Jaguar F-Type vs. Audi R8 vs. Porsche 911

James Lipman

We might have picked somewhere warmer than northern Wales for the Jaguar F-Type's first meeting with its sports car rivals, but despite the chill of a winter that had overstayed its welcome, this frigid clime did offer some benefits: barren rolling hills; traffic consisting of little more than the postman in the morning and a farmer or two in the afternoon; and mother nature's own special driving stages laid out long before man invented the automobile. Here, three high-performance driving machines gathered for the young season's first roadster shoot-out. In one corner, we have the Audi R8 with the 430-hp V-8 engine and an S tronic automatic transmission. In the other corner is the 400-hp Porsche 911 Carrera S with a seven-speed manual. At center stage is the top-of-the-line, 495-hp Jaguar F-Type V8 S with an eight-speed automatic.

At just over $92,000, the 495-hp F-Type is $11,500 less expensive than the bigger 510-hp XKR convertible. Why is the cheaper, less powerful F-Type just as enchanting as its big brother? Being about 400 pounds lighter, the F-Type is 0.4 second quicker to 60 mph than the older, full-size model, which uses the same engine but is handicapped by a less energetic six-speed automatic transmission. When the next XK arrives, Jaguar will have the opportunity to move the two farther apart, likely by making the larger car more of a proper GT. At Porsche, however, it seems that the gap between the 911 and the Boxster/Cayman has narrowed, particularly with the latest iteration of the mid-engine cars. In a way, Audi suffers from a similar genetic syndrome. After all, the R8 is in essence a reskinned Lamborghini Gallardo. In V-8 form, however, the mid-engine two-seater sits quite comfortably in its own niche, with its price being the only serious downside. Although the $140K Audi is far less expensive than the Gallardo, it costs a massive $47,000 or so more than the Jag, and it even makes the $112,750 Porsche cabrio look like a good value.

The F-Type V8 S is a roadster on steroids. Think of it as a softtop Nissan GT-R without four-wheel drive or as a transformed Ford Shelby GT500 with British papers. The Jag is, in other words, all muscle, and its presence on the road is accordingly aggressive and unrestrained. (Jaguar also makes two less expensive, less intense V-6 F-types, which we've yet to drive.) As we traveled through Wales, our white wedge cut an acoustic swath that made the sheep flock and the birds take flight. Under trailing throttle, the 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 would blat-blat and misfire and burp and implode. When let off the leash, the V-8 weaved the roaring and the thunder into an acoustic train you could almost watch fade away in the rearview mirror. You probably wouldn't want to be identified as the driver of this chariot from hell, but being the devil at the wheel is a whole lot of fun.

The R8 ranks second on the hooligan list. For a start, our test car's testosterone-orange-brown metallic paint triggered dozens of wagging fingers from local residents. The mid-engine mauler is also a victim of its own proportions: 2.5 inches lower than the Jaguar and 3.8 inches wider than the Porsche. Furthermore, it sports the longest wheelbase, the shortest overhangs, and the most extreme two-plus-nothing packaging. Mean-looking even when parked, the R8 proudly displays its exotic proportions and its ground-hugging, wide-body stance, which is even more firmly planted than the front-engine Jaguar and the rear-engine Porsche.

After seven generations, the 911 feels more like a longtime friend than a recent acquaintance. Similar to a charismatic speaker or a talented musician, the Porsche takes only a couple of minutes to cast its spell. Although the 911 looks and feels reassuringly familiar, quite a few aspects are actually fresh and exciting. The seven-speed manual gearbox, for instance, is complex on paper yet 100 percent fail-safe on the road -- pity the ratios were chosen more for fuel mileage than for quickness. The electrically assisted power steering feels light and brisk. The liquid-cooled, direct-injected 3.8-liter flat-six talks with the same snarly chain-saw twang we remember from its air-cooled, 2.2-liter great-grandfather. The rear-engine layout can be wayward and unpredictable, but even more so than its predecessors, the current 911 is a master of grip and traction. In wintry Wales on polished, windswept blacktop, the Porsche was neither a hold-your-breath balancing act like the sometimes fidgety and restless Jaguar nor a who-cares-about-the-weather champ like the R8. Instead, it comfortably covered the middle ground, never too benign to be boring and never too hairy to frighten the wits out of you.

It was always nice to return to the cozy cocoon of the F-Type's cabin, which fits even those who grew taller than most. You sit on well shaped, fully adjustable seats. The pedals are conveniently spaced, visibility is OK despite the tall beltline and the steeply raked A-pillars, and the ergonomics don't require the mind-set of a mechanical engineer. Stability control is either on duty 24-7, in track mode, or off completely. The transmission works well in D, but you can pull the lever to S for more ambitious performance. You can also calibrate engine, transmission, steering, dampers, exhaust, lights, and stability control to your liking, and the car will retain your chosen setup.

Which of the three engines makes our hearts beat fastest? The flat six from Zuffenhausen is the most charismatic, and its soundtrack triggers the most emotional deja vu. It also boasts the best fuel efficiency. But the Porsche doesn't excel against the stopwatch with the seven-speed manual, which simply is not as slick and quick as its rivals' paddle-shifted transmissions -- or its own optional PDK dual-clutch automatic, for that matter. The R8's normally aspirated 4.2-liter V-8 is rev-hungry and acoustically memorable. At 430 hp, which equals a hoarse 7900 rpm, it sits happily between Porsche's 3.8-liter boxer, which dishes up 400 hp at 7400 rpm, and Jaguar's 5.0-liter V-8, which is good for 495 hp at 6500 rpm. Unfortunately, torque is not the R8's strength: it musters only 317 lb-ft from 4500 to 6000 rpm, trailing both the 911 (325 lb-ft at 5600 rpm) and the F-Type (460 lb-ft between 2500 and 5500 rpm). Although its driven wheels are lightly laden, Sir Jag wins the sprint-to-60-mph sweepstakes, coming in at 4.2 seconds against the Audi's 4.4 seconds and the Porsche's 4.5 seconds. Maximum speed is 186 mph across the board.

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David Hamann
Love it the "F-Type V8 S is a roadster on steroids". By far Jaguar are stepping up there game by entering the sports car market after many years of ... very no sports car. I think it is more than 50 years since the E type. With this new addition to the market the F type will definitely shake some feathers, im sure the Porsche executives are worried. By the sounds of its engine and unrivaled design I tip the F type to load more faces full of smiles than the 911 this year. Whats not to love about a purring car that pops and roars like this Jag. Listen up (hear this engine Audi and Porsche you have some tough competition on your hands...
I notice that the two German cars are right-hand drive, and the British car is left-hand drive. Isn't that a little ..... backwards?
Obviously the writers from Automobile magazine have NEVER priced an R8 on the used car market.   I have been trying to find a used R8  on AutoTrader and the cars sell for nearly the same price USED as they do NEW.  Even a 2008 V8 Coupe (the cheapest model and 5 years old) BARELY goes for under $100k.  The car new bases out at $115-120k. "steep depreciation"  huh  SMH.... Holding over 80% of it's value on 5-6 year old car is downright IMPRESSIVE. Automobile please put in a little more effort and provide truth in your write ups.
Good article, but seriously, which car can you drive with confidence every day?  Which car will hold its' value?  Which car will be on the road 20, 30, or 40 years from now without huge maintenance bills?  Only the 911!!
Good read and cool cars but they should have included a 427 convertible. $90k, more power (505) and torque (470), 15/24 mpg, and faster 0-60 (3.8 sec) and quarter mile (11.9 @ 122 mph) than all three of these cars. I understand that it isn't "in production" any more and there is definitely something to be said for exclusivity in the cars in this test but the 427 is pretty rare its self with only 2552 produced and it should be able to be included as long as there are new examples at dealerships and the C7 isn't available yet.
GBwinder Watch Winder
Marc Hamady
I would go with the F-Type.
" like the E-Type it is supposed to remind us of."
The problem for me is it DOES remind me of the E-Type: how much more svelte, beautiful and desirable the E-type was/is - what a disappointment.
Bikram Virk
911 & R8 might be better performers, but in person the jag looks much better.
Willian Dagua
hermoso porche y audi no conozco el blanco pero esta hermosa
Josh Jenkins
Why put it up against the 911, it costs closer to a Boxster.
Richard Martin
The new Jag XK-F is targeting the Porsche 911?  Really?  LOL, good luck.  See you after 30,000 track victories.Porsche Club of America's Mardi Gras Region just held its "Mardi Gras Cup" race weekend at brand new NOLA Motorsports Park.  High performance solo driver DEs lasted 25 minutes, and this amazing track tested grip, engine performance, and braking.  It would have been very interesting to see how this new V-8 Jag with an automatic transmission would have measured up to a garden variety 6 speed 996 Carrera, or a PDK 997 or 991.  But if it's to be a horsepower match, run it against something stronger... like a Turbo or a GT3.I hope Automobile tests this new Jag on the track with its self-announced target, the Porsche 911.  And I hope it does well.    
Chris Story
Shashikant Ekka
Ajeet Prajapati
Jaguar ka koi sani nahi,.. ..!
Gary Kish
An E Type built today with all the goverment safety retrictions would not look anything like the E Type of yester years. The safety restrictions have changed the way cars look forever. The roof line of the 2007 XK had to be raised an inch so unbelted passagers had more room to bounce around the cabin (U.S. law). The hood has to have so many inches between the engine to provide a comfort zone for people you hit with your car (Europe law), the hood leaper was removed to stop hurting people you hit with your Jag (Europe law). Jag tried making it moveable but it wasn't good enough for the safety nazi's (I mean law makers). Cars have lost the sexy curve under the nose and now all have, what we used to call air dams, to prevent people you hit from going under the car and to distribute the impact force evenly across their legs...Scary world for designers. Its amazing cars look as good as they do.
Gary Kish
Jag surprised us at the last minute saying it was never a Boxster rival and that they were gunning for the 911 the whole time. We drove all 3 versions against the Boxster S and a $115,000 911 convertible. Even the 340 hp F Type wipped the floor. It was pretty shocking driving the cars back to back. Both Porsche's pushed then oversteered when you first turned in at high speeds, where the F Type just went around them, with the back coming out if you wanted under throttle. No lag either on any version. I thought the 911 had a turbo, because there was a delay when you floored it compared to the instant throttle reponse from the F Type's. The F Type S was a very fast car. I had it in sport mode and gave it some agressive throttle (but I didn't floor it) and it went sideways before shooting off (straight line test). It's fast! The V8S was in a whole different class. It was Cafe racer liter bike fast! It's much faster than the 4.2 0-60 mph Jag is putting out there.

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