Vintage R&T Comparison: Four Luxury GTs – 1969 Corvette, Mercedes 280SL, Porsche 911T and Jaguar XKE

I’ve really been neglecting my huge stash of donated Road & Tracks, so let’s fire up the scanner and get back on track. Let’s put the time machine back to that great car year of 1969, and ponder this shoot-out of four of the most classic sports/GT cars of the era: Corvette Sting Ray, Mercedes 280SL, Porsche 911T and Jaguar XKE.

Four very different cars, to put it lightly; they could hardly be more different. The Corvette is of course the big burly and traditional American; the Mercedes is posh, elegant, refined but capable; the Porsche 911T is the most genuine sports car of the bunch; and the Jaguar XKE is Great Britain’s great last hope in this arena.

Right off the bat, it should be noted that the Corvette was equipped with the mildest power train available, the base 300 hp 350 (5.7L) V8 teamed up with the three-speed THM automatic. Obviously much hotter engines were on tap in 1969, all the way up to the 435 hp tri-power 427. But for most drivers in real world situations, the classic 350/350 combo was actually highly ideal. Smooth, refined and powerful, the Corvette had the second fastest 0-60 time (8.4 seconds). But it let down in the areas where its deficiencies were all-too obvious: ride, noise, vision, steering, ergonomics, and appearance (subjective, obviously).

The Mercedes was essentially the polar opposite of the Corvette: its little 2.8 L six was busy and overworked, being the slowest of the bunch ((0-60 in 9.9 sec.) but it had a stellar ride, and its quality was of course unparalleled.

The Porsche 911T had the weakest (125hp) of the 2.0 L sixes, and was second slowest to 60 at 8.8 seconds. But unsurprisingly, its handling was the best, and for serious sporting aspirations, unbeatable.

The XKE was the quickest to 60 (8.0 sec.) and had a fine ride and its noise level was low, but had shortcomings in terms of ergonomics, heating and ventilation, and somewhat surprisingly, on exterior styling. The XKE was getting a bit old by 1969, and looking somewhat dated.