For two years Jaguar has been telling us it’s finally building a Porsche-beater. wheels’ Dejan Jovanovic tests the new F-Type’s claims
Porsche’s Boxster S goes head to head with the Jaguar F-Type S.
Ionce asked a top executive from a European carmaker when it would take on the Boxster/ Cayman for a share of that monopolised market. His reply was candid. The automaker had looked into it in some detail, and decided there was simply no point trying to beat the Boxster. This man wasn’t from Jaguar.
Ever since the British carmaker first showed us a concept at 2011’s Frankfurt show it has been talking about the “E-Type’s successor” dicing with Porsche 911s. Not the Porsche 911s I know, you won’t.
This is a much fairer comparison with the 315-horsepower Boxster S: V6 and flat-six; 4.9 seconds to 100kph and 5.1 seconds; and 275kph and 277kph. In short Porsche needn’t worry. The Boxster S is by and large the more focused, sharper, instantaneous and engrossing sportscar. Did Jaguar speak too soon?
Like the Cayman, the Boxster really is a schism in the sportscar spectrum. For the money nothing else even comes close in terms of driver involvement. It can play with much more expensive toys while scoffing at the ‘toy’ tag – this is a car you can easily drive every day.
Orientation in a Boxster takes no time at all: the driving position is perfect with excellent visibility and those front hunched wings prove ideal reference points for precisely tucking the wheels into apexes. There is consistency in everything with the Boxster. The throttle pedal is heavily sprung and even in its feel throughout the short travel, matching the instant electromechanical steering.
Keeping the 3.4-litre flat-six at around 6,000rpm seems to be the sweet zone on the road, although on a track where this car revels you’ll have 1,400rpm left to go for peak power.
This is not a fast car, unlike the comparatively rampaging Jag, but then again you’ll never have to shed much speed in a Boxster S, braking late with its meaty middle pedal
and shimmying the car ever so slightly sideways at the turn-in. You can drive it how you like, but don’t go too slowly into a corner otherwise you’ll understeer and mark it off as a dud – the Boxster needs to be driven, with abrupt pumps of the throttle welcome in order to manipulate, to throw off its flawless chassis dynamics. Go ahead and try to uncover some niggles.
Actually, there is one. With 360Nm of torque the little Porsche falls way short of the gruff F-Type and needs constant attention with the six-speed double-clutch PDK to keep up. From zero to 100kph the Jag launches quicker and stays a couple of car lengths ahead to a formation finish, each and every time.
Still, the Porsche’s handling is just sublime, staying planted over smooth or bumpy roads and on course even when merely skimming a bad surface, like a skipping stone that never sinks. It’s a lively car, with a wide track and an ultra-low centre of gravity and the minimum of weight not as much of a long-distance machine, but more than making up for it when a mountain appears in view beyond the heat haze.
Jaguar has revolutionised its sportscar line-up with the new F-Type, whereas Porsche simply added 5bhp to the Boxster S, freed up the engine’s breathing, chucked out the old steering mechanism and, of course, improved the design. Just another evolution of a Porsche sportscar, you could almost blink and miss it.
But it’s not every day that Jaguar conquers the car enthusiasts’ imaginations with an all-new model.
When I picked up the F-Type S it was instinctively comforting – it’s very easy to familiarise yourself in this car, with excellent controls, infotainment, and an intuitive layout. It’s a gorgeous interior, with details inspired by high-end wristwatches and a new display that takes some beating – its only downsides were a fussy satellite navigation with irritating zooming controls and difficult map scrolling.
It’s all very driver-orientated inside, with a split asymmetric layout and a sturdy grab handle for nervous passengers. Before setting off the first things I do are adjust the mirrors and steering wheel – right in my lap and close to the chest for maximum control. The F-Type has full steering column adjustability, and immediately revealed some build quality issues with audible creaks from the column as it telescopically moved towards me. That’s the only issue I had over a 900km drive. Well, that and a left door armrest made of granite that crippled my elbow during a long road trip.
But skipping out of a Boxster, which feels like shedding your skin, and entering the Jaguar F-Type S for a spirited drive, I begin thinking we should’ve gathered an altogether different ensemble here. The Mercedes-Benz SLK and BMW Z4 come to mind, but then I decide it’s not fair to drop the Jag that low. The Mercedes SL will do. What, you think the grand old Mercedes SL, that Teutonic continent-crusher, is too far-fetched for an F-Type rival? Even when I tell you a V6-engined SL weighs not even a petite passenger more than the Jaguar?
Surprisingly, the similarities between these two roadsters are many, especially in the dynamics; the Merc handles great. For a GT. The F-Type handles sweet. For a 1.6-tonne GT. Yes this F-Type weighs more than 1,600kg, it’s heavier than the heaviest of all-wheel-drive 911s, and obese compared to a Boxster. The Boxster S is about 300kg lighter. For me the F-Type is just too heavy. I seriously
doubt it will be able to keep up with a base, though admittedly more expensive, 911 on a track.
But there’s more to it than that – if you forget the ‘sportscar’ credentials of this F-Type and take it for what it is. It’s a gorgeous, emotional, alluring roadster. The details are impressive. Jaguar has developed a modern chassis with an aluminium front sub-frame, aluminium double wishbone front and rear suspension, and a quick steering rack. The weight balance is perfect, yet driven hard the F-Type S doesn’t come across as focused as the Boxster. It’s easy to get into a slide with 375bhp, but harder to control in a slide with the higherthan-expected level of body roll. At very high speeds the front end floats and the steering wheel shimmies in your hands stymieing things.
The F-Type wears wider tyres than the Boxster S and should feel stable travelling at high velocity, especially with an active rear wing reducing lift by up to 120kg. By that measure, however, the lithe, petite Porsche is no less nervous at high speed— no, it is full-attack cornering it revels in.
Jaguar has decided to shun the industry trend and stick to hydraulic steering for the F-Type. Despite that it’s not as communicative through the rim even if the quickness of the steering is, well, very quick, and you need only brush the rim to change direction. Coming out of bends and setting up for an immediate next one you can just let go and allow the wheel to spring-return, overshooting its centre just enough to angle you perfectly for the next, opposed corner as you catch it back. Afterwards, drop directly into a Boxster S and its throttle response seems jumpy, the steering nervous. In actual fact it’s just damn good. If only it weren’t for those idiotic counterintuitive PDK switches on the Porsche’s wheel…
Speaking of transmissions, the Jag’s one isn’t perfectly matched to its wonderful, sonorous 3.0-litre V6. It’s a relaxed ’box even in the car’s most dynamic settings, disguising the perfect delivery of the engine with lethargic gear changes.
Everybody knows this eight-speed ZF transmission is actually brilliant, but I’d say it needs some work here with snappier shifts to allow the engine’s 460Nm of torque to spring quickly into action. Even momentarily waiting for the torque to gush in exiting a corner spoils the flow in a sportscar. But we’re forgetting again: The Jag isn’t an intimate, hard-core sportscar. It is a beautiful, highly enjoyable grand tourer: look at it like that and it makes sense.
Granted I still have to drive the V8 – which trumps more expensive rivals on paper – to get the full F-Type experience, but realistically the only car here that can dice with 911s is my winner, the Boxster S.
The driving position in the Boxster is perfect, with excellent visibilty The interior of the F-Type, inspired by high-end watches, is gorgeous
i INSIDE INFO Model: Boxster S Engine: 3.4-litre
Transmission: Seven-speed PDK, RWD
Max power: 315bhp
Max torque: 360Nm @ 4,500rpm Top speed: 277kph 0-100kph: 5.1sec Price: Dh280,000 (as tested)
Plus: Telepathic handling, bulletproof build quality
The Porsche’s handling is superb, skimming a bad road surface like a skipping stone that never sinks
Forget the ‘sportscar’ label of the F-Type and take it for what it is – a gorgeous, emotional, alluring roadster i INSIDE INFO Specs and ratings Model: F-Type S Engine: 3.0-litre V6 supercharged Transmission: Eight-speed auto, RWD Max power: 375bhp @ 6,500rpm Max torque: 460Nm @ 3,500rpm Top speed: 275kph 0-100kph: 4.9sec Price: Dh329,000 (as tested) Plus: Great as a GT, engine note, stunning looks