These moorland roads rarely allow the R to show its playful side, though. They’re fast and splintered with wicked dips and crests and demand real body control and total confidence in high-speed direction changes. Roll up your sleeves and try to really master them and the R does feel more of a GT car than an out-and-out sports car. The ride might feel busy, but that doesn’t quite bring the body control you’d expect. Dive into one of those compressions and the suspension thwacks into the bumpstops and then the rebound phase is out of control, the body movements unchecked and your confidence shaken. Over cresting corners there’s a similar feeling of the suspension and body running out of sync. This makes the R feel heavy but also light on feel, the steering just not painting a picture of the action unfolding beneath. These are extreme roads, of course, but nevertheless something like a 911 Carrera S would retain its cohesion and precise poise.
What of the AMG GT? It’s definitely not immune to those same lumps and bumps, but it has different problems. Body control is less of an issue because the car seems to ride so flat – the centre of gravity really does feel like it’s scraping the road surface – and the dampers pull the body tight over crests and support it with determination into compressions. However, where the Jaguar might heave or float, the GT skips and trips, the wheels stuttering as they struggle to trace the contours of the road. At times this staccato gait can feel really disconcerting and is at odds with the fluency you crave when you’re trying to exploit the fabulously potent V8. Indeed, there are times when you fear you might be bounced clean off the road.
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Yet there are moments of magic. The engine has a focused blast of energy that’s a laser beam to the F-type’s sawn-off shotgun. The dual-clutch ’box is so much punchier and more precise than the eight-speed auto of the R, and once you dial into the hyper-alert steering, you begin to appreciate just how agile this chassis is. It changes direction so quickly and yet stays so unerringly flat, and despite lacking four-wheel drive, it has quite staggering traction in the dry. In fact, the whole dynamic experience is much more authentic, incisive sports car than burly GT – it feels intrinsically like an R8 or 911 rival.
To uncover these qualities requires you to reduce your work rate, to gently tease the steering and carry good entry speed to lean on the natural athleticism. Once you recognise what’s required, confidence soars and each corner is tackled with a surgical precision. It’s a really satisfying sensation to just let the car do the work and it generates so much speed and grip. What’s more impressive still is that this is just a platform from which to really explore the GT’s ultimate abilities. Now you can ramp up your work rate again to push the tyres harder, to release all the energy the engine has to give and start to play with the car’s balance.
It’s amazing just how edgy and intimidating the GT seems at first, only to reveal itself to be a car you can drive calmly at the limit with just a flick of the wrists to scythe through bends or even correct a slide. I’m not sure I know of another car that undergoes such a metamorphosis as the miles accrue. Of course, there’s one big caveat… You might never reveal the inner sports car if you’re on the wrong road at the wrong time. In the wet, up here on the moors? Too often the GT just feels unyielding and hyper-alert. And because it can’t relax over this surface, you can’t relax at the wheel. You’re edgy, the car’s edgy, and so everything feels slightly fraught. It’s only when I have to do my performing-monkey cornering shots that I start to trust the GT and then everything begins to fall into place.
Having said that, it takes a full week for me to really click with the GT. The shoot is long since passed and I’m at home. The GT is due for collection, so I decide to go for a long run on some great roads I know well. They’re still narrow and bumpy in places but they’re not quite as punishing. The GT is fantastic. It feels supremely agile and although it barely seems to roll, pitch or dive, there’s still all the information I need to extract every last bit of grip and to pull the trigger on the fantastic engine very early in corners. Overall, it feels in a different league to the F-type in terms of agility, control and purity.
Of course, there’s no question that the Jag’s composure wouldn’t be rocked on this route as it was in Yorkshire, either. But even on super-smooth roads, its less assertive body control, softer gearbox response and slightly fuzzier controls can’t hit the heights offered by the GT. I’m not about to pretend the GT has all the answers, but for evo its philosophy is just a better fit. It’s a car that you might assume puts refinement and long-distance comfort ahead of sports car attributes, but in fact it prizes grip, control and adjustability above all else. That can make it feel confused at first, but in fact it’s your brain that’s misfiring – assuming it should be less intense and more, well, GT-like.
I’m pretty certain if you could drive an AMG GT and an F-type R AWD back-to-back for ten minutes, you’d disappear over the hills in the Jag and never come back… But for those with a little patience, the Mercedes has much to offer. It’ll get you – slowly and with plenty of ups and downs – but it will get you in the end.