Jaguar F-Type S Coupe v Porsche Cayman GTS : Comparison review

England and Germany have seen their fair share of beefs throughout history.

No, you haven’t accidentally clicked through to waradvice.com.au – and we’re not going to dwell on years gone by. Instead we’ve brought the best of British to take on some Teutonic might in a $160K sports car battle.

In the black, red and yellow corner is the all-new, first-ever Porsche Cayman GTS; while in the opposing corner, draped in the Union Jack, is the Jaguar F-Type S Coupe.

Two very different cars, both with their own unique take on driver entertainment.

To look at these two, it may appear something of a weird match-up: the bold, beefy, stylised Jaguar sits in complete contrast to the lithe looking Porker. But consider this – both are powered by six-cylinder engines, both have rear-wheel drive, both have accommodation for two, and both tick the box in terms of exclusivity.

So, which will raise their national flag in triumph?

Porsche introduced the Cayman GTS late in 2014, with the clear aim of making this flagship coupe – with its 3.4-litre horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine stuffed amidships and teamed to the choice of six-speed manual (at $160,900 plus on-road costs) or seven-speed PDK double-clutch auto (adds $6290), and the latter was fitted to our test model.

In terms of Arbeitsleistung (that’s performance, in German) the Cayman’s six-pot naturally-aspirated engine produces 250kW at 7400rpm, and 380Nm from 4750rpm to 5800rpm.

As you can probably garner from those figures, the German likes a rev. It sings above 4000rpm, and feels genuinely punchy from 5000rpm towards redline (at about 7800rpm). On its way there the boxer engine sounds tremendous, throbbing and rumbling lower in the rev range and becoming notably more raucous further around the dial.

The tall-geared seven-speed transmission means it holds ratios for longer than you might expect – we spent plenty of time cycling between second and third, with little need for cogs four through seven in Victoria’s high country where we spent the majority of our time testing.

The Jaguar F-Type Coupe line-up went on sale earlier in 2014, with this S model regularly proving to be the pick of the range among testers worldwide. All Jaguar F-Type models available at the time of writing were of the eight-speed automatic variety (with our S starting at $151,830 plus costs), though the brand has recently announced a range of new variants including manual and all-wheel drive models, which will come on stream later this year.

Giving the old ‘tally ho’ from under the Jaguar’s bonnet is a supercharged 3.0-litre V6. It has a power advantage – 280kW at 6500rpm and 460Nm at 3500-5000rpm – while the pushy nature of its forced-induction powertrain makes itself noted as soon as you push down on the throttle pedal.

Compared with the Porsche the Jag needs a little more macho to move its mass, as it weighs 1594 kilograms compared to the Porker’s not-so-porky 1450kg.

Good thing for the Jaguar is that its low- to mid-range punch is noticed instantly, and you don’t need to keep it revving hard. We found ourselves regularly leaving the Jag in fourth, fifth or sixth gear and relying more on that mid-range torque rather than revving it hard. But shifts in the Jaguar are often clumsier, jerky at times, while the PDK is quick, slick and sharp, apart from some low-speed hesitation from a standstill.

Getting the power to the ground in the Jaguar is somewhat more challenging than it is in the Porsche. The raunchy, torque-thumping nature of the supercharged engine means it will more easily spin its rear wheels, while its rival offers more measured, linear progression.

It’s good clean fun, and it’s easy to find yourself countering (or revelling in) oversteer in order to slice through corners, while coaxing grip from its 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros fitted to the optional 20-inch Cyclone wheels, with the rubber measuring 295mm across the back and 255mm at the front.

The Porsche also wore 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros, albeit narrower at both ends of the car (235mm at the front and 265mm at the rear).

When the F-Type does get the power down, it feels substantially faster upon exiting the bend, where the Porsche is notably easier to manipulate through corners, while being slower to get out of them.

We tested the straight-line speed of both cars, running our own 0-100km/h test to establish just how much quicker the Jaguar was – but we were, once again, hamstrung by a lack of cohesion between the engine and the level of traction required.

We consistently saw a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.3 seconds in the Jaguar – 0.4sec slower than its claimed time – while the Porsche ran 5.0sec flat on multiple occasions, which was 0.2sec slower than its claim.

Stopping is another matter altogether, and after plenty of spirited driving the Jaguar’s pedal starting to fade noticeably under foot. We found ourselves selecting lower gears to help wash off pace at one point – where the Cayman’s felt solid and predictable even after lots of enthusiastic application.

Part of that comes down to the Cayman’s inherent balance and superb weight distribution, with the mid-mounted engine making the nose feel light, tight and pointy.

Its steering is pinpoint accurate, completely predictable and with a decent amount of weight to it. You can provoke it to the point where it will oversteer, but it isn’t as enjoyable to do so as you might expect.

The Jaguar has a lot more mass over its front axle, and you can feel it pulling the nose slightly astray if you hit a corner too hot. Still, the Brit’s steering is solid and offers enough pointiness if you drive it sensibly. It arguably offers better feel and feedback to the driver’s hands (and you need it) but doesn’t quite match the Porsche’s intuitive, accurate nature.

Even with the adjustable suspension in its firmest setting there is more body movement through the bends in the Jag, where the Porsche feels more tied down.

That comes at the expense of ride comfort to a degree, however, with the German feeling more of the smaller lumps and bumps on the road, where the Jaguar’s almost GT-like character means occupants are more comfortable lapping up long-distance kilometres.

Fellow tester David Zalstein and I found during our 12 hour drive the Jaguar – while comfortable and composed on the highway and country back roads – takes a little more learning than the Porsche when it comes to dynamic driving.

In the Cayman GTS it feels purposeful, as though anyone could get in and drive it quickly and tidily – such is the nature of its chassis and powertrain, not to mention the levels of grip available at the front and rear ends.

The Jaguar, on the other hand, takes a few hours of corners before you really get a handle on how it wants to be driven. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, either.

The efficiency of engineering of the Porsche made itself apparent in terms of fuel consumption, too.

The Cayman used 10.7 litres per 100 kilometres on test, where its claimed use is just 8.2L/100km. The Jaguar was a bit thirstier, averaging 12.1L/100km - 3.0L more than the claimed consumption of the V6 S Coupe.

That clinical thoughtfulness and precision of engineering is even more apparent when you try to live with the Porsche.

Its mid-ship engine placement means the car has two convenient storage areas to choose from – one under the bonnet (measuring 150 litres) and another arrears (offering 275L).

That’s impressive, particularly considering the Porsche is smaller in all directions – measuring 4.40 metres long, 1.80m wide and 1.28m tall compared with the Jaguar, which spans 4.47m long, 1.92m wide and 1.30m tall. Yet the F-Type has just 315L of boot space, not including the enormous spare wheel that sits proudly in the middle of the space (the Porsche has a repair kit instead).

That said, the compact cabin of the Porsche is tighter for occupants and their stuff, with no central cupholders (there are two ejecting holsters that sit in front of the passenger) and a lack of useful small item stowage points. There are narrow door pockets, and a shallow centre console bin that is hard to open (the push-button latch is located snuggly next to the driver’s left hip).

That Jaguar feels better set up for drivers who plan to spend more time in the cabin, with better placement for its cupholders, there’s better storage all around including a reasonably capacious cubby behind the seats, but still narrow door pockets. That boot means you’re more likely to want to take a long drive and end up back home, rather than plan to get somewhere to stay and then return.

Both cars offer a touchscreen media system (7.0-inch in the Cayman and 8.0-inch in the F-Type) incorporating standard satellite navigation and audio featuring USB input and Bluetooth phone and music streaming.

The Porsche’s cabin oozes sporting intent – mainly due to the optional ($7490) GTS special interior package with contrasting highlights and Alcantara trimmed steering wheel, roof-liner and seats.

Other options fitted to our car included the “special exterior paint” ($5390), black painted wheels ($2890) and front parking sensors with reverse-view camera ($2580). Both cars have rear parking sensors standard, while the 16MY F-Types will gain reverse-view camera as standard (on our Jaguar, the optional Parking pack with front sensors and camera added $1725). The Jag also had items such as a powered tailgate ($1100), panoramic glass roof ($2000) and seat memory pack ($2040).

The Jaguar comes with a standard Meridian sound system where the Porsche has a seven-speaker system as standard. While the sound quality of both proved quite good, we preferred to listen to the noise from under the bonnet (or behind the seats in the case of the Porsche).

We tested the interior noise levels and the Jaguar was, on average, 3 decibels more hushed than the Porsche.

The Jag’s cabin feels more focused on luxury chic rather than sporting suave. The seats are deeper and more comfortable, while the overtly driver-focused nature of the centre stack – which essentially drives a wedge between the two occupants – is something of an acquired taste.

Much like the carsonalities (yeah, I’m coining that term, because cars totally have personalities) on test, both myself and Dave came away from the day with differences of opinion.

Both of us found the Porsche to be a revelation. As Dave put it: “it’s a phenomenal sports car that can make mediocre drivers quick and better ones even faster”.

The fact the Porsche is better value for money, better dynamically and more practical, is enough to make my mind up for me. I could drive the Porsche every day of the year and enjoy it, knowing that it would do what I expected it to while still offering up a level of entertainment and engagement that I don’t think can be had elsewhere at this price point.

But, as Dave countered, “purchasing a sports or performance car is 90 per cent emotive – and for me, the Porsche is engaging but not enticing”. And before you ask, he doesn’t have any British heritage despite his pasty complexion.

Dave thought the Porsche – aka the “point-to-point scalpel” – lacked the involvement he would look for. He summed up his pick, the F-Type, as being “a luxury GT cruiser that has genuine sporting ability” despite being “hugely under-braked” – and I completely agree with him.

So who wins this battle, then?

The Brit is a fast, fun, funny sports coupe that can make the driver feel special and also coax you into being a bit silly at times. And if you like that about a car, it’s the one to pick.

However, the German is so utterly adept at everything you can ask of it, it can’t help but blitz the Brit this time around.

Click the Photos tab above for more images by Tom Fraser.

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