setup.
Before you start thinking the Corvette has become a European dandy, sit behind the wheel and take in the ridiculous front fenders. The view out the windshield makes you feel like a comic-book hero with hyperinflated pecs; C3 owners will feel right at home. The view out the back? Well, the body’s high tail and the roof’s slit of glass when the top is up don’t leave much of one. Despite learning about the salad fork, the Corvette is still very much a sports car in a superhero costume. If the body doesn’t convince you of that, the four polished bazookas firing from the rear bumper will.
A new structure arrived for the seventh generation, and, although it’s more solid than before, there’s a 196-pound weight penalty compared with the last C6 convertible we tested. That weight is distributed slightly rearward, a product of the compact V-8 that fits behind the front-axle center, as well as the transaxle located ahead of the rear wheels. We did notice a very slight quiver coming up through the steering column that we don’t recall in the coupe.
Like most Corvettes we’ve tested, the C7 convertible aced the track portion of our exam. Stops from 70 mph took a retina-detaching 141 feet, and skidpad grip came in at 1.00 g. Acceleration numbers were within a hair of the Jaguar’s, with the Chevy rocking back onto its rear wheels and enjoying a slight advantage at launch. This convertible proved quicker than the Z51 manual coupe we tested last year, and that makes it easier to forgive the presence of the six-speed automatic, which we chose for the sake of car-to-car comparability, and because less than half of Corvette convertible owners opt for the stick. Shifts happen nearly as fast as they do in the Jag, and there’s a pleasing snap, crackle, pop with each upshift. With a torque-laden 6.2-liter under the hood making 460 horsepower, more speeds than six are overkill. But this entire vehicle segment is about overkill, so an eight-speed auto is on the way for 2015. All the Corvette’s numbers were very repeatable, but it did throw a flag after we ran its trans fluid into the red zone during the last of our six maximum-acceleration runs.
Unlike so many Corvettes we’ve driven, the C7 is a joy to play with on public roads. Steering efforts are a little higher than the Jaguar’s, but there’s real feedback and road feel, even when you’re stuck behind a Winnebago chugging up a mountain.
The Vette’s width intimidates and annoys at first, especially around town. Start exploring the big grip, though, and its imposing size vanishes. This is an easy car to drive fast; its sedan-length 106.7-inch wheelbase imparts serious stability. And, as long as the transmission isn’t overheating, it’s ready and willing to party, provided you switch into track or sport mode. So configured, the automatic holds gears and downshifts under braking to give you the right gear for the corner. There’s also a manual mode that will let you bounce the 6.2 into the rev limiter when you forget to pull the right-side paddle.
And though we said right upfront that there will always be a price disparity between these two V-8–powered hot rods, the Corvette convertible’s performance, style, refinement, and, yes, price make it a winner. It’s tough to break $75,000 here. Loaded to the fabric top with $17,730 worth of options, our Corvette arrived with an as-tested price of $76,725, almost 25 percent less than our F-type. Yes, 76 grand is still expensive, but considering that the C7 convertible is now a legitimate alternative to $100,000 cars, this Corvette is a royal value.
Final Scoring, Performance Data, and Complete Specs
Hot Seats: Roadsters separated by an ocean (and $23,000).
|2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible||2014 Jaguar F-type V-8 S|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$76,725||$100,370|
|LENGTH||176.9 inches||176.0 inches|
|WIDTH||73.9 inches||75.7 inches|
|HEIGHT||48.6 inches||51.5 inches|
|WHEELBASE||106.7 inches||103.2 inches|
|FRONT TRACK||63.0 inches||62.4 inches|
|REAR TRACK||61.7 inches||64.1 inches|
|INTERIOR VOLUME||52 cubic feet||52 cubic feet|
|TRUNK, TOP UP/DOWN||10/10 cubic feet||7/7 cubic feet|
|ENGINE||pushrod 16-valve V-8 376 cu in (6162 cc)||supercharged DOHC 32-valve V-8 305 cu in (5000 cc)|
|POWER HP @ RPM||460 @ 6000||495 @ 6500|
|TORQUE LB-FT @ RPM||465 @ 4600||460 @ 2500|
|REDLINE / FUEL CUTOFF||6500/6600 rpm||6600/6600 rpm|
|LB PER HP||7.6||8.0|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
MPH PER 1000 RPM/
|SUSPENSION||F: control arms, leaf spring, anti-roll bar
R: control arms, leaf spring, anti-roll bar
|F: multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
R: control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
|BRAKES||F: 13.6-inch vented, grooved disc
R: 13.3-inch vented, grooved disc
|F: 15.0-inch vented disc
R: 14.8-inch vented disc
|STABILITY CONTROL||fully defeatable, traction off, competition mode, launch control||fully defeatable, traction off|
|TIRES||Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP
F: 245/35ZR-19 (89Y)
R: 285/30ZR-20 (95Y)
|Pirelli P Zero
F: 255/35ZR-20 (97Y)
R: 295/30ZR-20 (101Y)
C/D TEST RESULTS
|0–30 MPH||1.4 sec||1.5 sec|
|0–60 MPH||3.7 sec||3.7 sec|
|0–100 MPH||8.7 sec||8.4 sec|
|0–150 MPH||22.2 sec||20.4 sec|
|¼-MILE @ MPH||12.1 sec @ 119||12.0 sec @ 120|
|ROLLING START, 5–60 MPH||4.0 sec||3.9 sec|
|TOP GEAR, 30–50 MPH||2.5 sec||2.1 sec|
|TOP GEAR, 50–70 MPH||2.5 sec||2.8 sec|
|TOP SPEED||185 mph (drag ltd, C/D est)||171 mph (drag ltd)|
|BRAKING 70–0 MPH||141 feet||147 feet|
|1.00 g||0.96 g|
|610-FT SLALOM||48.7 mph||48.3 mph|
|CURB||3496 pounds||3960 pounds|
|CG HEIGHT||18.0 inches||19.5 inches|
|TANK||18.5 gallons||19.0 gallons|
|RATING||91 octane||91 octane|
|EPA CITY/HWY||16/28 mpg||16/23 mpg|
|C/D 500-MILE TRIP||18 mpg||16 mpg|
|TIME TO OPEN/CLOSE||21/22 sec||11/13 sec|
|IDLE||55 dBA||47 dBA|
|FULL THROTTLE||90 dBA||89 dBA|
|70-MPH CRUISE||73 dBA||72 dBA|
Max Pts. Available
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible
2014 Jaguar F-type V-8 S
|FIT AND FINISH||10||9||9|
|FUN TO DRIVE||25||22||23|
* These objective scores are calculated from the vehicle’s dimensions, capacities, rebates and extras, and/or test results.