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2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 Z51 vs Porsche 911 Carrera S: A Question of Value

With a $60,000 price difference, which deserves your money?

Rory JurneckaWriterWilliam WalkerPhotographer

There are certain rivalries that car lovers can count on through the ages. Camaro versus Mustang. The latest Ferrari hotness versus the same from Lamborghini. And one of the most contentious of all, the Chevrolet Corvette versus the Porsche 911. The latter is what we're focusing on here, having recently had a 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 and a 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S in our editors' hands in our 2020 Automobile All-Stars testing. If you haven't read our 2020 All-Stars coverage yet (there's no time like the present), here's a little spoiler alert: both the C8 Corvette Z51 and 911 Carrera S earned spots on our winners list. But the way each got there was more than a bit different. S earned spots on our winners list. But the way they went around it, was more than a bit different.

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The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 is America's newest sports car, but it's also a borderline supercar straight out of the gate. GM's engineers worked hard to make sure the first mid-engine Corvette (and the eighth generation since 1953) was ready to deliver world class performance. Though there are angrier, more aggressive variants on the way, this entry-level car with the optional Z51 package makes no bones about its potential. Start with a mid-mounted 6.2-liter V-8 (yes, it still has pushrods) making 495 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, add an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, an electronic limited-slip differential, and the Z51-exclusive performance brakes, suspension, and rear axle ratio, and you've got a serious contender. Our well-equipped car stickered at an all-inclusive $83,825 including the $11,950 3LT Premium Equipment Package, the $5,000 Z51 Package, and the $1,895 Z51 Performance Suspension with magnetic ride control, and a few other bits and pieces.

Meanwhile, the 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S needs little introduction. Now known as the 992 series 911 (this is also the eighth generation of the 911 since 1964), the new car features plenty of incremental improvements that keep the overall formula the same, but update performance for a new era. The rear-mounted, water-cooled flat-six engine now has 3.0 liters of displacement, helped along with two turbochargers to produce 443 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. Our test car had the trick $2,090 Rear Axle Steering option, along with Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes at $8,970, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control at $3,170, and the Sport Package at $5,460, which includes PASM Sport Suspension and the Sport Chrono Package. Out the door, our 911 had a $143,350 sticker price, nearly $60,000 more than the Corvette.

Corvette C8 Z51 vs Porsche 911 S: Design

Place a 2020 Chevrolet Corvette next to a Porsche 911 and they're both attractive cars, though the Corvette is perhaps a little more eye-catching with its mid-engine layout, pointy front end, and sharp styling lines. Editor-at-large Art St. Antoine was divided, saying, "Okay, I don't love the busy, brassy exterior styling (is that side scoop an errant boomerang, or what?) but you can't deny the Corvette's showpiece presence." St. Antoine expanded on the interior: "What a view to the front. Even the interior—which in pictures looks so busy and needlessly over-buttoned—is intuitive and totally rewarding in actual use." Detroit editor Todd Lassa agreed, calling the cabin, "…reasonably high quality and luxurious," while online editor Ed Tahaney offered some ordering advice: "The Rapid Blue paint looked good in person, but I wouldn't recommend the light-colored dash—it reflects all over the windshield with a little sunshine."

The Porsche? Social media editor Billy Rehbock found "[t]he evolutionary changes over the 991.2 were executed really well, down to the new door handles." Inside the 911, Rehbock was also complimentary, saying, "I really dig the new center console, even though I thought it'd irritate me when I first saw the media kit." Features editor Rory Jurnecka opined, "There's tremendous build quality to the Porsche, it's almost jewel like in execution." Overall, the Porsche's styling mumbles rather than screams-but then, it's always been that way.

Corvette C8 Z51 vs Porsche 911 S: Track Performance

Appearances aside, how do the Corvette and 911 match up in terms of performance? To find out, we sampled both cars on the twisty Streets of Willow racetrack in Rosamond, CA. This 14-turn, 1.6-mile road course carved out of the neighboring hillside is an excellent venue to explore the upper limits of street cars.

There was some trepidation among our editors before climbing into the C8 Corvette's driver's seat for the first time. After all, building an all-new mid-engine sports car that can go up against the world's best is no easy task, even for GM. "So many ways, I worried, this long-awaited mid-engine Chevy could've come out wrong," wrote St. Antoine in his notes. "My worries were needless. This new 'Vette is an outta-the-park home run on its very first at-bat. Damn it drives beautifully. Powertrain is glorious."

"Quick shifts, great Corvette V-8 soundtrack," noted Jurnecka. "Really an easy car to get to 8/10ths in very, very quickly. Body movements overall don't feel quite as well controlled as the Ferrari F8, but at a quarter of the price, who cares?"

Our resident hot-shoe, pro racer Andy Pilgrim, came out of the C8 after several laps and said, "Has a solid launch function, pulls strongly from zero mph. Once on the move, the C8 pulls like a C7 through the gears, which makes sense, as power to weight of the two is almost identical."

Meanwhile, the Porsche was getting plenty of its own praise. Pilgrim again: "Front end, front end, front end. A more connected steering feel, when compared to any previous Carrera 911. I could place it, almost violently, anywhere on track."

St. Antoine was similarly impressed. "From the moment I banked into Turn 1 at the Streets of Willow circuit, I knew I was piloting something really, really special," he wrote. "OMG! The front-end grip!! Simply astonishing!! Turn the wheel and the 911 cuts right now—and hard! Nothing else in this competition felt so completely and unfailingly locked-down to the track."

Lassa had the forethought to drive the 911 straight after the Corvette on the track. "I jumped into this car after my second run in the C8," said Lassa, "and was not at all surprised how much stiffer it is in cornering. Thought I might actually dislike it after my three laps, but once again found the Carrera S easy and fun to drive, with a bit more rotational attitude than the Corvette."

Corvette C8 Z51 vs Porsche 911 S: Street Performance

Racetracks are one thing, but how does our dynamic duo play on real-world roads? The 911 was an early favorite, with its remarkable daily driver/track star split personality in full effect. "It's quite serene and very nice to drive, much less of a compromise than a lot of the other performance cars we have here," said senior editor Aaron Gold.

"On-road behavior is every bit as composed and exciting and rewarding as its track-focused self," noted St. Antoine. "This newest 911 never, ever feels anything less than utterly sublime. This is an automobile bordering on driving perfection."

Lassa generally agreed, saying, "Sticks to the pavement so well that there was little sliding in my drive on Spunky Canyon Road. Seems like the only thing left for Porsche to do to perfect the 911 is, in the next generation, finally slide the engine forward, ahead of the rear axle." Only Jurnecka was left less than impressed with the 911 on our twisty road loops, arguing, "It doesn't ride as well as the Corvette, gets more upset by changes in the road surface, and generally feels like an older design."

Then again, the Corvette did impress many of us, especially with its magic magnetorheological dampers (that's what GM calls Corvette Magnetic Ride Suspension, for short). "Has more suspension travel than the Porsche 992, feels more compliant, allowing more roll in transition; none of which is a bad thing for every day driving comfort," remarked Pilgrim. St. Antoine agreed and added, "Glides over broken mountain roads like a hovercraft—but still sticks like crazy."

Rehbock liked that the Corvette could also just be a normal car, doing normal car things well. "When I took the C8 on the road trip between the hotel and the winner shoot location I was blown away at how good a GT car it is," said Rehbock. "I put on the cooled seats, played music over the crystal-clear sound system, and rolled in complete comfort."

Corvette C8 Z51 vs Porsche 911 S: Which is Best?

How to sum up two legendary sports cars separated by $60,000? It's no small challenge, but our editors did their best in the name of public service. The Corvette revealed itself to be a real value proposition, as usual. St. Antoine summed it up, saying, "Starting at just under $60,000, this is one of the performance bargains on the road today."

Lassa added, "The mid-engine layout finally gets rid of the feeling that you're driving more of a muscle car than a sports car, no matter how good the C7 chassis got. You've no longer got a long hood-full of V-8 leading you; the superior polar moment of inertia ultimately makes the new Corvette a more rewarding drive than the new 911 to non-professionals like me."

Gold put the Corvette in excellent perspective, saying, "Think of the fine line Chevy engineers had to walk: They can't make it too sloppy and loose and fun, because then everyone will say GM can't engineer a car. They can't make it too buttoned down and refined because then everyone will say it has no character. The C8 is the perfect balance, perhaps erring a bit on the side of refinement. Great noises, very approachable, not at all intimidating. You can push harder and harder and it doesn't feel like it will ever get out of sorts. Compare it to the C7, C6, C5, and it's as if the Corvette has had its world-view expanded and will never be the same again."

The Porsche, meanwhile, also had its share of enthusiastic summary remarks. "I guess I'm not surprised at how good this car is, as I am with some of the others here," said Gold. "But it really is pretty amazing, especially when you consider that Porsche starts out by kneecapping themselves in their insistence on preserving the rear engine layout. I don't know if I love it, but I certainly respect it."

Even the 'Vette-loving St. Antoine struggled to find fault with the Porsche "This newest 911 never, ever feels anything less than utterly sublime," said St. Antoine. "This is an automobile bordering on driving perfection."

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Specifications
PRICE $114,650 (base)/$143,350 (as tested)
ENGINE 3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-six/443 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 390 lb-ft @ 2,300-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 4-passenger, rear-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 17/25 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 177.9 x 72.9 x 51.1 in
WHEELBASE 96.5 in
WEIGHT 3,382 lb
0-60 MPH 3.3 sec (w/Sport Chrono)
TOP SPEED 191 mph

 

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 Specifications
 PRICE $59,995 (base)/$83,825 (as tested)
ENGINE 6.2L OHV 16-valve V-8/495 hp @ 6,450 rpm, 470 lb-ft @ 5,150 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 15/27 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 182.3 x 76.1 x 48.6 in
WHEELBASE 107.2 in
WEIGHT 3,600 lb (est)
0-60 MPH 2.8 sec
TOP SPEED 194 mph