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Speed Week: Jaguar F-Type vs Maserati MC Stradale

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Sorry, little birdie. There you are, twittering away in your tree, when around a bend come two rude V8s to shatter your song. One belongs to a Jaguar F-Type and produces a rough-hewn, bassy bellow followed by a harsh blend of coughs and crackles on the overrun. It sounds like a witch being sick. The other comes from a Maserati MC Stradale, and it gurgles and howls and blows the sparrows into the sky. The Jag trails smoke like a Red Arrow. The MC slides lazily behind, smearing the tarmac with lines of rubber as black as its carbon bonnet.

Flamboyant cars, these, with plenty in common. Both have big V8 engines at the front, powering through wide tyres at the back. Both produce horsepower in the high four hundreds and get you from 0 to 62mph in just over four seconds, both have top speeds well in excess of the lawful. And both, as it turns out, are the cars that totally defy their first impressions.

On the road, the Jag feels like a pretty roadster GT with a locomotive engine, a ride dominated by effortless power and one of the noisiest exhausts on a production car. Fold back the roof, and you can have fun in the Jag simply cruising and playing with the operatic noises. On paper, it’s a very British roadster. But in reality, it feels hefty and slightly over-endowed, and has the ingredients of something more… American. First impressions are that it feels like a posh muscle car.

Given the freedom of the track and pressed into Dynamic mode, though, the F-Type changes character. With careful metering of throttle, the Jag can be flicked around without sliding. And, although it never feels more than an ankle-flex away from slippage, it turns out there’s not actually much flab here, just 1,665kg of lean British beef pulled by that relentless supercharged V8. The ‘charger works quietly in the background, helping feed a smooth wave of torque to the rear wheels via a slick-shifting eight-speed auto. It’s a better, more exciting track car than we ever thought it might be.

The MC is a harder thing to explore, and almost entirely the opposite of the Jag. Swathed in carbon and aerodynamic flicks, it appears race-ready and evil. But the auto is a bit mushy, the steering a touch hazy. Hit the track, and Race mode turns each upshift into a karate chop and sharpens the steering. But it still feels twirly, especially through the chicanes, the car never quite living up to the promise of the aesthetic. Yes, it makes all the right V8 noises and finds a kind of loping rhythm around the race track, but never feels as hardcore as it looks. With 34bhp less than the Jag, plus a 105kg weight disadvantage, you won’t be surprised to learn its lap time is slower.

We can forgive the Maserati some of its slightly false pretensions, because, unlike the original MC, which had a silly roll cage in the back, this one has four proper seats. But when it comes to the crunch, these were the two cars that felt like they mixed up the sheep/wolf wardrobes the most. The pretty Jag roadster with hidden teeth, and the malicious-looking Maser that turned out to be more benign than it first appeared.

Photography: Rowan Horncastle

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