By James Ward
Nairobi and Kenya as a whole is first changing. People have more disposable income as well as better access to foreign products; especially exotic sports cars. Long gone is a time when having such cars on our roads was a mere fantasy; but alas here we are.
This all changed when RMA took over the Jaguar Land Rover franchise in Kenya and brought the Jaguar F-Type (two door sports car) alongside the traditional SUVs and saloons to the local market. This was closely followed by the opening of Porsche Centre Nairobi, and the access it gave buyers to the 911, Cayman and Boxster sports cars alongside the Cayenne and Macan SUVs as well as the Panamera saloon.
With our Kenyan summer continuing to get hotter with each passing day, having a drop top sports car doesn’t sound like such a bad proposition if you don’t have young kids or are going through a midlife crisis.
I say this with a light touch as what we have on offer are two very capable sports cars that can be driven day-to-day; albeit the constant traffic will keep your speedometer in check. Before us we have the 2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S which has a starting price of US $100,700 (before options and taxes); and the 2016 Jaguar F-Type V6-S which starts at US $123,274 (before options and taxes).
STYLE AND DESIGN
Looking at the pair of two-seater roadsters, either would make a fine choice to replace the SUV, saloon or van in the garage.
Finished in classic white (a no cost option) with a black soft top, the Porsche is the more understated of the two. The black leather interior is a standard selection, but the classy carbon-fibre trim is a US $2000 option, as are the embossed Porsche logos on the headrests (US $350).
It’s clean, clinical and relatively German (a very good thing) in the Porsche. There is good storage for a little roadster, but the materials are quite cold in the way they feel. It’s a smart looking car, top up or down, and the 718 will deploy a small rear wing automatically at speed or at the touch of a button inside the cabin.
You get a 150-litre boot in the front-end, and a second 130-litre boot in the back. All this is possible as it’s a mid-engine vehicle and not traditional in having the engine upfront or at the back like conventional or other sports cars respectively.
With the Jaguar, the Ammonite grey paint is also a US $2000 option, and the beige convertible top (which we’d probably go without due to cleaning) is US $650 extra. The car features the extended Exterior Sport Design Pack (US $2600) which colour-matches the sills, elements of the rear diffuser and other aero parts.
The final leading edge of the rear deck deploys as a spoiler and like the Porsche, it can operate automatically or via a button on the console.
A two-tone interior never goes astray, so the Cirrus leather and Jet dash with contrast stitching makes the Jag look a lot more special than the Porsche. But this can be easily changed with a wide array of colour options for the Porsche’s interior.
It’s not all roses though, as some touchpoints around the infotainment switch gear feel light and cheap, but in general the cabin has a more classy character to it.
For example, at night the lighting design goes from white and orange to red when you switch into sport mode; which is pretty cool in my opinion.
We have to say, the Jaguar is a top-down car. With the soft-top roof in place it looks a little goofy; especially from behind. The coupe variant is absolutely stunning, and I’d recommend it any day over the convertible if you are not a wind-in-the-hair kind of person.
If going anywhere, my advice is to pack light, as the Jag’s boot barely exists and is a meagre 148 litres, which will undoubtedly fail to fit any bag that you own. Even ladies handbags these days seem to be border on hand luggage proportions.
It’s strange as the F-Type looks much bigger than the 718, but it is only 91mm longer (4470mm) and is actually 71mm thinner than the Porsche (1994mm).
It does carry a bit more weight though; by a lot more. There’s a 424kg penalty to the Jaguar. That’s a whopping 32 per cent increase over the Porsche, and something that starts to feel a bit more obvious when we get off the mark.
Put mildly, the Jaguar looks fantastic and certainly turns heads more than the Boxster, which is just another white Porsche to most passers-by. But remember this is Kenya, which means you’ll definitely get your fair share of onlookers and admirers alike.
ENGINE & POWERTRAIN
Sports cars are all about conveying a sense of driving enjoyment, and both our contenders deliver on that account.
New for 2016, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged 718 Boxster S had to prove to the purists that it was capable of proper Porsche performance despite using the dark-art of small capacity and forced induction to replace the familiar 3.4-litre flat-six. It produces 257kW of power and 420Nm of torque.
It is mounted to a seven-speed dual-clutch PDK (Doppelkupplung) transmission (a US $3500 option) driving the rear-wheels, which allows both relaxed automatic driving as well as self-shifting from the alloy paddles on the steering wheel.
The big cat heads a more traditional route of a front-mounted 3.0-litre supercharged V6 with 280kW and 460Nm of power and torque respectively.
It too drives the rear wheels and offers peak power at the same 6500rpm mark, but a narrower torque-band from 3500 through to 5000rpm.
There’s an eight-speed single-clutch automatic transmission in the Jaguar that again gives the option of automatic or self-shifting, but has plastic paddles to pull on.
Each car features a sports exhaust for some extra drama and theatre, which is standard on the Jag and a US $3000 option on the Porsche. The Boxster also has the Sport Chrono package (another option at US $3500) which, when in Sport+ mode, improves throttle response, increases shift times and even offers a launch-control program.
Putting all this together though, when considering the mass of each car, gives the Porsche the power-to-weight edge at 195kW/t against the Jaguar at 161kW/t.
ROAD HANDLING TECHNOLOGY
Getting all that power to the ground requires some clever technology, and by standard rule of thumb, you can’t show up to that school reunion on stock wheels; so each car has been dealt a serving of style and substance.
Porsche’s torque vectoring system (PTV) is a US $2200 option and helps the Boxster maintain stability when cornering, particularly under brakes. The system includes a locking rear differential.
The Jaguar’s torque vectoring and limited-slip differential package is US $1440, and essentially manages vehicle rotation in the same manner, by braking the inside wheels as needed to help the car turn-in with more precision.
Both cars have 20-inch wheel options, the Tornado option on the F-Type adding US $2500 to the asking price, and the Carrera Classics pushing the Porsche’s price up a further US $2900.
The Jaguar offers sports-suspension with variable damping settings as part of the standard S-Package, where the Porsche needs the PASM (active suspension) option box ticked for another US $1900. This does lower the car by 10mm and provide two-levels of suspension activity though.
It’s a close race at this point, in terms of handling hardware, so we’ll call it a tie.
PRICING & SPECIFICATIONS
At this end of the market, the starting price is very much that. Think of this as an auction where an eager bidder throws in a price to kick things off, only to have the final sale settle much, much higher.
Both cars, as you can tell by now, have extensive (read as expensive) option lists – and neither are really scratching the surface of what is available.
Personalisation elements on cars like this are fine, but the US $1200 premium charged for front and rear parking sensors and rear-view camera on the Porsche is a little rich and a bit foolish considering that even Toyota’s come with parking sensors as standard these days.
The Jaguar takes its fair share of liberties too, with our car needing an extra US $2100 spent to get memory powered seats and folding mirrors, and a further US $3100 for the adaptive xenon headlamps.
Neither car has heated seats as standard (a bit of a must for a convertible and any car at this price range) with the Jaguar optioning these in at US $1010. You have to spend an extra US $430 for a digital radio tuner in the F-Type, too, if you still listen to radio that is.
Fortunately, to enjoy the crisp digital airwaves, the Jag runs a ten-speaker Meridian sound system that comes standard, where just a basic six-speaker stereo is fitted to the Porsche. You can upgrade to a US $1900 BOSE or US $6150 Burmeister system if that’s your kind of thing.
Electrically adjustable seats, satellite navigation and obviously a power-folding roof are standard on both cars though, but it’s a pretty short list of crossover points.
Keyless entry and push-button start, something you get on a US $6,000 Toyota Vitz from 2009, is still an option on the Porsche!
Value here is very subjective given the more personal nature of the cars. At pure list price, the cars have about a US $23,000 variance in favour of the less-expensive Boxster.
More has been added to the Porsche though, about US $21,000 worth of options against roughly US $16,000 on the F-Type. That closes the gap a bit, but still leaves the Jaguar wearing an US $18K excess.
Ownership though tells a slightly different story, with the Jaguar having a longer service and warranty period 5 year / 100 000km service plan & 5 year / 150 000km warranty. This is all standard.
ON THE ROAD
Let’s start with the Porsche.
Lower the Boxster’s roof from the key-fob as you walk up to it or on the move at up to 50km/h and it’s gone in under 10-seconds. The perfect convenience of a modern sports convertible.
You sit low, vision is good and the driving position is excellent, even for a taller chap like me.
From the specific ‘click’ when you turn the key and the exacting weighting when moving the gear lever to Drive, everything in the Porsche is an exercise in pin-sharp precision.
The four-cylinder fires quickly and the 718 thumps with a trademark boxer rhythm.
The sports exhaust amplifies things a bit at idle, giving the Boxster a more raucous undertone, and perhaps the only part of the car that seems a little rough.
Low speed steering is light and the car feels very direct even at lower speeds. The throttle responds well and the Boxster is an easy car to motor about in through traffic.
Get out in the open and the more scientific approach to the roadster becomes apparent.
Change into sport mode and the rate of response from the throttle increases, but there is no drop in the level of grip or accuracy on the winding bush roads we are testing on.
The cabin too, does just what you need. The tri-pod instrument displays are clear and the switchgear ergonomics excellent. At first it seems there are a lot of buttons on the console, but you get used to it very quickly.
You are snug and secure in the seat, even through sharper corners and tighter bends in the road. It is very clear that despite more humble beginnings, the 718 Boxster is now every bit the proper sports car.
Turn in with precise weighting, balance through the corner without a wiggle from the back or a push from the front and power out again, the engine revving past 6000rpm, the 718 pulling away strongly.
Even when chasing the Porsche, you can see just how planted and balanced it is. The words ‘calculated’ and ‘measured’ come to mind when driving too, as there is such a minimal sensation of movement, other than the g-forces your body is subjected to.
It’s a very easy car to drive fast. Enjoyable and rewarding in its own clinical way, and deserved of being the popular ‘go to’ car in this segment.
The big Jaguar though, is another thing entirely. Again the seating position is low, but you feel almost enveloped by the car as you step down into it. Push the glowing start button to trigger the V6 to life and there is a hint of a scream and a snarl as it fires.
You look out over the endless bonnet and almost feel as though you are sitting right at the back wheels. Vision with the top down is excellent, but the rear-quarter vision isn’t great when it’s up.
The Jaguar can feel a bit claustrophobic too. The top fits snugly, but is a tight fit around the passenger cell, and the car is much more comfortable letting it all hang out and running topless.
Pottering around at suburban speeds and that extra 400kg is very apparent. It feels heavier in every way compared to the Porsche. From the steering to the movement, it just seems like a much bigger car.
Again, we leave the shops and schools behind and sample the F-Type on some winding country roads and there’s something about the more brutal Jaguar that feels a bit more fun and less serious than the Porsche.
The exhaust is a perfect example. Leave everything off and it sounds good in its most pedestrian mode; but activate Dynamic Mode, which opens the sports exhaust and the sound can only be described as epic.
The Jaguar shouts, barks, screams and crackles like a Hollywood firefight. Pass someone, where there is a chance the sound may reverberate or echo, and the F-Type sounds downright frightening.
Hilariously too, even when winding the 718 up to that 6500rpm power band peak, you can still just hear the wailing, crackling Jaguar drowning out the sound of the turbo-boxer and everything else around you.
I’m not going to admit this, but I turned the active exhaust off when driving in traffic, such is the antisocial volume of the supercharged Jag, that if a long-bonnet supermodel of a convertible wasn’t already attracting enough attention, shouting and exploding past everyone on their morning commute would just seem a bit over the top.
Noise and theatrics aside, the Jaguar is a pure freight train in terms of straight line performance, and pure land yacht when pushing through corners.
I’m not sure whether the Boxster gave me a sense of courage through some of the twisty sections of the road, but trying to match speed in the Jaguar is just not possible without a few pulse-exciting moments.
Those giant 275mm wide rear tyres will squirm and slide as the whole car juggles with being able to either wash off speed, or reintroduce a slab of power while maintaining its intended direction.
Compared to the pure-sports Porsche, the Jaguar is a muscle-car mixed with a GT. It cruises and bruises with such effortless showmanship, it’s more of a character than you are on the road.
It’s a contest win to the Porsche in terms of pure dynamic excellence, but you get out of the Jaguar with a big, stupid grin each and every time; and as for the more mature driver choice, well that’s up to what is important to you.
We started this test by posing a rather loose question as to which of these slightly irresponsible purchases was the best choice for those who wanted to rekindle some of their hard-working youth.
And like all of life’s choices, the answer depends on who you are and where you need the most support for your mid-life crisis.
In terms of financial outlay, each model can be had in a slightly less elaborate guise for a lower entry point, but each can be customised and personalised well into the tens-of-thousands of dollars on top.
For our test cars, each represents about the same investment as one child at a private international school for all of their primary and secondary schooling. We’ll leave you to choose whether you apply this expenditure before or after they have finished…
So where there is a difference in pricing isn’t what drives the decision here.
The Porsche is excellent in every way, bar character. That’s not to say it is boring, far from it, it just takes a very exact approach to everything and is colder, but better for it. To make the most sensible, irresponsible decision then the 2016 Porsche 718 Boxster S is the better contender in every way.
But a midlife crisis isn’t necessarily about making a sensible decision, and for every place the Porsche says no, the Jaguar says yes. And then shouts and sets off a small explosion.
The Boxster is faster, lighter, more accurate, and cheaper. But the Jaguar doesn’t care. This is a car you step out of smiling, every single time. If the ticket to your midlife happy place is loud noise and a silly grin, then it’s the Jaguar for you.
Most people, especially here in Kenya, would really end up choosing the F-Type because most of us if not all simply don’t have enough opportunity day-to-day to really drive like a racing driver. That means that the Boxster’s true brilliance wouldn’t be extracted enough.
Personally, I’d rather cruise around at the speed limit, sounding like I’m doing 300km/h and looking like a million bucks in the Jaguar. Rest assured though, whichever direction your midlife crisis takes you, these two topless models are guaranteed to take some of the pain out of the ageing process.
- RMA Motors is the official and sole distributor of all new and approved Jaguar vehicles in Kenya. They are located along Chiromo Road at Delta Corner.
- Porsche Centre Nairobi is the official and sole distributor of all new and approved Porsche vehicles in Kenya. They are located at Sameer Business Park, off Mombasa Road.
- Both companies offer after sales service as well as comprehensive warranties for all their vehicles. Check out their official websites or visit their showrooms for more information.