Just When You Thought the Jaguar F-Type Couldn't Get Any Better

Jag made the V8 R topless, threw in all-wheel-drive, and added a stick-shift. What more do you want?
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Jag made the V8 R topless, threw in all-wheel-drive, and added a stick-shift. What more do you want?
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When the Indian-owned, though still very British-run Jaguar, is on a roll. They launched the F-Type two years ago, completely redrawing the global sports car landscape. It was like a new face suddenly appearing on a Mount Rushmore of speedy coupes. Then they rolled out the lovely XE, the volume sedan that swipes straight at the knees of the BMW 3-series. 

So it's not a new car, but the 2016 F-Type family is growing up in a sublime way. Jag is introducing a manual transmission in the supercharged V-6—in either base 340-hp or the zippier 380-hp S. The supercharged 5.0-liter, 550-horsepower V-8 is now available as a drop-top roadster, so that much-slobbered-over engine note can be heard as the wind musses your hair.

There is also an all-wheel-drive dropped into the V-8 R. All of these updates, which might seem like housekeeping, but they in fact consolidate the F-Type's position on the side of that mountain, alongside the Porsche Carerra 4S and even the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S. The sports car field is suddenly very competitive.

One big edge the F-Type has over the 911: You can feel its monumental potential at casual speeds.

The F-Type was originally drawn by Jaguar's resident design genius, Ian Callum, and the shape is thankfully untouched, except for a slight modification on the hood to accommodate the new AWD. Off the track, the AWD V-8 R shows off its athletic, agile capabilities even at low speeds.

One big edge the F-Type has over the Porsche 911: You can feel its monumental potential at casual, public-street speeds. With a 911, you have to get into fourth gear in tight-radius corner before it really occurs to you that the car is perfectly balanced. The F-Type feels sporty on a milk run.

On the track, the V-8 R sounds like a bombing run. You can blast out of corners, and even with premature acceleration, jumping on the throttle, the car wants to oversteer, but it's so nicely balanced I can recover easily.

I have a tendency to over-brake the 15-inch carbon ceramic Brembo brakes into corners after long high-speed runs, and even though the F-Type is a full 250 pounds heavier than the Carrera 4S, it feels light.

The F-Type is not a novelty, it's the anchor of a completely revived brand. The stickshift and the aWD just make it more fun, and more mature. Once they get the manual into the monster V8 we can call it a day.