Corvette vs. Porsche track showdown

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
  • Taking the Vette-Porsche rivalry to the track
  • The two warriors reflect national characteristics
  • Horsepower vs. handling

Red Sox vs. Yankees. Coke vs. Pepsi. Corvette vs. Porsche.

The Detroit vs. Stuttgart sports car faceoff ranks as one of our great rivalries.

Growing up the son of a Porsche owner in West Virginia, I knew which side I was on. Now as a proud Detroiter and a Porsche owner, I'm on the fence. I admire both. As a pup, I watched the local Corvette and Porsche clubs face off in weekend autocrosses. USA vs. Germany. Domestic vs. import. Horsepower vs. handling. It has always been so.

If a Ford vs. Ferrari racing rivalry briefly blossomed in the 1960s, the Vette-Porsche rivalry has endured. Each generation gets better. The competition today has never been more intense. The 2014 Porsche Cayman is the best handling Porsche under $100k. Ever. The 2014 Corvette is the best handling 'Vette. Ever.

Which reigns supreme? I took them on the track to settle it.

I tell pals who consider buying these thoroughbreds to track them. They are that good. You simply cannot explore their enormous potential at 80 mph – or 90, or 120 - on I-75. Their sophisticated chassis and multilink suspensions can achieve a neck-knotting 1-plus G on track.

Autobahn race track, for example. Located south of Chicago, it is fast, technical, and a favorite testing ground for amateur racers like myself. It also hosts a fleet of exotic sports cars courtesy of local dealers. Like fighters on a runway, they are lined up on the tarmac each weekend for pilots who want to explore the envelope: Maserati GranTurismo, BMW M4, Audi R8, Camaro ZL1. . .

I took out the 2014, 3.4-liter, mid-engine Porsche Cayman S and the 2014, 6.2-liter, front-engine Corvette C7 Stingray convertible for a fling.

The Detroit vs. Stuttgart sports car faceoff has been a classic rivalry for driving enthusiasts.

The Cayman's coupe construction increases chassis rigidity by 40 percent over its sister Boxster convertible. By contrast, the Stingray's aluminum chassis does not depend on its B-pillar for stiffness, according to Chevy engineers – meaning the drop top gives away little to its coupe mate other than a roof.

Both Yank and Kraut are fabulous. Both represent their national stereotypes.

Taught and sleek, Porsche's best handling sports car (take a backseat, 911) is tidy as a German manor. Trained on the demanding twists and turns of the legendary Nurburgring, the Cayman is wonderfully predictable. It's the most drivable sports car on the road today.

Like a Hollywood celebrity, the C7 is gorgeous, loud, and loaded with personality. More stable than its C6 predecessor, the nearly 3,400-pound beast still moves around on Autobahn's signature switchbacks. In turns 9 and 10, steering input is required as the chassis whiplashes from side to side. While the Porsche skips through with minimal fuss, the Vette is all knees and elbows, clawing its way across the asphalt to finally . . . pounce on to the back straight.

Unleash the Kraken. Where the 325-horsepower, 273-pound feet of torque Porsche gives a determined bark, the 455-horse, 460-pound feet Corvette roars like a lion. Freed from the thicket of twisties – Cayman territory – the lion hits the open savanna with authority.

The Vette gulps asphalt, its front maw gaping as if to devour the Cayman up ahead. As it reaches its prey . . .

. . . another thicket of turns. The Cayman slips away again through the Turn 11-12 chicane. And so it goes lap after lap. The Porsche darts. The Stingray surges. Yin and yang.

It's why this rivalry rivets us. Two athletes getting the job done in different ways.

My track sessions were crowded with cars, so I didn't bother with lap times. But around another great American course — the high speed, 4.1-mileVirginia International Raceway — Car & Driver clocked the C7 nearly 9 seconds faster. All hail horsepower.

And affordability. The C7 may be comparatively ragged, but Porsche's handling refinement comes at a price: $83,000 compared to the Vette's $75 grand. And Motown's finest doesn't sacrifice refinement inside. It's gorgeous, leather dash and bolstered seats are the match of German royalty.

Porsche has exploited its performance brand to expand into SUVs (Cayenne and Macan) and sports sedans (the Panamera). With their sports car DNA, these sleds have become the best-selling Porsches ever, raking in profits undreamed of in the sports car-only days.

Were it not part of the GM empire, one wonders if Corvette, too, might have multiplied as utes and sedans. Howja' like a Corvette CUV-7 next to your C7? Alas, Corvette soldiers on as a single car.

Rumor has it, however, that the 2017 C8 will be mid-engine. A ruthless V-8 located, Cayman-like, behind the driver's ear. Be afraid Porsche. Be very afraid.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

2014 Corvette Stingray

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, two-passenger sports car

Price: $53,995 base (about $75,000 convertible as tested)

Power plant: 6.2-liter V-8

Power: 455 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60: 3.9 seconds (Car & Driver)

Weight: 3,362 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 16 mpg city/28 mpg highway/ 20 mpg combined

2014 Porsche Cayman S

Vehicle type: Mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, two-passenger sports car

Price: $63,800 base (about $83,000 as tested)

Power plant: 3.4L horizontally opposed 6-cyl

Power: 325 horsepower, 273 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60: 4.2 seconds (Motor Trend)

Weight: 3,152 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway/ 24 mpg combined