Tops down, fists up: Corvette Stingray, Jaguar F-Type designers square off

A few weeks ago, I had the rare privilege to rub elbows with the Corvette design team. You might remember I recently sent some Corvette lovers into a tizzy with the admission by Chief Corvette designer Tadge Juechter, that if sales didn’t improve, there would be no new Corvette after the C7.

While on that now-infamous trip, I got to jaw automotive design with chief Corvette designer Kirk Bennion. After I had picked Bennion’s brain about the Stingray and then-forthcoming Z06 design, I asked him about designs he liked from other automakers, specifically about the Jaguar F-TYPE Convertible and Coupe.

“It’s a pretender,” he said. “Jaguar is a luxury automaker pretending to be sporty.”

He explained himself thusly: “With the Stingray, we did the opposite of what Jag is doing with the F-TYPE. We took a sporty car and made it more luxurious.”

While I found his honesty and opinion of the F-TYPE surprising, I didn’t really give it too much thought. That is, until I found myself chatting up Ian Callum, Director of Design at Jaguar and the man who penned the F-TYPE, at the Detroit Auto Show last week.

2014 Jaguar F Type convertible front left

After I ooh’d and aww’d over the F-TYPE Coupe with Callum, I told him what Bennion said of the F-TYPE design.

“He said that?” Callum said with an air of disappointment in his voice. “Well if he thinks we’re not sporty, he needs a Jaguar history lesson … Actually, he should drive [the F-TYPE]. It’ll blow the wheels off the ‘Vette. Just wait for the RS version.”

And with that, Callum shook my hand and excused himself. “I have another appointment. Take care.”

This little show of one-upmanship gave me pause. And made me realize that, since I’ve driven both, perhaps I ought to compare the two cars.

So let’s do exactly that and pit the ultimate American sports car against the best sports car Britain has to offer.

Performance

For performance, there are three levels of Jaguar F-TYPE Convertible: F-TYPE, F-TYPE S, and F-TYPE V8S. Then, on the Stingray Convertible side, there are two levels: Stingray and Stingray with Z51 performance package. For fairness, I’ll be comparing the more powerful of the two cars: V8 versus V8.

Though, I should mention there is a V8R version of the new F-TYPE R Coupe that makes 542 horsepower and 501 pound-feet of torque from the 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Since I’ve not driven that one, I’ll leave it be … just fair warning, though.

Let’s start Stateside. The Stingray Convertible’s 6.2-liter LT1 naturally aspirated V8, when fitted with the Z51 performance pack, which I highly recommend, makes 460 hp and 624 lb-ft. And it’ll go 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds. It can be mated to either a seven-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.

Across the pond, the uproarious – emphasis on ‘roar’ – Jaguar makes 488 hp and 460 lb-ft. from its supercharged 5.0-liter V8. It’ll rush to 60 mph from a dead standstill in 4.2 seconds and hit a top speed of 186. Unlike the ‘Ray, the Jag only offers one transmission: an eight-speed auto with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

This is a tough-y. While the Jag is slower to 60, it makes more power and more noise. Although it likely has a lower top speed (Chevy hasn’t said the Stingray Convertible’s top speed), I am going to have to give this one to the Stingray.

Performance champ: Stingray Convertible. You can’t argue with 0 to 60.

Handling

Here’s another tough-y. Both these cars are carved from aluminum. While this is a new development for Chevy, it’s old hat for Jag. Remember, Jaguar Land Rover has been doing aluminum cars since the 1940s. That’s the benefit of having aluminum remnants of German Luftwaffe jetfighter hulls strewn about your country: lots of aluminum to mess about with.

The all-new C7 Corvette chassis is so stiff, in fact, engineers didn’t have to improve rigidity it at all to make the Z06 performance model…

The F-TYPE Convertible is very poised in hard cornering. But you can tell it’s not as rigid as it could have been. It’s just a bit soft. Surely, though, the new F-TYPE Coupe will solve that problem with its roof.

The Stingray, on the other hand, is very, very stiff. The all-new C7 Corvette chassis is so stiff, in fact, engineers didn’t have to improve rigidity it at all to make the Z06 performance model – or the C7.R race car.

I’ve been hemming and hawing over this in my brain for a while now. I love the F-TYPE and don’t care it’s a bit soft. Hard cars are great for racecar drivers. For normal, everyday drivers, though, they’re kidney killers.

That said, I have to take my hat off and put it over my heart for the Stingray. It’s so composed. It’s so taught. It has to be given the handling trophy.

Cornering champion: Stingray Convertible

Design

I know this portion is completely subjective. But this is the subject that kicked-off the whole versus concept anyhow. So I’d be remiss to ignore it.

And I’ll cut to the chase: The Jaguar F-TYPE is the clear winner.

I love and respect the Stingray. For the first time, it looks like a true supercar – especially from the rear-end. And there are few better views on planet earth than that from the Stingray’s driver seat, looking out over that big, curvy hood. Frankly, there isn’t a bad line on the whole thing – especially in the convertible, with was designed side-by-side with the coupe.

Amusingly, it’s that supercar-like rear-end that Ian Callum chided the Stingray for. When we discussed F-TYPE versus Stingray in Detroit, he agreed that the Corvette is a great looking car, but felt the backend too messy.

“They should have stuck with the round taillights. The Camaro rear lights just don’t work; they’re too busy.”

2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible back

Look at Callum’s F-TYPE design and you might quickly understand his point of view. The whole thing is simple. It’s so simple you feel like you might well could have come up with it while lounging in your bathtub. That’s the brilliance of it, though. It’s classic and simple and utterly breathtaking. I used to think the F-TYPE Convertible was the best-looking car of the last 20 years. Then Jag unveiled the Coupe version and bowled me over.

That said, the Convertible is still staggering. I love it.

Penmanship award: F-TYPE Convertible

Checkered flag

I would be negligent if I didn’t mention pricing for the two cars. So here they are:

  • Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible with Z51 $59,795
  • Jaguar F-TYPE Convertible V8S $92,000

Yeah. Big price difference. As you can see, the Jag in its full V8S kit is just shy of double the price of the Stingray. And as much as I’d love to be glib and say that pricing doesn’t matter, but when it’s that much of a jump; it does.

Taking all things into consideration, I have to give the checkered flag to my home country hero, and North American Car of the Year, the Stingray.

I deeply love the F-TYPE – perhaps more than I do the Stingray – but facts and figures can’t lie. The Stingray is just a better car, especially for the money.

Now let me add this caveat: I think that the F-TYPE RS that Callum admitted was coming down the pike just might beat the pants off the newly unveiled Z06, as he said it would.

Until it’s on the tarmac in front of me, though, it’s all vaporware and another versus for another day.

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