Comparison Test: Jaguar F-Type, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, Lotus Evora

Side-By-Side Comparison Of These High End Performance Titans

What a golden age for driving enthusiasts, especially if you’re in the market for a luxury sports car. On a windy day in the California desert outside the famed Willow Springs racetrack, we had a golden opportunity to test three of the very best available today: The Jaguar F-Type, Chevrolet Corvette and Lotus Evora.

Five years ago, two of these cars didn’t exist at all, while the new Corvette is so far removed from its predecessor that it’s almost unfair to classify them together. That speaks to how far sports cars have come recently, and what we found is that the state of the sports car may be at an all-time peak, thanks largely to these three. Here’s how they drive.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

(Base Price: $53,800 – Price as Tested: $71,720)

This is a Tale of Two Cylinders. Well, eight cylinders, actually, but there are two distinct sides to the 6.2L V8 engine inside the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Because while the Corvette has traditionally been held up as the standard two-seat American sports car since its inception, the addition of new technology for 2014 like active fuel management and a lovely interior make this the most liveable Corvette ever. Cruising around in low revs, the Corvette Stingray is softer than you’d think, and excellent on fuel economy as half the cylinders shut down until they’re needed again. Yes, the Corvette has gone soft. That is, until you find its dark side.

Once you turn over that leaf, the warm and cuddly Corvette is a thing of the past. It’s a hardcore performance machine once again, with the rumble of 450 horsepower coursing through the chassis and out the quad exhaust pipes. The sound that accompanies each tap of the gas pedal is simply volcanic, but the Corvette stays flat and composed while the red blood cells inside you are rattling with excitement. The stiffened body stays clear of body roll at speed, and the effortless steering you had a second ago has been replaced with true and direct handling as the digital tachometer ticks off revs by the thousand. Blip. The six-speed paddle shift transmission changes gears through telepathy. Brake. Blip-blip. The exhaust spits out a primal wail as the gears cycle down and you speed off all over again.

While the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the most sophisticated and civilized in its entire family lineage, it hasn’t lost that brash arrogance that made it the best value performance car in the world. In fact, that side of its persona has only improved with the excellent Magnetic Ride Control ($1,795 option) suspension and steering to match the engine. And while the other two cars in this comparison are the top level for their model, the Corvette Stingray is the base trim. Who knows what the new Z06 will do, let alone the mighty ZR1, whenever those come out. Until then, rejoice, for the Corvette is back and better than ever.

2013 Lotus Evora S

(Base Price: $77,100 – Price as Tested: $92,020)

You immediately get the sense that the 2013 Lotus Evora S is cut from a different cloth. It is at once both more practical and less inviting than the other two cars in this comparison. For instance: It is the only one with four seats, but an interior design that doesn’t care to impress and a navigation screen tacked on as if someone said “Well, fine, if I have to.” It is the least flashy and the least ostentatious of the three, but at its core is a pure mid-engined sports car with the most direct mechanical components and racing DNA that flows from the gear shift directly into your veins. It is the slowest and least powerful, but damned if it isn’t the most pleasing ride in the trio. Go figure.

This is a purposeful sports car, with a noticeable absence of flash and steering wheel controls, and sport seats that plummet you directly into the proper racing position. It even uses an actual physical key, for God’s sake. Whereas the other two cars have easy steering that tauten up in Sport mode, by comparison, the Evora S wheel needs to be muscled from the get-go. This may turn some casual drivers away from the Lotus, but enthusiasts will love that the car demands your attention and effort, and that they’ll especially love the way it rewards you. Like the steering, the manual six-speed transmission and supercharged 3.5L V6 engine respond instantly and deliberately to your commands. It’s the German Shepherd of sports cars.

For all its no-nonsense ability, there is some relative pomp and circumstance to the 2013 Evora S. Activate Sport mode and the normally reserved V6 will erupt with a wailing siren song. It isn’t tail-happy like the other two, held in check by a rigid chassis that is simply too good to properly test on city streets. I wanted to tear off into the mountains, to hell with the other journalists waiting to drive it, and chase the sunset in search of worthy roads – if any exist. Out of the three, the 2013 Lotus Evora S isn’t the car that got the most looks on the street. But it is the one I most hated to get out of.

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S

(Base Price: $92,000 – Price as Tested: $105,620)

The moment you set eyes on the 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S, everything is sensational. Whether it’s the jaw-dropping front fascia or those sensual curvy hips, this is a sports car that’s all about the thrill of the experience. Everything is over the top, from the decadent interior materials to the fabulous electric power steering and active open exhaust that belch out tremors from the supercharged 5.0L V8 engine with every gas pedal blip. Nothing is subtle or understated – this is less of a modern day E-Type and more of a four-wheeled peacock on Adderall.

Behind the wheel, that adds up to a car that makes you excited about even the most mundane commands. This is what I’m about to drive. Cool. I’m sitting in the performance seats with my hands on the flat-bottom wheel. Cool. I just closed the door and I’m touching the start button. Cool. That was the best start-up sound I’ve ever heard. I… can’t think of a word to describe how I feel.

It gets better as things get moving. With an eight-speed QuickShift transmission and adaptive suspension, the F-Type only wants to go fast. And why not? There are 495 horsepower beneath your toes and each flex produces the exact roar you made as a five-year old playing with Hot Wheels on the kitchen floor. It’s not all theatrics, though. At just 3,671 lbs., the F-Type V8 S puts that muscle to good use with a 0-60mph run in 3.9 seconds.

The chassis is as balanced as Michelle Kwan, and happiest when asked to dance into high-speed maneuvers. That may be the car’s most valuable feature, because it gives you the confidence to light up the accelerator whenever you get the whim. The F-Type V8 S is constantly on the lookout for drifting opportunities, and with weighted steering and massive brakes that slow things down in a hurry, you can push the car to your desired level of buffoonery and still keep things under control. It’s an opera, a rock concert; American Idol to every else’s Game of Thrones. Jaguar is all about elegance, but its new star is all about the limelight.

Final Thoughts

Three sports cars; three distinct personalities. How is a gearhead supposed to choose? For some people, one of these cars will simply speak to the soul, grab them by the aorta and never let go – which is the way it should be, because buying a car like this is a passion purchase. The Evora is purposeful. The F-Type is a circus. The Corvette is somewhere in between. There’s one for every taste, and the beauty is that you can’t go wrong.

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