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Jaguar F-Type R vs Corvette C7

  1. Jaguar F-Type R versus Corvette. As conclusions go, this one shouldn’t be so much foregone as, well, fivegone or sixgone. Sure, the Corvette may have upped its game somewhat in the latest ‘C7’ generation, and earned rapturous reviews in America for its ability to negotiate a corner without immediately bursting into flames, but that’s America, where frankly if you fit your car with enough XXL cupholders and a Wendy’s loyalty card as standard, it’ll prove as popular as unlicensed gun ownership.

    But this is Europe, and this is the F-Type R. The most beautiful British car in years, packing a stately 542bhp of supercharged V8 and an all-aluminium bottom to put Ms Middleton Jr to shame. A European aristocrat against a swamp-dwelling hillbilly armed with a lead pipe. No contest, right?

    Photography: Mark Fagelson

  2. Wrong. If you’d told me before the start of Speed Week that, of all the amazing metal on show, the car I’d most enjoy driving on track - the car I’d come back to, time after time - would be the Corvette C7 Stingray, I’d have responded with a phrase not fit for a family magazine. Just look at it. You can tell from no more than a cursory glance that this thing is a) very front-engined, b) very rear-drive and c) just waiting for an excuse to flick you, tiddly-wink-style, into a lump of Armco.

    But here’s the thing. It isn’t. The Corvette is as confidence-boosting and accessible a fast car as I’ve driven in years. And that’s not coming from one of those grimacing, pointy-shoe-wearing drivers who steps from a car and says, with an approving nod, “Yeah, feels just like a racecar. Mega.” Because to me, “feels like a racecar” means “hideously hot, noisy, twitchy, impossible to see out of, might catch fire at any moment”. Feeling like a racecar is not generally a good thing. But the Corvette feels like a racecar in the right way rather than the wrong way, communicating to you from each corner, steering true, tapping you into an HDMI feed from the innermost workings of its chassis.

  3. Maybe that’s why, despite a steaming 460bhp and 465lb ft at your disposal, you never seem to be going especially fast in the C7. It’s also, I think, down to that vast, unstressed V8, which never so much explodes as simply melts a great sticky river of torque through the wheels throughout the rev range. But the Vette is deceptively rapid. In the hands of The Stig, and despite giving away the best part of 100 horses in the power department, the Chevy lapped Castellolí 3.4 seconds faster than the Jag. In my hands, the gap was somewhat greater.

    It isn’t perfect, not for a second. Though it’s nice to see a proper manual gearbox - the F-Type is auto only - the Corvette’s is far from the slickest. To change from third to fourth involves dragging the gearlever a good four feet from windscreen scuttle to rear axle. In truth, seven ratios is approximately six ratios too many: the Corvette’s third gear is good for everything from hill starts to autobahn charges. At 70mph in seventh, you’re not even touching 1,500rpm, which is a theoretical top speed of 310mph.

  4. Though it sounds glorious from the outside - a great lazy blues riff of bassy V8 - things are surprisingly muted from within the Vette’s cabin, even with that two-part roof removed and stowed.

    The Corvette boasts some wilful ergonomic weirdness, too. If you look closely, you’ll spot a pair of shifters, one either side of its wheel, just as you’ll find in the F-Type. Unlike the F, however, these don’t man the gears. These are, instead, buttons to activate and deactivate the Corvette’s ‘rev-match’ system, which blips the throttle automatically on downchanges to smooth out your shifts. Even if the rev-match system worked - which it doesn’t especially well - do you really need a flicker on each side to turn it off and on? Are you really likely to find yourself halfway through a fast corner, steering wheel at a strange angle, and think “Ooh, I could really do with a quick rev-match here, but I just can’t find the switch to turn it on…”? Wouldn’t a button on the dash suffice?

  5. The Jag is far more… moisturised within. Where there’s a flame-grilled meatiness to every one of the Corvette’s controls, the F-Type moves with a lightness of touch. Which makes it very pleasant for cruising gently on the motorway - or, rather, doing your utmost to cruise gently on the motorway and resist the F-Type’s natural desire to go bawling into triple-figure speeds and the notebooks of every traffic policeman within a 20-mile radius - but just a little distant on the track. I was never quite confident in what the F-Type’s rear was up to, quite how much grip it had left before it’d slew spectacularly yet disconcertingly wide. Traction control on, the F-Type’s traction light flashes a constant cabin disco. Traction control off, the F-Type’s rear axle shows a fervent desire to explore the outer verge of every corner.

    And that’s not just because I’m a mallet-footed oik: even His Stigness struggled to exploit the F-Type’s ample power. In fact, in his white mitts, the F went round Castellolí a fraction slower than the Cayman GTS, which is almost precisely 200bhp less powerful.

  6. Not that it’s a bad car, the F-Type R. This coupe feels more solid, more composed than the F-Type cabrio, and it makes a properly deranged array of noises, even if some are a mite synthetic. Convince the F to put the power to the tarmac rather than frittering its rear tyres to dust, and you’ll discover a fearsome-fast straight-line car: we clocked a 0-60mph time of 3.9 seconds. And, probably most importantly for potential buyers, the F-Type looks magnificent inside and out, even in the Strangely Brown paintjob of our test car. (White, honestly. That’s the colour you want. Embrace the bling). Out in the real world of traffic jams, dual carriageways and the occasional back-road blast, the F-Type, I suspect, would feel rather wonderful.

    But right here, on this fast, hairy track, it’s upstaged by the brilliant Corvette, a car that manages to feel mechanical yet sophisticated, brawny yet surprisingly delicate. Surprising, in fact, full stop. We suspected this might be a one-sided contest, and indeed it was. Just not the way we expected.

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