TWO OF THESE CARS ARE so tremendously exciting at low speed, albeit for very different reasons, that you could fall for them without ever driving with any great purpose. To sit in the McLaren’s driving seat is to feel as though you’re piloting a Le Mans prototype. The seating position places your legs way out in front of you with your body reclined slightly and the steering wheel offered to your chest. The wheel itself is small, with a thin rim and slender spokes. You feel as though you’re sat right over the front axle with the weight of the car behind you, placed low in the carbon tub with a cinematic view forward over the low scuttle. It’s just so evocative. ‘I adore the driving position in the 570S,’ agrees Henry. ‘Those optional bucket seats are absolute marvels that let you sink right down into them, giving great lateral support. The fact that the steering wheel comes so far out makes the seating position perfect.’
Then you start to drive and even at town speeds you enjoy the tactility of that wonderfully detailed steering and the balance and low-slung centre of gravity of the chassis.
The R8 also has an evocative driving position – this time you’re sat right in the middle of the chassis with the windscreen way out ahead of you, more like a DTM racer than a Le Mans car – although it’s the naturally aspirated V10 that steals the show. Somehow just knowing that it’s over your shoulder, with its near-9000rpm red line and hummingbird responses, is enough. But, when you do wind it all the way out, the immediacy, the energy through the rev-range and the fury of the soundtrack right at the top end floods you with adrenalin.
The F-type’s blood-and-thunder V8 is enormous fun in its own way, especially now we’re on the thankfully dry roads of Bedfordshire and getting to use more of its full potential, but it feels crude compared with the Audi’s V10. In Dynamic mode, the Jaguar’s throttle calibration becomes so aggressive that you seem to get a full throttle opening at half pedal travel. Combined with the immediate response of a supercharger, it means you spend the first few miles deploying too much power far too early in the corner, which can upset the chassis. Soon enough, though, you learn to tickle the throttle pedal initially to modulate the input.
It’s one example of the F-type’s hyperactivity, which, it seems, has been engineered-in to disguise the car’s weight. Jaguar quotes 1730kg, but, given that we weighed a rear-wheel-drive V8 R Coupe at 1800kg, it seems likely that the All Wheel- Drive model is closer to 1900kg (the four-wheel-drive system adds 75kg, according to Jaguar). The initial steering response is very sharp, too, and the front axle darts into an apex with an almost jumpy immediacy. The rear axle, meanwhile, feels very stiff in roll, so it’s always on the edge of sliding. For the most part that strategy does make the F-type feel very lively and agile indeed, but, when the direction changes come thick and fast and one undulation rolls into another, the realities of 1900kg travelling at speed do tend to come to the fore.
Body control has been much- improved compared with the pre-facelift cars, though, so this model feels more tightly tied-down and less wayward than earlier F-types. Once you’ve tuned in to the car’s slightly artificial rates of response, it does begin to entertain, the chassis digging hard into the dry surface where it skated across it in the wet. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t have the intuitive, engaging on-road dynamic quality of the best cars here, which is perhaps to be expected of a GT in the company of supercars.