Do you remember when the Jaguar F-Type burst onto the scene and its price seemed... a little excessive? Then the coupe came along, which wiped a good chunk of change off the convertible's price tag, followed by the four-cylinder models that brought it down even further. The top-spec SVR Coupe was still a £110,000 car, though. Until Jaguar dropped that after the facelift, and shoved the leftover 575hp motors into the current F-Type R AWD. So you could argue it was almost good value for money at 'just' £100,000 with the performance it offered.
Almost was still the operative word, mind, but that argument gains a hell of a lot more credence when you consider that the recently released Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS is now a £117,000 car - and that's before options. Let's quickly compare F-Type vs 911, then: both have four driven wheels and, despite wildly different power and torque figures (both massively in the Jag's favour), there's very little difference when you factor mass into the equation. The F-Type still ends up to the good, but by only 20hp and 25lb ft per tonne. That's because Jaguar's lightweight aluminium seems somewhat heavier than everyone else's. There's a lot more aluminium in the 911 these days, including its front and rear chassis members, sills, floor bracing, front shock mounts, rear tunnel cell, impact absorber mounts and outer shell. That's still not as much as the F-Type, yet somehow the Jag is 185kg heavier - that's a little less than two-and-a-half average-sized chaps.
Which is where the F-Type's 5.0-litre supercharged V8 steps in and saves the day. 575hp and 516lb ft are colossal amounts, dwarfing the GTS's 3.0-litre twin-turbo's tally of 480hp and 420lb ft of shove. It's also worth mentioning there's something to celebrate here beyond bold facts. We're approaching the last hurrah for the AJ-V8. It first appeared in 1996 in the XK8, and as both the XK8 and the F-Type have, on plenty of occasions, been hailed as the spiritual successor to the E-Type, it seems fitting that it nears the ends here. As we know from the latest Range Rover, it'll be the 4.4-litre twin-turbo BMW N63 from now on when it comes to JLR's new V8-powered models.
We know enough about each car by now to acknowledge their different on-road characters, and just sitting in them gives you a flavour of this. The GTS feels precise and serious. That's not a slight, just an observation. There are few buttons bar the important ones: for the climate controls and, of course, the driving experience, including the switchable sports exhaust, traction control and damper settings. It's a compact interior but still airier than the F-Type's, and easier to see out of - both for parking and perhaps more importantly, when picking your way down a tight road. The pedal positioning is spot on - perfect for left-foot braking - and the relationship between seat and steering wheel is just so, too. The strips of Alcantara and the flashes of carbon fibre add to its sporty intent and bolster what is a beautifully made package, but one that's arguably more clinical than homely. Even the infotainment system looks delicately integrated.
The instrument housing and the design of the dials is the only element that could be considered whimsical. Their form is a clear nod to every 911 up to and including the 993. In fact, it's so true to the earlier cars that, like those, it doesn't work ergonomically. The only dial you can see clearly through the centre of the thin, Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, is the large, round, analogue rev counter - the information that appears on the twin TFT screens either side is either partially or completely blocked from view. Yet the rev counter includes a digital speedo so that's all you really need, and the more familiar I become with 992s, the more I grow fond of this piece of retro chic. Plus the rev counter looks exquisite: smartly detailed like a high-end chronograph.
The F-Type's steering wheel is a bit thicker, festooned with more buttons and a tad less tactile. Still, you can see all of the digital instruments through it. And the Jaguar is just as solidly put together, and generally finished to a high standard, too. That said, there are parts of the interior, like the bits of shiny chrome plastic, that aren't quite as convincing as the GTS's elements when the stakes start with six figures. But it's more of an event and full of flair. The large passenger grab rail, the motorised centre vents, the F-Type outline rendered between the instruments, and the chequered flag that pops up whenever you stick it in the raciest mode; it all points to a car that isn't taking itself too seriously. You could argue it's a bit cheesy. But it adds to the fun.
You feel more hemmed in by its higher window line, deeper dashboard and wider centre console. It's snug, yes, but still comfortable. The armrests are big and, despite initial impressions, it's roomy enough for lanky six-footers like me, although there's more head and legroom in the GTS. The F-Type possibly has the better seats, though, even if it is only has two of them. The semi-bucket electric numbers come as standard; they have harder cushions than the optional powered Adaptive Sports Seats in this GTS, but they envelope you more and grip you tighter. That said, both are supportive on long trips and have all the adjustment you could need.
There are two notable problems in the F-Type, though. Firstly, the driving position, specifically in regards to the pedals. Unlike the GTS, these are offset to the right so you cannot left-foot brake unless you're a contortionist. And seeing out of it is harder. We've mentioned the higher window line, but it also has thicker windscreen pillars. Looking over your shoulder, you'll see even less. It all conspires to make the F-Type feel bulkier on the road, even thought its just 18mm wider than its rival.
Bulky-feeling it may be, but the F-Type is laden with drama on the road. If you're mooching about, the exhaust note is nothing more than a fruity woofle, but Beelzebub rises from within when you detonate the sports exhaust and plunge the throttle. It's a very naughty noise that wouldn't sound out of place at Daytona International Speedway. Yet, just to make sure there's more drama than an EastEnders omnibus, you got the added pyrotechnic rat-tat-tat-tat with every gearchange and lift of the throttle. It's a bit of a hoodlum, really, and there are times when that reflects on you, as you notice the glare of bystanders who quite clearly think you should know better. I don't, of course.
This thunder is backed up by speed. The F-Type is capable of ungodly progress, but somehow it manages not to feel too stupidly fast for the road... just. That's because the torque, as mighty as it is, must motivate all that mass but doesn't arrive until midway up the tacho at 3,500rpm. So it feels almost naturally aspirated, with its gung-ho performance geared towards the upper reaches of the rev range.
The GTS sounds almost reserved by comparison. We know the flat-six lost its voice when all 911s (bar the GT3s) went turbocharged, but there are still interesting whines and whirs to get lost in. No silly, contrived rifle fire though. Instead, it's a very smooth-sounding engine; the kind that speaks to the engineer in you and not the adolescent. I like that, but even I find myself wishing it could be just a little more rousing at times. The sports exhaust adds something, but mainly a booming resonance rather than added soul. After a while it starts to grate, so that gets switched off.
Then there's the GTS's power delivery. This is quite clinical, too, but boy is it effective. This thing is not only quicker in a straight line than the F-Type, but also the manual Porsche 911 GT3 Touring I drove last week. It might be slightly down on torque per tonne compared with the F-Type, but you don't get that impression from behind the wheel. How much of this is down to Porsche's notoriously conservative official outputs is impossible to say, but some of it is because the torque hits you harder and sooner, at around 2,000rpm. It's too fast, really. You can be in any gear short of seventh, and if the engine's spinning beyond a couple of grand when you floor it there's an almighty surge followed almost immediately by silly speed.
The eight-speed PDK gearbox is certainly a contributing factor. You know when F1 teams bang on about the cost of their seamless-shift 'boxes? Well, I have a solution: use this one. Not only are the shifts instant, as far as I can tell they're seamless, too. The F-Type's eight-speed ZF 'box, on the other hand, is clearly programmed to thump through every shift to make you feel part of a mechanical experience. It works, too. And it's hardly sluggish. The only weak link is the limp-wristed paddles that lack any of the satisfaction that GTS's sweetly sprung levers bring.
The good news is that both cars have mega brakes that shed speed as quickly as they pile it on. The GTS's still outdo the F-Type's, mind. There's a dead patch at the top - a few mill or so - but that's followed by more bite, more sensitivity and a more solid pedal. To be fair, we're talking £6,000 worth of optional ceramic discs to the Jaguar's standard stoppers, but we know from experience that Porsche's cast iron brakes are also superb on the road.
Each car also comes with massive rubber that provides an abundance of cornering grip and, with their stability systems lit, unflappable all-wheel-drive traction. Yet neither is anodyne. Switch off their electronic regulation and they feel rear-driven enough provide thrills and spills, but still with the safety net of a live front axle to pull you back from an impossibly crazy angle. And when you're not provoking them to go sideways, they deliver trustworthy balance.
Indeed, it's only with the benefit of a direct comparison like this that the F-Type reveals its deficiencies: the last percentiles of precision to match the GTS's high-bar talents. For instance, there's the F-Type's steering. It is good, but not quite as connected around the straight ahead as the GTS hard-fired rack. You need to leave a touch more margin on narrow roads as a result. It has less feel, too. Yes, you sense the thud from ridges passing beneath the front wheels, but beyond that there's little input coming up the column. Jump into the GTS and the steering is as alive as an electric-powered system could realistically be. You feel everything, right down to the surface transitions from smooth to a very slightly grainy. It's weighting and rate of response are impossible to fault, too, so you feel just about as dialed in as its possible to be.
Then there's the structure - the GTS feels stiffer. On top of that, its body control is slightly better managed than the F-Type's. It's finite stuff, but on the most tortuously heaving roads, the F-Type needs that half-a-bounce more to bring itself back to a neutral state. The GTS doesn't. It does so in one slick rise and fall, and that's with its dampers in the softer of the two modes. Activate stage two and it's locked down tighter than Wuhan with a covid spike. Stick the F-Type in its sportier Dynamic mode and it's just too solid. Even in the slacker mode, the Jaguar's suspension doesn't breathe like the GTS's, which is that bit cleverer at filtering out the ripples and smaller imperfections that trip up the flagship F-Type.
Which is why the GTS is more comfortable the majority of the time, too, although this is a relative concept. Both these cars are pretty punishing on beaten up roads, especially in town. They get better with speed, but if that's a red flag then buy a Bentley Continental GT instead. Not only will it deliver a plusher ride, it'll cruise more quietly as well - there's plenty of road roar here from both sides of the coin.
So which is the winner? Well, if you've got kids, as always, you'll probably swing towards the 911. It has four seats, after all, so it gives you more options to enjoy it. And the rear seats may be small but, despite what you may read, they do fit adults. I know because I fitted an adult in the back of this GTS. There was some huffing and puffing, true, followed by consistent grumbling, but we managed it. And when there aren't disgruntled passengers in the back, that all becomes storage space, which together with the 911's front compartment adds up to more practical proposition.
But what if you couldn't care a hoot about practicality - it's all about the driving? Well, the GTS is still the better sports car, be in no doubt about that. It's just a more serious bit of kit, full stop. Actually, it's more than serious; all-wheel drive make it a match for the GT3. Which means that if you're chasing the finer details and purity of the driving experience, it's unquestionably the car for you. The only reservation is that, when I drove the Carrera 2 GTS, it was even better. None of that necessarily makes the 911 the more entertaining car, though. If 'F' in F-Type stands for anything, it's got to be fun. Thanks to its V8, the Jaguar comes with a sense of theatre as standard and, if that's what sells a sports car to you, save yourself a few quid and buy British while you still can. Don't think of it as just a toy, either, because it's not. The performance margins between it and one of the all-time great sports cars are actually pretty small. But they are there.
Specification | 2021 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS (992)
Engine: 2,981cc, flat-six, twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed DSG auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 480@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 420@2,300-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.3 seconds
Top speed: 192mph
Weight: 1,595kg (DIN)
MPG: 26.2 (WLTP)
CO2: 245g/km (WLTP)
Price: £116,960 (£134,124 as tested)
Specification | 2021 Jaguar F-Type R AWD P575
Engine: 5,000cc, V8, supercharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 575@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 516@3,500-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 186mph
Weight: 1,780kg (DIN)
MPG: 26.4 (WLTP)
CO2: 243g/km (WLTP)
Price: £100,030 (£107,915 as tested)
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