The first thing to get your head around is that Jaguar has built an F-Type capable enough of taking a serious bite out of the Porsche 911 Turbo. We loved the V8-engined convertible, but it was the love one might feel for an unruly and slightly potty Labrador – putting it in the slips against anything overly serious felt too often like folly.
The R-badged coupe is a rather different prospect. For a start, where previously there was only insulated fabric or plain old fresh air, there’s an exquisitely beautiful set of aluminum beams strung beneath the A and B pillar. By sealing the roadster’s part-finished monocoque shut, Jaguar has delivered the most torsionally rigid car it says it has ever made.
Better stiffness – the suspension rates on the all-round double wishbones have followed suit – has provided the engineers with an excuse to liberate even more of the supercharged 5.0-litre V8’s potential. Its 542bhp output – 54bhp more than the rag-top - has previously been preserved for weightier prospects like the XKR-S and XFR-S.
Its introduction in the 1650kg F-Type means the R comes only 10bhp shy of the 552bhp rendered by the twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre flat-six in the latest Turbo S.
Peak torque is on a similarly level playing field: 502lb ft vs 516lb ft (although the 911 will deliver 552lb ft on overboost). But where the Porsche is slyly capably of shifting its power between two axles, the Jaguar sends it exclusively to the rear end, trusting the second generation of its Electronic Active Differential and a newly introduced torque vectoring system to make sense of it.
The tone of delivery is equally divergent. We’re used to Jaguar teasing some extraordinary notes from the outboard-mounted quad pipes, but this time it has gone to Liberace levels of excess. In Dynamic mode, the bypass valves default to straight-through drama at all speeds, meaning that every inch travelled is accompanied by an ear-splitting eight-pot mewl or off-throttle pop.
It is of such melodramatic, look-at-me quality that you’d most likely shy away from its virtues in the company of others – and then leave it permanently turned on when alone. Too much of a good thing can, after all, be wonderful. Or not, in the case of the 911, which transports you from a standing start to beyond the horizon with all the expediency and drama of a flash drive.
Refined progress comes naturally to the Porsche; its remarkable high-speed stability means you could absent-mindedly study the concrete pylons on the Second Severn Crossing at 150mph. But you do not indulge in its mighty performance in the same way as you do in the Jaguar. The F-Type’s throttle wants to put a smile on your face; the 911’s just wants to place you three or four miles down the road.
Admittedly it does this flawlessly. There is more of a whip-crack to the dual-shift PDK’s downshifts than is found in the Jaguar’s ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic, and despite featuring exhaust gas-dependent turbochargers, it spools up more immediately too. For the most part it also rides immaculately, simmering intimately on the softest setting of its adaptive dampers.
Only by striking a nasty seam or a swollen cat’s eye does the suspension’s tight-rope act become noticeable; the apparently small-scale collision rippling through the Turbo’s tightly-wound chassis and into the driver’s seat. It’s this kind of intrusion which the F-Type – even in wound-up R format – does so well to avoid. Jaguar’s restless Adaptive Dynamics system defaults into the kind of accommodating lope that simply doesn’t include the concussive twang ordinarily indicative of a serious sports car.