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

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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

@ 6,700rpm

Max torque: 360Nm @ 4,500rpm Top speed: 277kph 0-100kph: 5.1sec Price: Dh280,000 (as tested)

Plus: Tele­pathic han­dling, bul­let­proof build qual­ity

Mi­nus: Torque

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

Mi­nus: Ex­pen­sive

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