For seven years now - or just about a third of PH's lifetime - there's been a F-Type versus Porsche comparison brewing in some form of another. There have been SVRs taking on 911 Turbos, shouty six-cylinder drop-tops against their Boxster equivalents, four-cylinder coupes battling four-cylinder Caymen and so on. With evolving engine choice, the Jaguar has always somewhat straddled the Porsche sports car lineup, stretching from £50k 718 opponent to £100k+ sub-supercar. In all honesty, it always felt a little more comfortable towards the former end of that spectrum, bringing British sports car glamour and charm (one pound in the cliché swear jar) to a price point where it felt most competitive, especially with the V6. It howled and yowled and barked and rasped, sharper than the V8 and preferable to the more athletic four-cylinder primarily because of that rousing soundtrack.
For the 2020 facelift, however, the V6 has been dropped, replaced by a new tune of the venerable (there goes another pound) AJ-V8. And with it comes the opportunity for another spin on the familiar Porsche vs. Jaguar twin-test theme. Because the V8 that replaces the V6 in the range has 450hp, a welcome jump from the old P380 - especially so given it doesn't cost much more, the RRP a tenner less than £70k. Or Cayman GTS money. 450hp is also, to the Pferdestärke, exactly the same amount of horsepower now offered in a 911 Carrera S; they're even comparable on torque, the Jaguar's 5.0-litre V8 delivering 427lb ft with the Porsche not far behind on 391lb ft. The comparison therefore becomes irresistible. The 911 is the newer car, the Jaguar the noticeably cheaper one; the Porsche is faster, the F-Type better sounding; one is lighter and more agile, the other probably better suited to long distance jaunt. So, which to have?
Even this many years after its launch, there isn't much on four wheels that looks as good as an F-Type. The latest facelift has arguably lent the front a less generic and more assertive look, while this P450 does without the bodykit grafted onto the more powerful version - and is much the better for it. That this basic silhouette has been seen on everything up to the SVR and Project 7 helps the P450's case; tell the casual bystander that this stunning Jaguar was within two thousand pounds, as tested, of the Python Green Cayman GTS driven recently and they'd probably struggle to believe it. The drama and panache arguably belie the price tag, and who wouldn't fancy a car that looks more expensive than it is? The F-Type feel-good offensive begins in earnest.
On the road, the Jaguar is as likeable as it's always been. The high window-line and wraparound console are intended to cocoon, just as the theatrical startup of the V8 is intended to set the scene. The steering remains pretty nicely sorted for an electric rack, and everything you do is underpinned by the rapturous thought of the leviathan tucked away beneath the vast bonnet. Furthermore, for a front-engined car as heavy as it is, the coupe handles as well as it'll ever be required to; predictably, there's balance, and in addition the sense of a V8, rear-drive F-Type not entirely overwhelmed by its power, with grip and traction limits to work towards rather blundered unwittingly beyond.
At last, it seems, Jaguar has delivered an iteration of its supercharged engine that really suits the car. Because the four-wheel drive cars could never compete with the GT-Rs and 911s they were inevitably pitched against, and the 550hp RWD Rs were entertaining only if a tyre truck followed behind. Now, though, with the sort of performance that encourages brisk but not berserk driving, the P450 sits more cohesively with the F-Type's gait and demeanour. Neither the chassis nor the gearbox are really cut out for driving too hard; far better to enjoy the more modest pace and commitment that the 450hp V8 encourages, and the F-Type laps up. Especially when the experience is underwritten by the kind of fart-in-the-bath exhaust gurgle and big displacement character that a Porsche 911 cannot replicate. Serial amusement is only ever a nudge to the left away on the gear lever; Jaguar retaining the manual sequential shift its rival has imprudently done without in the 992. Accordingly, the F-Type doesn't so much win you over as slip beneath the skin - after the past few months, it is an undeniable tonic. With just the right amount of V8 gin.
The Carrera S is less interested in crowd-pleasing theatrics. Its job is to be the most broadly talented sports car you can buy, period. The F-Type is all knowing winks and persuasive silliness; the 911 lays out its superiority like a spreadsheet. It should be noted that this particular Carrera S is perhaps as smart a spec as a 992 has yet been seen in; extras like the carbon roof, SportDesign front bumper and side skirts, Carrera Classic wheels and black-painted sports exhaust give it a more dynamic, almost Carrera T look. It's easy to imagine having spent quite a large sum of money - more on that to follow - and still being mighty impressed when this arrived at the dealer, validating all those quite expensive decisions made on the configurator.
The 911 makes its advantages felt before moving anywhere. The interior is leagues ahead in terms of usability, style and quality. The driver sits more comfortably, the displays are sharper, the touchscreen more responsive and every single button clicks or clacks with greater precision. The F-Type isn't bad per se in any regard, though there isn't a single aspect of its interior that betters the Porsche, save its gear lever. Once upon a time, with the 991's quite stoic surroundings and the Jaguar's then fresh new look, things were much closer; even with a recent update, the 992 makes it clear that the F-Type awaits a proper successor.
On the road the Carrera S pulls off a similar trick, revealing flaws that had gone unnoticed in the Jaguar. Despite bigger wheels and the PASM lowered ride height, the 911 is less fidgety at a cruise; the Jaguar feels taller and a tad restless by comparison. Though no doubt ably assisted by the (again optional) four-wheel steer, the Porsche feels much lighter than even the 150kg advantage suggests, agile and precise where the F-Type is ponderous, undone by its comparative lack of body control. The 911 boasts a better gearbox and greater traction, too, and makes a mockery of the idea that a supercharged engine should be more responsive than a turbocharged one.
Still, it's hard not to stand on the tables and loudly applaud Jaguar for giving the V8 a stay of execution. Even Porsche hasn't avoided the twin peak problems of downsizing and WLTP adherence. Technically, the twin-turbo flat-six is hard to fault, with bountiful torque, practically no lag and a real appetite for revs. But even through the Porsche Sports Exhaust, the 3.0-litre unit never makes the most memorable noise; it whooshes and growls and blares, a sound not unlike a turbocharged 911 race car, though not one to joyfully seek out. The F-Type, on the other hand, makes every journey sound like a Hollywood car chase - and when the opportunities to explore a car's performance are few and far between, those little touches make a genuine difference. Look at the numbers, too; somehow the V8 has got through its WLTP test with only a fractionally inferior report card to the 911. Remarkable.
Still, the Carrera S is indisputably the better sports car, to the extent when it feels worth the extra £20,000 that it costs over an F-Type P450. However, that wasn't the difference on the day: as tested, there's more than £50,000 between the two, the fairly modest options spend on the Jaguar (mainly accounted for by seats, paint and safety options) in stark contrast to the Porsche's extras list: SportDesign parts, a carbon roof and the jazzy wheels certainly look good, but they don't come cheap. At around £100k the car is a consummate class-leader; at £128,220 you do wonder how an Aston Martin badge or Audi R8 V10 might pull on the heart strings even more convincingly than the V8 F-Type does.
Had we tested the latter against the entry-level, £82,795 Carrera it would likely have closed the gap to it with a 65hp advantage - but never surpassed it. Nevertheless, it would seem that you really can teach an old dog new tricks. The P450 plays so well to the F-Type's manifest strengths - good looks, great soundtrack, a roguish dynamic repertoire - that it deserves as wide an audience as possible. Despite its shortcomings, it continues to deliver cheerfulness in outsized servings, and that's a rare old commodity in segment full of tightly wound prospects. Arguably, but persuasively, too, it might be the most compelling F-Type there has ever been - and suddenly available at the right price, too.
Certainly the new output feels model appropriate, as it does for the Carrera S. In the Porsche the step up from the Carrera is useful for making the 992's exalted chassis work that bit harder; in the Jaguar, the step down from SVR levels of excess help it become the ideal foil to the long-established F-Type way. Those simply after the best sports car need look no further than the Porsche (and certainly not far enough to stare too long at the options), because it's unerringly complete and a real pleasure to drive. Those after a naughtier, more traditional take on the two-door coupe will find plenty to like about the P450. More, we'd wager, than ever before.
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE 911 CARRERA S (992)
Engine: 2,981cc, twin-turbo flat-six
Transmission: 8-speed PDK auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 450@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 391@2,300-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 191mph
Weight: 1,515kg (DIN)
MPG: 25.7-27.2mpg (WLTP combined)
Price: £93,110 (as standard; price as tested £128,220 (!), comprised of Interior trim package with decorative stitching in contrast colour for £2,189, Lightweight carbon roof for £2,517, SportDesign front apron for £1,809, SportDesign side skirts for £749, Electric folding exterior mirrors for £240, Model designation in black for £162,Rear lid air intake slats paints for £413, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control for £2,273, Rear-axle steering for £1,592, Sports exhaust system in black for £1,844, Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake for £6,321, Sport Chrono Package including mode switch for £1,646, Front axle lift system for £1,709, PASM sports suspension (10mm lower) for £665, 20/21-inch Carrera Classic wheels for £809), LED main headlights in black with matrix beam including Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus for £2,487, Auto dimming interior and exterior mirrors with integrated rain sensor for £387, ParkAssist including Surround View for £1,196, Ioniser for £252, Adaptive Sports Seats Plus for £2,315, Heated leather GT sports steering wheel for £383, Guards Red seatbelts for £312, Sport Chrono stopwatch instrument dial in Guards Red for £245, Guards Red rev counter dial face for £245, Leather interior package for £758, Porsche Crest on headrests for £161, PDK gear selector in aluminium for £429 and BOSE Surround Sound System for £1,002. Phew.)
SPECIFICATION | JAGUAR F-TYPE P450 COUPE
Engine: 5,000cc, supercharged V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 450@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 427@2,500-5,000rpm
Top speed: 177mph
Weight: 1,660kg (DIN)
Price: £69,990 (as standard; price as tested £76,635, comprised of Secure tracker for £520, 12-way heated electric memory front seats for £1,340, Auto-dimming, power fold, heated door mirrors with memory for £470, Privacy glass for £375, Blind Sport Assist Pack for £450, Climate Pack for £670, Keyless entry for £470, Powered bootlid for £470, Black Exterior Pack for £1,040 and Silicon Silver premium metallic paint for £1,310)
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