TO BE ranked among the very best, a sports car must look good enough to deserve its own Instagram account, go like the clappers come rain or shine and be as happy handling the clockwise loop of the M25 as it is tackling the descent down the Col de Turini into Monte Carlo.
BMW and Jaguar both believe they’ve come up with such a machine. The German car maker’s latest sporting model is the BMW M6 with Competition package, a sleekly styled coupé with the muscle power and seating comfort to transport four people across France in a flash. It costs just shy of £100,000, boasts the best part of 600bhp and is more than capable of demolishing its back tyres in a handful of laps at Brands Hatch.
Two years after its introduction, Jaguar’s F-type has had an extensive mechanical massage. The British company has made four-wheel drive available, presumably in an attempt to deal with criticisms that the exuberant two-wheel-drive R model was like a puppy tugging at a trouser leg: after a while it becomes a bit boring and needs putting in its place.
Slightly less potent than the M6 Competition, the 542bhp F-type R AWD seats just two, but the payoff is that it looks, well, fabulous. Who would guess that, at £91,660, it’s the cheaper of these two everyday sports cars?
They capture enough of the sights, sounds and sensations of exotic models from Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini but aren’t so preposterously expensive. The obvious question, then, is which is better to drive? We hit the road and the test track to find out.
Slightly less potent than the M6 Competition, the 542bhp F-type R AWD seats just two, but the payoff is that it looks, well, fabulous
Those who enjoy attention will enjoy driving the Jaguar. It had more neighbours asking questions and pulled in a crowd at the test track. BMW’s styling is so generic these days that the M6 could be mistaken for any number of its siblings from a distance.
It helps that the Jaguar’s bodywork has only two seats to cloak. The proportions are much more athletic than those of the four-seat BMW, though the tailgate lifts to reveal a fair-sized boot. We even managed to squeeze in a folding bicycle – just.
For practicality the BMW has the Jaguar licked. The two back seats are spacious enough for adults over short distances, and there’s enough boot for a holiday’s worth of luggage – as long as you buy the lilo and inflatable shark when you get there.
Even though each car is a £100,000 investment, neither will prove a disappointment when you slide behind the steering wheel. The F-type’s interior has a cockpit feel, and the optional panoramic glass roof and joystick-like gearlever heighten the sense of being strapped into a fighter plane.
Fire up the engine and the air vents rise out of the dashboard like surface-to-air missile launchers while the exhaust explodes with all the subtlety of a bugler blaring out the Reveille next to your ear. As the supercharged 5-litre V8 snarls at your prod of the throttle pedal, you could be forgiven for imagining the Jaguar is baring its teeth.
And that’s in sensible mode. Flick a toggle from Normal to Dynamic and it gets even meaner. “Are you sure about this?” it seems to ask. So you select Drive, floor the throttle and experience the peculiar sensation of your eyeballs rolling into the back of your head.
Acceleration from a standstill is savage. Not many high-performance cars have the ability to make a driver’s stomach turn somersaults, but this F-type does. Passengers will squeal in delight or scream in terror, but the driver won’t hear them anyway.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox snaps through each shift in the blink of an eye and the firm sports suspension wobbles your head around, but that’s not half as fun as the way the AWD model can tackle a corner at the test track. Jaguar’s engineers appear to have eradicated all signs of understeer: either all four wheels grip, or the tail can be provoked into a cheeky slide. The front, though, simply doesn’t let go of the road. It’s a huge improvement on the skittish two-wheel-drive version.
Fire up the Jaguar’s engine and the exhaust explodes with all the subtlety of a bugler blaring out the Reveille next to your ear
The BMW is a larger car and feels it. The body is wide and the dashboard stretches off into the distance, but the iDrive infotainment screen is of noticeably superior resolution to the Jaguar’s mucky touchscreen unit, the seats are more comfortable over long distances and the head-up display works a treat. A giant “M” logo beamed onto the windscreen when the car is started even helpfully reminds you what you’re driving.
The BMW’s twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 is by some margin the more powerful engine, with 591bhp ready to test the tyres’ hold on the road. Yet even with sports exhaust this is a more muted machine, which does without the wailing histrionics of the F-type R.
It’s altogether a more comfy machine. With the adjustable dampers in their softest setting, the M6 takes the sting out of bumpy roads, and it’s more relaxing to drive on the motorway – commuters take note.
Summon the full power of the engine, however, and it’s anything but relaxing. The M6 is ridiculously rapid – faster, even, than the F-type – but there’s a catch. Its back wheels will often lose their grip, so in the first two gears much of that power can go to waste, while the electronic driver aids do their best to stop the tyres being shredded into a smouldering pile of rubber.
On bumpy or wet roads, the warning light for the ESP stability programme flashes away like a cheap disco light. It would be frustrating if the M6 were not such good fun to drive quickly.
Take it to the track, switch off the driver aids and the fun really begins. The tail can be swung like a pendulum from twist to turn. But how often would an owner do that? Once, possibly twice a year?
Jaguar F-type R coupé AWD v BMW M6 Competition: the verdict & stats
Either of these everyday sports cars would be a pleasure to own. The BMW is searingly fast and reasonably versatile, but there’s a feeling that it’s a car made from a shelf of parts that can be found in many other BMWs.
The Jaguar feels unique. It’s the one that sends a little shiver of excitement down a driver’s spine as they walk toward it, and turns their stomach upside down and head giddy when the supercharged V8 and four-wheel drive get to work. For many that will make it worth every penny. For others the two-seater will be too impractical.
|Jaguar F-type R coupé AWD||BMW M6 Competition package|
|Engine||5000cc, V8 supercharged, petrol||4395cc, V8, twin turbo, petrol|
|Power||542bhp @ 6500rpm||591bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||501 lb ft @ 3500rpm||516 lb ft @ 1500rpm|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic, 4-wheel drive||7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0-62mph in 4.1sec||0-60mph in 3.9sec|
|Fuel||25mpg (combined)||28.5mpg (combined)|
|Release date||On sale now||On sale now|