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

James Lipman

Fat displacement, oodles of twist action, and eight gears -- that's what swings the drivetrain vote in favor of the newcomer from Britain. True, the old-school mechanical layout results in tail-happy handling and traction issues on slick tarmac, but it can dawdle along in seventh at 2000 rpm and still won't feel underpowered. Plus, you can access at random the mighty midrange punch. Fuel economy is decent, too: better than the Audi but worse than the Porsche. What certainly speaks in favor of the two German powerplants is the fact that they sit above or just aft of the rear axle. For this reason in particular, the rear-wheel-drive 911 is a riveting experience. Quattro all-wheel drive is of course standard on the mid-engine R8, which can be a little more playful than the Porsche. Furthermore, the Audi feels even more firmly planted than the Carrera S. Its cornering attitudes are equally transparent, if slightly less extroverted, and in foul weather it clearly is the most confidence inspiring.

We tried the F-Type with stability control off through a couple of roundabouts and on an open road garnished with two or three hairpins, but then we duly switched back to track mode. When the rain started to fall, all guardian angels were back onboard. Whereas older Jags would virtually drift on the spot, the F-Type hangs on about as long as a Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG or a BMW M3 convertible. When it does eventually let go, it needs quite a bit of room because it tends to slide with all four wheels, hind legs first, fronts following suit. Even though its weight distribution is even more extreme, the Porsche prefers to carve through bends without grand gestures. Unless the radius tightens dramatically, the car's nose will obediently follow the chosen line. It's a tactile tool, this 911, very quick yet surprisingly well balanced, much more user-friendly than its widow-maker reputation. Slightly refreshed for 2014, the R8 still feels a bit long in the tooth. Its cabin is wide but short of legroom, the cockpit looks dated, and the latest driver-assistance systems are conspicuous by their absence. And yet. The steering is quick, precise, and communicative despite the excessive 39-foot turning circle. The chassis blends a compliant ride and superglue roadholding. The brakes fuse bite and balance. Downsides? The limit arrives abruptly, the S tronic keeps confusing itself in automatic mode, and the weight penalty (about 200 pounds versus the F-Type, 600 pounds versus the 911) puts the Audi's exotic aluminum construction into perspective.

All three roadsters are roughly the same size and are quite similar performance-wise. Even their head-turning ability suggests a dead heat. The 911 ticks all the right boxes, but Porsche's Cayman and Boxster siblings have become such tempting alternatives that it is increasingly hard to justify the extra thousands for the more iconic but not necessarily much more competent sports car classic. There is also a certain danger for the Porsche of falling into the been-there, done-that trap. Although resale value and build quality clearly speak in favor of the Carrera S cabriolet, its high base price and costly extras blur the bottom line. Minor irritations include the virtually useless rear seats and the casually arranged switchgear. More of a concern are the little question marks that keep popping up: Is the new electric steering as good as the old hydraulic setup? Do optional systems such as Sport Plus and PASM amplify the car's dynamic abilities too much? Does the latest 911 feel rather pale unless you push it?

Like the Porsche, the R8 makes for a compelling four-seasons car -- except that it has even less storage space behind the seats and holds an even less generous 3.5 cubic feet in the luggage bay, plus it's even harder to see out of. What might really disqualify the Audi for quite a few potential customers are the hefty sticker price, the high fuel bills, and the steep depreciation rate. We used to love the R8 with the clickety-clonk manual gearbox, but that was largely because the R tronic sequential manual suffered from notorious hiccups. Although the new S tronic dual-clutch automatic is much better, it occasionally preselects the wrong ratio, downshifts too early in sport mode, and hangs on to high revs too long. Still an undisputed R8 forte are the optional magnetic dampers that dial in maximum compliance on bumpy roads and reassuring firmness on smooth pavement. Another strong point is the accurate and honest steering, which hasn't yet been infected by electronic assistants and by variable this-or-that add-ons. The engine is bound to be one of the last of its kind: high-revving, normally aspirated, tuned for emotion rather than for efficiency. Its likely replacement, a twin-turbo unit with cylinder deactivation, should be more frugal, but we bet it won't be as vocal or as intense.

Three keys, three cars, three choices. Which one would I take home? If cost were no object: an R8 with the 525-hp V-10 engine. If I could have one built to order and someone else paid for the lease: a 911 with the PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission. However, if it were my own money and if this was to be my only car, it would have to be the F-Type. It feels like the right choice for someone who has the body of a giant, the heart of a chicken, and the mind of a child. The Jaguar is not only the newest car on the block, it also is the most pragmatic option, sporting the biggest trunk and the least offensive price tag. Its supercharged engine is a known quantity and a true gem, the eight-speed automatic guarantees even more joyful paddleshifts per mile, the chassis wears the Entertainment Guild's seal of approval. True, the handling is a bit rough around the edges, and more often than not it takes the considerable help of computers to coax all that torque into traction. But the F-Type looks fresh, its lightweight architecture is modern through and through, and it is composed of the latest materials. Deep within, however, this Jaguar is an old-fashioned driver's car -- just like the E-Type it is supposed to remind us of.

2013 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet

24-valve DOHC flat-6
DISPLACEMENT: 3.8 liters (232 cu in)
POWER: 400 hp @ 7400 rpm
TORQUE: 325 lb-ft @ 5600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed manual
DRIVE: Rear-wheel

Electrically assisted
FRONT SUSPENSION: Strut-type, coil springs
REAR SUSPENSION: Multilink, coil springs
BRAKES: Vented discs, ABS
TIRES: Pirelli PZero
TIRE SIZES F, R: 245/35R-20 (95Y), 295/30R-20 (101Y)

L x W x H:
176.8 x 71.2 x 50.9 in
WHEELBASE: 96.5 in
TRACK F/R: 60.6/59.7 in
WEIGHT: 3230 lb
EPA MILEAGE: 19/27 mpg
0-60 MPH: 4.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 186 mph

2014 Audi R8 4.2 Spyder
$140,000 (est.)

32-valve DOHC V-8
DISPLACEMENT: 4.2 liters (254 cu in)
POWER: 430 hp @ 7900 rpm
TORQUE: 317 lb-ft @ 4500-6000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic
DRIVE: 4-wheel

Hydraulically assisted
FRONT SUSPENSION: Control arms, coil springs
REAR SUSPENSION: Control arms, coil springs
BRAKES: Vented discs, ABS
TIRES: Pirelli PZero
TIRE SIZES F, R: 235/35R-19 (91Y), 295/30R-19 (101Y)

L x W x H:
174.6 x 75.0 x 49.0 in
WHEELBASE: 104.3 in
TRACK F/R: 64.5/62.8 in
WEIGHT: 3870 lb (est.)
EPA MILEAGE: 14/23 mpg
0-60 MPH: 4.4 sec
TOP SPEED: 186 mph

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8 S

32-valve DOHC supercharged V-8
DISPLACEMENT: 5.0 liters (305 cu in)
POWER: 495 hp @ 6500 rpm
TORQUE: 460 lb-ft @ 2500-5500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
DRIVE: Rear-wheel

Hydraulically assisted
FRONT SUSPENSION: Control arms, coil springs
REAR SUSPENSION: Control arms, coil springs
BRAKES: Vented discs, ABS
TIRES: Pirelli PZero
TIRE SIZES F, R: 255/35R-20 (97Y), 295/30R-20 (101Y)

L x W x H:
176.0 x 75.7 x 51.5 in
WHEELBASE: 103.2 in
TRACK F/R: 62.4/64.1 in
WEIGHT: 3671 lb
FUEL MILEAGE: 16/23 mpg (est.)
0-60 MPH: 4.2 sec
TOP SPEED: 186 mph

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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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