I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a road car that’s loud enough to cause actual pain to your ear drums. Granted, the roof in the AMG GT roadster I was in at the time was down, and both cars were passing under a bridge, but good God, when the F-Type R roared through, my ears were in actual pain.
It’s the shoutiest, most powerful and most expensive F-Type you can buy without going for the SVR, which is interesting as it puts it in the firing line of the cheapest, least powerful Mercedes-AMG GT roadster, which is about £10,000 more.
Both look utterly gorgeous when lined up together, but I’m going to open myself up to a potential world of hate in the comments section by suggesting that the AMG just swings it as the more handsome car. The F-Type wowed us all upon release, but that was a few years ago now, and thanks to a low, squat stance from the Mercedes, it’s the latter car that has more presence. I’m a big fan of that massive ‘Panamerica’ grille, too.
That imposing feeling continues inside the AMG GT - the centre console is what the current US president might describe as yuge. Lined with chunky buttons and dials and clad in a silvery material that always seems to be covered in smudgy finger prints, I’m still on the fence as to what I think of it. But most of what you can see and touch is exquisite yet solid, even if you forget all of it as soon as you start going fast - despite being the ‘baby’ of the range, this roadster is an utter belter to drive.
The short travel and stiffness of the dampers should result it a car that thumps over bumps and skates around nervously, but no. It soaks everything up while remaining utterly composed - how this kind of body control can be maintained on UK B-roads without AMG’s engineers having resorting to genuine sorcery, I really don’t know.
Nor do I know how Mercedes has managed to make the rear axle so damn sticky - grip and traction from the Continental 5Ps up back is immense. Away from the space and safety of a track you’ll only ever feel the back of the GT go in the wet, and when it does, it breaks traction in a predictable, easy-to-manage way.
Even though the 4.0-litre, twin-turbo, dry-sumped V8 makes the least power in the GT range (at 469bhp it’s over 100 horses down on the bonkers GT R, in fact), this is not a car that feels slow on the road. All you have to do is keep it spinning about the 2500-3000rpm boost threshold, and you’re treated to a surge of acceleration that’s interrupted only briefly by the aggressive shifts of the seven-speed, transaxle-mounted dual-clutch gearbox. The lag from the twin-turbo setup is extremely brief, too.
It’s a thoroughly competent and entertaining sports car, with just two downsides to the way it drives. Firstly, the steering. There’s about as much feedback as you can expect with a modern, electric setup (in other words, not that much), but it’s almost unnervingly light. It’s been an AMG trend for years, and only now with cars like the E63 is Affalterbach moving toward decently-weighted setups.
Then there’s the noise to consider. It can make as many artificially-induced pops and bangs from its exhaust pipes as it wants, but the fact is the engine note under all that is borderline underwhelming. It’s a sort of muted thrum, like a World War II fighter plane.
There’s an appeal to that, but back in the F-Type I was reminded how a V8 can sound when it’s fed by a supercharger rather than twin turbochargers. And when whoever designed the exhaust system wants to deafen anyone within a half mile radius of the car. Did I mention it’s a tad loud?
Satan eating half a dozen nukes; one of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons getting neutered at the Winterfell Veterinary Clinic; the actual end of the world - no over-the-top analogy can adequately describe the aural drama this car delivers. You just have to be there in person to experience its V8-generated sound waves smashing into your eardrums.
The steering is far superior to the AMG’s too - the weight is much closer to the mark, and there does seem to be a reasonable degree of feedback. Other than that though, the F-Type isn’t anything like the driver’s car the Mercedes is - it’s a car that quickly reveals itself to be more comfortable with cruising than tearing up a track or a good back road.
The softer F leans more into bends, and never seems to settle on bumpier roads. There’s too much vertical movement going on - it’s always bobbing around. It’s not anything like as tied down as the Merc, and that makes it much more of a seven-tenths kinda car. Especially as when you do start to throw it around, its porkier 1745kg kerb weight - 75kg more than the GT - makes itself known and forces you to start wrestling with the heavy front end.
That’s not to say it isn’t fun. The sublime responsiveness of that V8 - and yes, the noise - makes building up speed an utter joy, and although the GT is quicker to 62mph on paper (four seconds vs 4.1), the Jag had the legs on the Mercedes on our damp test day thanks to the joys of all-wheel drive traction.
Where the old rear-wheel drive R would just light up its rear tyres at the slightest provocation, this all-wheel drive version will just hook up and sling you forward before your brain has had a chance to process what’s going on. It still moves around plenty at the rear when you’re pressing on though, just without the risk of you being flung backwards into a hedge.
"The day dreamer in me can’t help but imagine what the GT’s chassis would be like with the F-Type’s V8 living up front..."
You do get the sense that it just doesn’t take itself as seriously as the GT, and there is an appeal in that, even though the cabin does feel disappointingly cheap after spending time in the much more solid Mercedes. The thing is the F doesn’t do enough to draw me away from Stuttgart’s answer to the £100-ish grand roadster conundrum. I simply couldn’t say no to the damping wizardry, the driving satisfaction or its get out of my way or I’ll punch you in the face visual aggression.
The day dreamer in me can’t help but imagine what the GT’s chassis would be like with the F-Type’s V8 living up front, but when the reality is this compelling, it’s not something I ever found myself thinking for long.