Experience the Driver’s Seat: Jag F-Type

Known to take friends and supermarket box boys on late-night, white-knuckle runs through the Hollywood Hills in his souped-up machines, the King of Cool had aced the art of controlled oversteer decades before drifting emerged as a “Japanese” motorsport.

McQueen, owner of one of the rarest, most coveted Jags of all time—the XKSS, a street-legal version of Jaguar’s Le Manswinning D-Type race car—would have flashed his trademark grin and sneered, “About damn time!” when the F-Type debuted a couple of years ago. It is the brand’s first proper two-seat roadster in eons.

The low-slung F-Type has the sinister beauty of a shark, helped in no small part by a smattering of well-placed functional scoops, bulges and vents. The well-insulated soft top not only stows in 12 seconds, it becomes its own, flush tonneau cover ensuring that the lines of the F-Type aren’t spoiled by an ugly hump.

The lethality of our “S” trim test car was confirmed by the supercharged V8’s 495 instant-on horses and brilliant suspension. The F-Type further engages the driver—and lucky passenger—with a treasure of intense sensory experiences, from the thick, grip-equipped leather-wrapped steering wheel with squared-off bottom that looks like it was plucked from an open-wheel racing car, to the gleaming, jewel-like switches and rich, supple leather and sexy contrasting fabric and stitching.

But what had us grinning and unwilling to ever park the machine was the F-Type’s deliciously aggressive sound. The “active exhaust” option provides two modes. A touch of a button unleashes the snap, crackle and pop of the spirited engine. There’s no reason to toggle to the mellower mode unless you’re concerned you’ll wind up terrorizing small animals and annoy cyclists and joggers.

Jaguar uses a lot of aluminum to keep the Jaguar F-Type at a relatively svelte—by today’s standards—3,671 pounds. While no featherweight, this ragtop is still 538 pounds lighter than a comparable Chevy Camaro and the pony car is 14 inches longer. If you have access to a racetrack— or a friend with an epic service road—the terminal velocity ranges from 161 mph (base supercharged 3.0-liter V6) to 186 mph (supercharged 5.0-liter V8). Even the $68,100 entry level F-Type will do 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, about equal to the Le Mans star’s revered XKSS.

Jaguar’s tuned the F-Type lineup for 2016. There’s a new infotainment system, but the big news is the 6-speed manual gearbox for rear-wheel-drive sports car purists—Jaguar notes that the 8-speed quick shift auto still accelerates quicker. The convertible also is now available in the ultimate R variant packing 550 horses and 502 lb.-ft. of torque.

For an even trimmer, better handling F-Type, range-topping models can be fitted out with Jag’s massive carbon ceramic matrix brakes and gorgeous “Storm” forged wheels that shave 46 pounds. While these monster stoppers alone run $12,000 to $14,400 (or at least double what McQueen forked over for his XKSS), we have no doubt that Frank Bullitt would take the financial hit as the cost of doing business in the fast lane.

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