Porsche Boxster 718 PDK 982 vs BMW Z4 sDrive3.0i M Sport G29 and Jaguar F-Type P450 AWD
Which is the best two-seater sports car out of the BMW Z4, Jaguar F-TYPE and Porsche Boxster 718? Simon Jackson, editor of BMW Car, our own Paul Walton and 911 27 Porsche World's Matt Bell argue the case for each before judge Ben Barry gives the final verdict.
TRIPLE TEST HARD CHOICES F-TYPE vs BOXSTER vs Z4
Can Jaguar’s recently facelifted F-TYPE compete with the newer BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster 718? We compare all three backto- back to find out Jaguar F-TYPE
2023 Jaguar F-Type P450 AWD First Edition
Power aside, can the oldest car of our trio compete with its newer rivals?
If this competition was based on looks alone, only Oedipus, the blind king of Thebes in Greek mythology, would have considered either of the German cars better than the British one. But if he only had their exhaust notes to go on, he’d still put the Jaguar ahead, but we’ll get back to that. Admittedly this Eiger Grey example is a Coupé while the other two are convertibles, but the car’s perfect proportions, elegant haunches and crisp yet aggressive lines make it immeasurably better looking than the ‘gopping’ Z4 or boring Boxster. As a perfect piece of modern cool Britannia, it subtly nods back to the E-type of the Sixties, but without being a retro cliché. You don’t need to know Jaguar’s history to appreciate this car.
The 2019 facelift did much to keep the F-TYPE fresh, the slimmer LED lights appearing much more modern than the larger original units and it’s hard to believe the car was first seen almost a decade ago. I will concede that the others have arguably better interiors, the materials used throughout the Jaguar lacking that unmistakable solidness that sets mostGerman cars apart from their rivals. The plastic isn’t quite as thick, the leather not quite as soft, the chrome trim not quite as shiny. But like the exterior, it can still hold its own in the design stakes, especially compared to the BMW’s that could have come out of a 1-Series hatchback and whose huge touchscreen dominates the central console to the detriment of the overall design.
I have to be honest here and admit this particular F-TYPE has the new 450PS (444bhp) version of Jaguar’s V8 under the bonnet. Since the BMW and Porsche are four-cylinders, it’s like bringing a tank to a knife fight.
Obviously Jaguar’s own 300PS (296bhp) turbocharged four-cylinder would be a more appropriate rival, but alas one wasn’t available on the day of the test. I still reckon it would have the legs on either of these cars; I know from past experience it’s an eager and hard-revving unit that turns the F-TYPE into a genuine sports car, whereas the V8 makes it a grand tourer in the same mould as the old XK. The 300PS version can reach 60mph in a healthy 5.7 seconds, a mere half a second under the time of the German cars. The 2.0-litre’s other advantage is at £55k for the Coupé, it’s £28k cheaper than the F-TYPE V8 featured here, but still £10k more than the others. The F-TYPE’s Achilles heel has always been cost. Despite its high price, I still like the 450PS, though. Replacing the now defunct pair of previously available V6s, it has a stronger mid-range punch but thankfully lacks the almost uncontrollable kamikaze nature of the 575PS (569bhp) F-TYPE R.
Reaching 60mph in 4.4 seconds, the 5.0-litre feels strong and eager while retaining the kind of blue-collar grunt that only a V8 can provide, making – despite what Simon and Matt will tell you – the four-cylinders in the Porsche and BMW sound and feel like sewing machines by comparison. On an empty road, squeezing the throttle immediately rewards me with a sudden, hard (but creamy smooth) wave of torque that’s so powerful the fillings in my teeth tremble. And unlike these four-cylinder rivals, it creates a deep but melodious note that could lead me to believe Louis Armstrong is in the boot. And that’s before I put the car into Dynamic Mode, when it becomes a proper, undiluted, ASBO-seeking hooligan.
Another major difference over the other two is this F-TYPE has all-wheel drive resulting in the car always feeling poised and unflappable in any situation or road condition. The downside, though, is that the extra weight of the AWD system, plus the front wheels having traction leaves the steering feeling numb and heavy compared to the lighter, nimbler BMW and Porsche. If it was the still balanced rear-wheel-drive version, it would be more than a match than either of the German cars in the agility stakes.
Yet I’d still put this P450 ahead of other cars for something else that can’t be so easily measured; character. I find the Jaguar much more memorable than the BMW and Porsche and after spending all day with the cars, it was the one I was itching to get back into. And there’s no greater compliment for a sports car than simply wanting to drive it.
TECHNICAL DATA 2023 Jaguar F-Type P450 AWD First Edition
- Engine 5,000cc V8 SC
- Power 450PS (444bhp)
- Torque 428lb ft
- Top speed 177mph
- 0-60mph 4.4secs
- Transmission 8-spd auto
- Economy 26.8mpg
- List price £80,840
- Price as tested £85,385
2023 BMW Z4 sDrive3.0i M Sport G29
With the least amount of power, is the Z4 a match for its more powerful rivals?
Make no mistake, the Z4 is up against tough competition here. That the sDrive30i M Sport model’s 2.0-litre engine is comprehensively outgunned in power by the Jaguar goes without saying, so much so that I think only the Porsche is fair competition, so we’ll ignore the F-TYPE altogether. One down, one to go – see what I did there? However, there remains an inescapable problem – dynamically speaking the Boxster is sublime. And yet I remain confident in championing the G29-generation of Z4 for a few good reasons.
Firstly, it is the cheapest car here by some margin. At £42,875, (£49,980 with options) ‘on the road’, this car has the £54,642 Porsche licked financially. Secondly, its four-cylinder turbocharged engine is markedly better than that frankly terrible, droning and uninspiring, flat-four motor in the Porsche (which really does ruin the car). While, admittedly, the Z4’s performance is unlikely to set your hair on fire, its 258hp and 295lb ft makes it spritely enough to maintain your attention and raise a smile on occasion.
However, it is no secret that the Z4’s prospect has softened over the years. But in the G29, BMW has attempted to address where its front-engined, rear-driven roadster is lacking, resulting in a car that is certainly more engaging to drive than its forebear. The chassis is safe rather than sporty, but that could be argued as a positive – who wants to be constantly thrown around on the edge of adhesion all the time, after all? In fact, the BMW is an altogether tamer, more civilised package than the Porsche, and it can fly under the radar avoiding the negative societal associations with driving one of Stuttgart’s sports cars. Arguably the BMW lends itself to daily use better than the cars with which it is compared here. It is practical too, for a roadster. The retracting roof is easy and quick to use via one-button activation and when stowed away it does not eat into the available boot space. Thanks to its stylish good looks this San Francisco Red example, which is in Z4 mid-trim-level specification, best manages to tread the fine line between appearing sporty without being too ‘showy.’ There’s something to be said for that.
One of the most noticeable areas in which the Z4 wins is refinement, there’s none of the usual issues associated with a soft-top, noise is kept to an absolute minimum even on the motorway. In fact, fit and finish are generally typical BMW in quality throughout while the infotainment system is faultless. This particular car has the optional Technology Pack (£1,800) providing BMW’s excellent Head-up Display, comfort and convenience features include heated steering wheel and electric front seats with driver memory via the Comfort Pack (£750.00) and Comfort Pack Plus (£1,700). The M Sport Pro Package makes the biggest impact though, adding 19-inch wheels, M sport differential and Adaptive M Sport suspension amongst other desirable things.
While this Z4 sDrive30i M Sport is far from the razor-sharp tool its rivals might be, its usability and practicality had a larger impact on me than expected during our three-way inter-brand battle. In far from ideal circumstances our photoshoot took place amid a fuel crisis where unleaded was at an absolute premium. Leaving BMW’s Hampshire headquarters with the tank brimmed I headed to our rendezvous location in Cambridgeshire, treating the right pedal as if it were the trigger to a landmine. Available driving modes range from Sport to Comfort, but Eco Pro seemed the most obvious choice; in that setting the car retuned an impressive 39.6mpg on largely motorway and fast A-road routes, alleviating some of my concerns about where my next tank of fuel was coming from. Passing several petrol stations marked as ‘no fuel’ did raise my anxiety levels, but when I finally did find a pump, I was able to better exploit the Z4’s capabilities as one should at the wheel of a roadster.
Were it not for the circumstances forcing me to hyper-mile the Z4 for a time, my final impression might have been very different, yet I have seen two distinct sides to this car. Driven carefully it is both impressively economical, practical and comfortable. Push it harder and, while certainly not the sharpest of sports cars by any measure, it is able to deliver enough fun and engagement to argue its case effectively. Perhaps this triple test is not as clear-cut as it might first seem.
TECHNICAL DATA 2023 BMW Z4 sDrive3.0i M Sport G29
- Engine 1998cc 4cyl
- Max Power 258bhp
- Max Torque 296lb ft
- Top speed 155mph
- 0-60mph 5.4 secs
- Transmission 8-spd auto
- Economy 39.8mpg
- List price £42,659
- Price as tested £49,980
2023 Porsche Boxster 718 PDK 982
No longer powered by a flat six, does the Boxster 718 have a big enough character?
Once upon a time, the Porsche Boxster was seen as the “poor man’s 911.” It was misunderstood by many, talked about unfairly by those who’d never driven one and only really understood by a minority. Throughout the Boxster’s four generations, it steadily increased its image, moving away from the poor man’s 911 stereotype to a car that’s seen to be a genuinely good sports car. But can a car that’s now equipped with a four-banger rather than a big six-pot really take on a V8 F-TYPE? And can it show the 2.0-litre Z4 a clean pair of heels? I think it can.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. One of the Boxster’s greatest selling points was not only its open-top thrills, but the charismatic flat-six engine that produced a scintillating exhaust note. There’s no escaping the fact that this 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine does not deliver the aural satisfaction that the flat-six could, and therefore, affects the way the Boxster feels. Ring it out and your hairs no longer stand on end listening to the revs climb. Instead, it’s replaced with a humdrum four-pot engine note that doesn’t excite you nearly enough.
The one thing that cannot be knocked is the performance. With just shy of 300bhp and 280lb ft of torque at its disposal, equipped with the optional PDK gearbox (£2,000) we have here, 0-60mph is over in 4.7 seconds, while at the top end it’ll go on to do a respectable 170mph. Say what you want about the Boxster, but it has the equivalent four-cylinder F-TYPE P300 and the Z4 we have here well and truly licked in the performance department.
Find a quiet back road and put the car through its paces and the previous generations’ appeal still shines through. Dynamically, the Boxster rides the line between supple and stiff very well, offering enough comfort for day-to-day driving, as well as reassuring damping over questionable B-road surfacing, but without being too soft that you create too much body roll through the corners. Performance-wise, with maximum torque on offer from 2,150rpm up to 4,500rpm, you don’t have to be greedy holding on to gears like you would in the naturally aspirated car, opting to snag up to say third on a slightly slower corner, not needing to stretch the extra revs out at the top in second. That being said, be too forthcoming with your gearchanges and you’ll end up in a dead zone below 2,000rpm, a place where the 2.0-litre engine’s drawbacks are obvious.
The seating position feels bang on for someone of my height (5ft10 and a bit…), with plenty of headroom before touching the fabric roof, and enough adjustability in the steering and seat positions to feel like you’re driving a proper sports car. One thing Porsche has always done well is its seating position, featuring comfortable sports seats that offer just enough bolster to keep you in place. Perfect for your daily drive, but maybe worth ticking the optional bucket seats if you prefer a more spirited drive.
Elsewhere it’s rather a case of business as usual with the Porsche, not developing all that much on the previous generation’s look exterior-wise, but adding in some worthwhile upgrades to the interior including Apple CarPlay and what appears to be the 991-generation 911 infotainment system. Easy to use with just enough tech to keep you happy, you may find it feels a touch outdated with its smaller infotainment screen and physical buttons. Truth be told, the BMW shines ahead of the F-TYPE and Boxster here, with a bang up-to-date system that looks clutter-free and modern. Two cup holders tuck themselves away into a compartment just above the glovebox, which has to be one of the most innovative cup holder designs in a car. I digress.
Economically, the 2.0-litre Boxster makes sense. On a journey from Reading to Peterborough, the car returned 40mpg without hesitation (something the F-TYPE with its thirsty V8 could only dream of), with the odd blip of acceleration in between to spice up the otherwise mundane journey. The PDK is effortless through its gear selection and arguably offers the best all-round semi-automatic gearbox experience in the business. In this company with the Z4 and the F-TYPE, who both use a ZF box, the PDK is certainly the top performer, snapping gears at a quicker rate of knots without compromising comfort in and around town.
At just over £54,500 OTR (£7,552 worth of options), price-wise it sits right in the middle of this trio, with the V8 F-TYPE obviously being more expensive, and the Z4 shaving £6k off the Porsche’s asking price. Given I think the Boxster is the best of all three right here, the price point isn’t as silly as you’d think for an entry-level Porsche.
Let’s put one thing straight, with the endless witch hunt of the petrolhead that is currently underway, a 40mpg, 2.0-litre, four-pot engine that’ll do 170mph and accelerate to law-breaking speeds in just over five seconds makes a whole lot more sense than a near two-ton V8 brute. Okay, truth be told I’d get the 4.0-litre GTS with a manual six-speed gearbox! It’s the Boxster’s chassis and open-top thrills that win here.
TECHNICAL DATA 2023 Porsche Boxster 718 PDK 982
- Engine 1998cc 4cyl
- Power 296bhp
- Torque 280lb ft
- Top speed 170mph
- 0-60mph 4.9 secs
- Transmission 7-spd auto
- Economy 30.7mpg
- List price £47,090
- Price as tested £54,642
Leading motoring journalist, Ben Barry, gives his verdict on the three cars
When it comes to the crunch, really the Z4 plays odd man out here. Not that being different necessarily makes the BMW a bad car, and some buyers will no doubt prefer its less aggressive character, its dramatic design, a fabric roof that snuffs out noise on the motorway (and opens or closes in just ten seconds), and an interior that’s both well-built and well appointed. Special praise too for the BMW infotainment system, which leads the pack in this test.
In terms of engines, the BMW’s 2.0-litre unit pulls strongly through the range and has the measure of the Porsche’s when it comes to aural entertainment. If you crave and can afford more, spec the silky 3.0-litre turbo six and you’ve got an absolute peach of a motor.
The trade-off for the Z4’s perhaps broader overall skillset is reduced driver connection, things like the dead spot at the top of its steering, a sense of width and bulk, and a chassis that unravels when you push it harder over a great road – this is a larger softer, less willing kind of roadster. That’d be easier to reconcile if the Z4’s ride quality was particularly plush, but unfortunately it’s got more patter than a Cockney market trader. It just never properly settles down. Placing it third overall is a straightforward decision.
The Boxster and F-TYPE are harder to split, in part because these rivals’ targets are more closely aligned. Both look sensational in the classic two-seat sports car tradition, both have highly driver-centric cabins that instantly put you in the mind for getting a shift on, and both have perfectly balanced chassis that delight in tearing up a British B-road like almost nothing else on sale. It’s a tough decision.
Ultimately the advantage swings depending on which engine you spec – take the Boxster with the naturally aspirated flat-six engine and it addresses the four-cylinder models’ only real flaw, and in doing so gradually builds an unassailable lead over the also brilliant F-TYPE P450, with a glorious noise and performance that really unlocks the excellence of a mid-engined layout. It’s like a racer steadily pulling out three tenths of a second per lap – not a huge gap, especially given just how special that V8 feels, but impossible to catch. You might also fall for its super-slick manual gearbox, a treat denied by the BMW and Jaguar.
The pendulum swings in the opposite direction if you’ve got an entry-level F-TYPE or Boxster in your sights, because the Boxster’s flat-four engine is so drearily uncharismatic, and feels so, well, flat below 2400rpm, especially our smaller 2.0-litre non-S model that goes without the S’s variable geometry turbo. The F-TYPE P300, by contrast, makes a virtue of its smaller capacity, not only reducing cost, but also reducing weight to the benefit of handling, and propelling the F-TYPE along at an impressively brisk pace. It makes a lovely fruity, ‘brappy’ sort of noise in the process, with really only the mushier throttle response giving any cause for complaint.
The Boxster hits greater heights in its ultimate specification then, but an F-TYPE has the greater consistency throughout the full breadth of its product range and makes the more compelling entry-level choice. That’s where I’d put my money.