AUTOMOBILE is in a committed Four Seasons relationship with two stellar sports cars. First, there’s the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, which we picked up in May 2014, and second, there’s the 2015 Jaguar F-Type S, which came along two months later. We love them both—the Corvette was our AUTOMOBILE of the Year for 2014, and the F-Type was named an AUTOMOBILE All-Star the same year. As we near the conclusion of our time with both cars, though, we feel compelled to decide which we’d prefer in a committed relationship.
To settle things once and for all, we took both on a romantic vacation, heading south from our Michigan office toward roads in southeast Kentucky that AUTOMOBILE editors have been tearing up since the tenure of our magazine’s founder, the late David E. Davis Jr. We already know both cars to be great long-distance companions. The ’Vette has clocked more than 26,000 miles zigzagging across the Midwest and East Coast, and the Jag has traveled from Los Angeles to Detroit, racking up more than 23,000 miles.
We haven’t seen a Chevy and a Jag nip at each other’s heels since the early 1960s, when the original Stingray competed with the beautiful E-type.
As we cross into Ohio, daily news editor Eric Weiner radios from the F-Type and advises prudence, “Let’s keep it at 9 mph over the speed limit.” I call back, “Sure.” Then I gun the Corvette in third gear and roar by him. There’s not much he can do about it. The F-Type, with its supercharged V-6, can make some moves, but the Corvette has two extra cylinders and 80 horsepower more, and it’s just a faster girl. A 2015 Jaguar F-Type R, with its 550-hp supercharged V-8, could deliver comparable performance to the Chevy, but it would cost $99,925, which is 650-hp Corvette Z06 money. As it is, our Four Seasons F-Type S, with options including a full leather interior and a sport package (bigger brakes, two-mode exhaust, sport seats), costs $24,515 more than our Corvette, which itself has bigger brakes (part of the Z51 package), magnetorheological dampers, and competition seats. The Jaguar V-6 manages only a small fuel-economy advantage over the ’Vette’s pushrod V-8. We’ve observed 21 mpg during our Four Seasons test in the F-Type versus 20 mpg in the Corvette.
The Jag makes the most of its assets, though. The supercharged engine responds instantly to throttle inputs, like a dog straining at its leash. Both cars have a sport exhaust mode, but the Jaguar is louder and more maniacal, playing a constant soundtrack of pops and snarls. When I tell a curious local at an Ohio gas station that a 3.0-liter V-6 is making all this racket, he replies with an incredulous and appreciative expletive.
This F-Type S also pairs a lot more luxury with its sportiness than the Chevy does. You’ve probably heard a lot about how nice the C7 Corvette’s interior is. The Jaguar snorts with disdain at such a notion, as if to say, “Yes, old chap, we’re sure that is genuine leather. And what an interesting shade of red you’ve chosen for your seats.” Materials, switchgear, and the way the panels fit together have all improved in the new Corvette but still don’t compare to a Jaguar. The Corvette’s cabin is also louder than the F-Type’s and has become more so in recent months, as worsening squeaks and rattles have joined wind and road noise.
That said, we’ve packed most of our gear in the Corvette, which boasts a precious 4 cubic feet more of cargo space than the F-Type. The Chevy is also easier to see out of and has more intuitive controls. We initially kept getting lost in the seven-speed manual gearbox, but after many months, we can guide the shift lever through its gates with smooth flicks of the wrist. Not the same for the F-Type’s automatic shifter, which we often put into neutral when we intend to be in drive.
Both cars are lookers. We’ve garnered more attention in them than in any Four Seasons car since we had an Audi R8 in 2008. On this journey through the Midwest, however, the Jaguar receives far more stares. At a McDonald’s in Kentucky, an employee walks right past the Corvette to ask how much the Jaguar costs and seems unfazed when we tell him it’s $92,575. “You’ve made my day,” he says, before going back to work.
Maybe the Corvette is insulted by the lack of attention it gets, because shortly thereafter, it throws a temper tantrum. When I step on the throttle in second gear to chase Weiner back onto the highway, the ’Vette coughs, slows, and finally stalls in the middle of rush-hour traffic. This is embarrassing. Worse, it’s not just an ill-timed fluke. The Corvette has spent the better part of a month in service bays over the past year with issues ranging from leaky rear differential seals to a passenger airbag recall. Most recently, it needed a tow to a dealership when it failed to start. The technicians replaced the fuel pump under warranty.
It seems that fix was more like a patch. I’m able to restart the car but am left staring at a check engine light, and OnStar remotely diagnoses a problem with the fuel-sending unit. Game over, it would seem. Or perhaps not. The navigation system says we’re less than two hours north of Bowling Green, Kentucky, home of Corvette manufacturing. If there’s any place where a Corvette can get a major repair in a jiffy, it’s there. I limp onto I-65 South and ease into the right lane. The F-Type, which had looped back to find its downed companion, hangs close as an escort, no doubt feeling schadenfreude. “You know the best thing about this F-Type?” gloats Weiner. “It’s never broken down.” The Jaguar hasn’t required a single warranty repair during its time with us.
The next morning, mechanics at Campbell Chevrolet in Bowling Green determine that their counterparts in Ann Arbor had replaced the fuel pump during our previous episode of fuel system failure but not the computer that controls it. In Michigan we had to wait a week for parts, but here the supply lines are considerably shorter. After only a few hours, our Corvette emerges from the service bay primped and ready to return to the party.
We pick up a winding thread of asphalt about an hour north of Bowling Green and follow it as long as the light holds. The Jaguar feels a bit more eager and more accessible. Its steering, still hydraulically assisted, feels sharper than the Corvette’s electric power setup, and its rear end rotates sooner in a corner. But the Corvette ultimately tolerates more bad behavior and even encourages it. The faster you go, the harder it sticks, daring you to stay on the gas. When you finally say uncle, the brakes stop the car with more authority than the Jaguar’s. As Weiner notes, “There’s something intense and brutal about the Corvette that makes me forgiving of its shortcomings.”
It’s true—we still love the Chevrolet Corvette despite its misbehavior. It is, no doubt, the superior driving machine, the one we’d choose for a day at the track or on a deserted back road. But these cars, which sell for luxury car prices, are not cheap dates for weekend trysts. We expect to be able to drive them every day, rain or shine. When it’s time to slog back to Michigan the next morning to finish this 1,200-mile courting ritual, I’m relieved to be in the Jaguar F-Type. It’s as beautiful as the Corvette and nearly as thrilling on a back road, and the rest of the time, it’s more comfortable, more carefully crafted, and—we can’t believe it either—more reliable. The Jaguar F-Type is a lovely, cultured girl whom we would be proud to drive home to Mother.
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