In the world of high-performance cars, there are few models that exemplify the spirit of the genre like the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911. In this fickle, ever-evolving category, the 911 has survived, even thrived, to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. The venerable Corvette, despite its 61 years, still exudes the in-your-face attitude of youth.
Though both cars have evolved from very different roots, each has been recently redesigned and notably improved. They now go head-to-head in performance and charisma.
Long known for its panache and sheer brute force, the Corvette has been reborn for 2014 as a lighter, tighter, high-tech sports car. Previous Vettes delivered quick acceleration, but handling wasn’t up to that of the 911 and other European thoroughbreds. The new Corvette has narrowed the gap, with quick reflexes and flat cornering. Moreover, gone is the cheap interior of past Vettes, replaced with higher-quality materials and a more refined feel.
The rear-engined 911, on the other hand, has always been known for its agility and precise, tactile feel. Benefiting from a 2013 redesign, the current model delivers a near-ideal balance of performance and livability. With its immediate throttle and steering responses, the 911 is as at home on a twisty, two-lane road as on a demanding race track.
Which car is best? In our testing, both generated excellent and near-identical acceleration and braking results, in each case besting all other cars in our current ratings. The 911 still holds the edge in handling, however, as reflected in its higher maximum speed—59.5 mph vs. 57.5—in our accident-avoidance maneuver course. The Vette still feels more muscular than nimble.
The Porsche also has the edge in everyday livability, with better fuel economy, easier access, a nicer shifter, a slightly more comfortable ride, and lower noise levels. That said, neither car will be mistaken for a Lexus, in terms of plushness and quietness. The 911 is also available with all-wheel drive.
Where the Corvette succeeds hands down is in price. Our high-end Z51 3LT version cost $73,260, a relative bargain compared with the $110,630 for our lightly optioned 911. So which is better could come down to whether you’re more interested in ultimate performance, measured in fine degrees, or in getting the most bang for the buck. That said, the new, less expensive BMW M235i is a viable competitor to either of these icons.