We’re seeing off our Jaguar F-type roadster after a year and nearly 20,000 miles. But first, it’s tough love time as it faces a Porsche 911 Targa

This still feels like a sports car test to me. Which is, I suppose, a feat of marketing – and, perhaps, a feat of the fact that cars without roofs are not quite so crippled dynamically as they once were. It’s mostly the marketing, though, I think.

Had Jaguar’s F-type arrived first in coupé form, instead of the roadster  that you see here, would you see it as the F-type sports car? Or would it be the poorer relation? The roadster was bigged up as the new Jaguar sports car when it was launched. “You’ll know within 50 metres,” Jaguar’s people said, “that you’re driving a Jaguar like none before it.”

Mostly true. But over the past year – and this dark blue F-type roadster, in V6 S form, has been with Autocar on our long-term fleet for just over that long – we’ve also come to learn that it is a Jaguar with many qualities of Jaguars before it.

Mostly the XK, from which, if you’re being uncharitable, the F-type’s aluminium architecture is derived. It’s wide, low and auto only, has hydraulically assisted steering and, for all its dynamic capability, is a bit of a hot rod at heart. But still, yes, it’s a sports car. 

So, too, is the Porsche 911 Targa – to most people I’ve asked, anyway, who seem to see the Targa in a kinder light than the soft-top 911 cabriolet.

There’s something (and I hesitate to use the word because I’m 39) inherently cooler about an early 911 Targa than a cabriolet, no? And although the Targa’s purpose has been diluted somewhat in recent generations by being little more than coupés with sliding panoramic roofs, this version rekindles its identity by bringing back the traditional aluminium-look roll hoop with its gills on the side.

Except that, of course, in this case, it’s a bit of a bluff. Beneath the Targa lies generally the same roof mechanism as the the 911 cabriolet’s, only it’s a bit heftier even than that.

Where the cabriolet’s rear panel swings up and the boot folds below, the entire rear window and roll hoop lifts on the Targa, before the roof panel stows beneath it. Porsche calls the folding and unfolding a spectacle.

Read the Porsche 911 Targa 4S first drive

Porsche’s people are not wrong, but it’s a spectacle that can only be enjoyed when the car is stationary, and one that takes a full 20 seconds. The machinations add 40kg even to the cabriolet’s weight, making it 110kg heavier than the coupé, and its size requires the extra width of the bodywork fitted, as is traditional, to four-wheel-drive 911s

So the Targa comes as a 4 or 4S only (4 here, incidentally), is vastly heavier than the coupé and yet isn’t, to my perception, massively less desirable than either the coupé or the cabriolet. Call me shallow, but 
that’s how I see it.

The Jaguar doesn’t require you to be stationary before its lid does its thing. And I’ve come to rather like how you can drop the roof as soon 
as you enter a 30mph zone, below which speed it’s happy to go up or down.

On a cold motorway commute, popping the roof down as you enter your home town, putting the exhaust into grumpy mode and listening to the crackles for just a few minutes adds vastly to enjoyment of the F-type, I think. And I don’t think 
that you’d bother doing the same 
in the Targa, not least because its rear-slung 3.4-litre flat six engine doesn’t deliver the same urgent aural thrills as the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 in the Jaguar.

Not that it’s without relative merit. The 911 makes peak power, 345bhp of it, at 7400rpm – sports car revolutions. The Jaguar’s all done by then, its peak output, 375bhp, made at 6500rpm. You might argue that there’s something more ‘sporting’ about the Porsche’s gearbox, too: a seven-speed PDK auto that adds £2298 to the Targa 4’s £86,377 price. 

Read the full Jaguar F-type review

But the truth of it is that, although PDK has come of age in this generation of the 911, dealing with upshifts with seamless ability and revving on downshifts as accurately and positively as it ought to, there’s not a great deal wrong with the 
hook-up of the Jaguar’s eight-speed 
torque-converter automatic.

Granted, there’s less smoothness as it shifts up, particularly on part-throttle around town, but the 
lock-up occurs almost as soon as you’re rolling, so there’s precious little ‘slush’ about what we’d have once called a slushmatic. Besides which, it’s standard and makes the Jaguar look like conspicuously good value at £67,535. This is not a typical twin test for that precise reason. 

Pitching the Targa against a rival isn’t totally straightforward, after all. It deliberately occupies a place where, around it, there aren’t too many rivals. But the truth is that both of these do more or less the same job and the chances are that, if you can afford one, you can afford the other; depending on spec, they’ll most likely be a couple of hundred quid apart and about £1000 a month.

The Targa goes some way to justifying its extra price by, despite occupying much less road space, being the vastly more practical car of the two. It has vestigial rear chairs, in which a child or a mate on the way home from school or the pub respectively will gladly sit to stay out of the rain.

There’s half a chance that their gear will fit in the front-mounted boot, too, whereas the Jaguar’s boot, in the normal place, is shallow and there is no rear accommodation at all. The front seats can’t be pitched back quite so far as in the Porsche, either. 

The differences are a side effect partly of the mechanical layout – front-engined versus rear-engined, the latter making quite a lot of sense from a packaging viewpoint – and partly it’s a steel-mixed metal shell versus an aluminium one. Aluminium is light, but tends to occupy a bit more space to achieve a given stiffness.

Ah, stiffness: traditionally the downfall of the open-topped roadster. But neither feels particularly unrigid. In fact, the Porsche, particularly, seems to 
give less away over the coupé 
than we’ve come to learn that the F-type roadster does to its hard-topped sibling.

But both are fun to drive. The 911, despite the extra girth over the coupé, is keen and incisive and steers with immaculate precision. Its trademark Germanic heft around the straight-ahead quickly melds into engaging, accurate steering, and it corners well. 

The Jaguar feels a touch more relaxed. It rides better – around town, both are a touch jiggly, but neither is harsh once you’ve got some speed up – and feels a mite less agile. But the handling balance is beautiful and the power output with which to exploit it is quick and able.

The Porsche has a great engine, too, but although its power arrives smoothly and response is instant, it takes a little longer to get wound up.

Which is better? Which wins? Honestly, it depends. The Porsche is more accommodating but is extremely satisfying to its core. The Jaguar is showier, noisier and a bit more old-fashioned in feel.

Either will do but, presumably, you have not come here to read a ‘there are no losers here’ verdict. Given another 12 months in either, I’d prefer to spend them in the Jaguar, because its relaxed gait and quicker ability to thrill are easier to appreciate on the road. Albeit I’d curse it every time I ran out of space.

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Our Verdict

Jaguar F-Type Convertible

The Jaguar F-Type convertible provides direct competition to the 718 Boxster and the 911 Cabriolet, but can the big cat take a bite out of its Porsche rivals?

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Comments
5

25 July 2014
Can provoke such opposing views from one car nerd.

I would sell one of my more important organs to own that 911 whereas that Jaguar just leaves me cold.

25 July 2014
Jaguar looks cool and sounds absolutely sensational. 911 is not a bad car but looks and sounds lame in comparison and 20-second roof-down is so 1980s.

26 July 2014
When i opened my Mag at the article about these Cars, i thought the Jaguar was a Maserati,the Jag may be the better drive, but the Porsche is the default Car,wonder what residuals will be like....?

Peter Cavellini.

26 July 2014
The alloys on that F-Type have been getting intimate with some kerbs and the interior carpets look like they need to spend some time with the valet.

27 July 2014
Strange comparison I think what with the 911 Targa being a 4 wheel drive 2+2, I would have thought the Boxster S or GTS was a more direct competitor. The Boxster GTS is a 2 seater roadster with 330PS, 0 to 60 in 4.9seconds and a top speed of 173mph and retails at £55,000 with the PDK box, more storage space than the Jag too....

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