On pretty much any top-10 or even top-5 list of the most iconic and recognizable sports cars of the past century there is little doubt that you will find the Porsche 911, and the classic Jaguar E-Type.
Past examples of each look as jaw-dropping now as they did decades ago, and both have a massive following of enthusiasts from all walks of life.
When Jaguar came back to the game with its all-new F-Type, which draws a huge amount of influence from its E-Type brethren in both design and spirit, there was no doubt that Jaguar had an eye on the 911’s buying demographic.
On paper the 911 and F-Type S are right in line with one another, carrying similar price tags in the $80-$90k range, similar horsepower output, 0-100km/h times that are mere fractions apart, and of course just enough room for two adult occupants.
The bigger question is: are they equally matched on the open road?
The Porsche 911 has been, and always will be a gorgeous sports car. Its rear-mounted engine makes for a rather specific shaping of its bodywork and one of the most iconic silhouettes ever. Time and time again Porsche engineers have said the 911s engine will never wander ahead of its rear axle.
Looking at the current model – known as the 991 to Porsche geeks – the exterior styling has evolved only slightly from the previous generation. It’s as if Porsche’s lead designers ascribe to the same philosophy as a number of experienced architects who design an exterior, and then refine the design by removing any extraneous, unnecessary or frilly details that detract from the fundamental form. When it comes to the 911 this mantra has worked exceptionally well.
Looking at the new F-Type Coupe, we are faced with an entirely different animal. Key details such as the side profile of the car, the central exhaust configuration, and the slight point to its rear end speak to the classic lines of the old E-Type. However, from every angle the F-Type Coupe screams “Hey! Look over here!” Some people might view this as a criticism, and would not want to draw too much attention to themselves. Others, myself included, have no issue in taking pride at being behind the wheel of something so bold.
Ian Callum (Of past Aston Martin and Jaguar fame) did an incredible job designing the F-Type, and it deserves every bit of attention it gets when roaring down the road.
If there’s one thing Porsche’s engineers are great at (okay, they are great at many things), it’s building a benchmark. For years the 911 has had a bull’s eye on its back. Numerous manufacturers have fought and struggled (and more often than not failed) to design a chassis and drivetrain that can rival the 911.
With this latest 991, the bar continues to be set blisteringly high. The car has certainly grown over its predecessor, and Porsche has switched to electrically-assisted power steering, but overall the car still drives like its on rails. Turn into a corner and hold on tight as the rear end plants itself and pushes the coupe through the bends.
Much as I’ve always said I love the previous-generation BMW M3 for how it handles through the bends, the 911 is an instrument of surgical precision designed to push its driver to the limits of their ability.
The best way to describe the experience at the wheel of the F-Type meanwhile is that the big bad coupe is a pent up ball of tire-smoking shenanigans waiting to happen. Because of its front-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration and the proximity of the passenger cabin to the rear wheels the F-Type S Coupe is definitely a little tail-happy.
The supercharged 3.0L engine delivers 380 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque, and this thing loves to rev. Thanks to a throaty variable exhaust system you can pretty much hear the F-Type coupe roaring your way from a few city blocks away. The soundtrack is nothing short of intoxicating from behind the wheel.
On public roads, the F-Type coupe is an absolute riot to drive. Rattling through the gears of the ZF 8-speed automatic you’ll notice the gearbox is surprisingly quick for a conventional autobox, though not as quick as Porsche’s PDK unit. Unless you plan on spending a reasonable amount of time on the track, the F-Type Coupe has all capabilities to satisfy any driving enthusiast.
Evaluating the 911 against the F-Type S Coupe is a classic example where specification geeks completely lose the thread when it comes to comparing the two vehicles. On paper, the two cars are a stone’s throw from one another but in terms of personality and driving experience they couldn’t be farther apart.
The 911 is the car that will make you a better driver at the limit, the car that will shave seconds off of your lap times at the local track. It wears some of the best brakes in the industry, and though its steering is electric, it is one of the most engaging performance cars available to this day.
The F-Type Coupe, on the other hand, is the “fun” car. That’s not to say the 911 isn’t fun to drive, but the F-Type is this loud, obnoxious hooligan of a car that instantly puts a goofy grin on your face like that first time you did a donut or pulled the e-brake when you were learning to drive.
The F-Type is only a couple of tenths of a second slower from 0-100km/h, coming in at 4.9 seconds, however there’s no doubt in my mind the 911 will run circles around the F-Type on any winding track. That said, anyone shopping for either car will likely seldom if ever take their new ride out racing, and on city streets or the open road, the F-Type coupe will keep up just fine.
This is the point in the equation where things really start getting subjective. In our household a previous-generation 911 is at the top of our shopping list though we are both completely enamoured with the F-Type Coupe as well.
The F-type offers up a bit more trunk space, but the 911 has the 2 faux-seats perfect for our two miniature schnauzers. If this was a zero budget consideration conversation it would be an F-Type Coupe as the daily driver and a track-day/autocross prepped 911 in the garage, with a 4-door E90 BMW M3 for those days we’re feeling practical.
Either way this isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples scenario, and your best bet is to hop behind the wheel and see which car speaks to you the most.