V8 or V6? Hand built or... not hand built? $90,000 or much, much less than that? In our latest head-to-head we pitted America's sports car of choice, the Corvette, against something built in a small place called "Hethel" in Norfolk, England. Why? Because we wanted to see whether V8 grunt could outsmart light weight and Supercharged silliness. And because we thought it would be fun. Let's take a look at the contenders.
The new Corvette Grand Sport resurrects a legendary name from the early '60s (only five original Grand Sports were made, and they all kicked ass), and teams the base Corvette Stingray's 460 horsepower, 465 pound-feet of torque, 6.2-liter V8 with the best bits of the savage Z06's handling toys. The result? A wonderfully balanced car that should put the plucky Brit in its place.
However, Lotus wasn't messing around when it created the Evora 400. Its 3.5-liter supercharged V6 churns out 400 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to get it from 0 to 62 mph in a little over four seconds. The Corvette takes less time to do the same run, but is also carrying 3,428 pounds to the Evora's 3,153. That's a fair difference in anyone's book.
Then there's layout. The Corvette has its hulking great V8 up front, with power going to the rear wheels. It's the traditional way of doing things, a formula that's stood up to the test of time with every iteration of Corvette. If it ain't broke, etc. Lotus, conversely, has popped its V6 in the middle of the car. Why? Handling balance. Mid-engined cars tend to handle just that little bit better, providing better weight distribution and agility. Can you think of any current supercar that doesn't have its engine mounted in the middle? OK, other than Porsche, but they're a special case.
Price, however, is a concern. The Lotus is a lot of money before you start putting toys on it -- more than $90,000. The 'Vette? A little over $66,000. But that's not the whole story. Our Grand Sport came with the Z07 pack (which gets you carbon ceramic brakes, stickier rubber, and more aero than you can shake a stick at), and a number of other toys which bumped its price up to near-Lotus levels of cash. So the fight was a little fairer than you might think.
Neither car can be called "practical." The Lotus' trunk is small, and while it has rear seats, they should only be reserved for children, wobbling Weebles and people you really hate. They're very upright, there's little legroom, and you'll end up wanting to harm things if you stay in there too long. Chevrolet didn't bother with a rear row, but did throw in a pretty big trunk. The only problem with that is how it opens pretty much straight in to the cabin. Brake hard with a big suitcase on board and see what happens. We dare you.
What looks like a silly fight is actually a decent test of weight and power. Do you really need a 6.2-liter V8 to have fun, or do can you have just as much of a good time with old-fashioned British engineering? Well... it turns out that the Lotus' handling is just as good as we've been led to believe. Turn-in is crisp, it's easy to balance on the throttle -- it's every inch the car you imagine a Lotus to be. On the other hand, the Corvette felt heavier; its steering (especially in its sportiest setting) is direct but very, very heavy.
Each car's manual gearbox shifts well, though the Lotus' was a touch sweeter. The Corvette comes with paddles behind the 'wheel that control the car's rev match mode. It's great to have the function close to hand, but the paddles aren't half confusing. Why are they there? Why?!
On the braking front, the Lotus' light weight gives it the edge of the Corvette's carbon stoppers. Though the 'Vette's anchors are a joy to use, you've just got to use the a touch earlier than you would if you bought British.
On paper, and in practice, the Corvette is faster in a straight line. More engine, more power, more -- everything. Around a tight circuit the Lotus may win out thanks to its handling cred, but around Gingerman that Corvette is simply faster.
And that's the rub: the American is cheaper, faster and more spacious. As good as the plucky Brit is, and it is an astonishing car, for the money you can't really overlook how much more you get from America.