As timeless as a Van Gogh painting or an Eames sitting chair is the debonair GT car. With an overabundance of presence and horsepower, these chariots of leather and style have whisked their lucky passengers to and fro since the earliest days of the motorcar. This rarefied class of automobile does more than look pretty in a showroom; their aura emanates over the rest of the lineup and can define a brand. For proof, look no further than Jaguar. This is the company whose svelte leaping cat mascot has graced the hoods of cars like the D-Type, E-Type, XJ-S, and XK8 – and nowadays the F-Type. With a full roster of engines and equally alluring coupe and convertible body styles, the 2018 Jaguar F-Type is a modern-day iteration of the automaker's greatest hits without being retro.

Best Value

How do you put a dollar value on experience? After all, that's what a car like this all about – experience. Whether it's cruising with your special someone down the boulevard during sunset or storming up a mountain pass on a solitary morning, the F-Type can deliver emotional driving in spades. If you're looking for experience on a budget, though, you've come to the wrong place – the bargain lot is down the street. But despite the pricey cost of admission, there's still a fair shake to be found if you deftly play the trims and options sheets.

We found our ideal F-Type in the guise of a 340-horsepower, six-cylinder engine, six-speed manual tranmission convertible. While there more potent options out there as well as a loss-leader four-cylinder, the 340-horse V6 nicely bridges the gap between performance and affordability: about $15,000 cheaper than the only-slightly-faster 380-hp V6, and yet only about $8,000 more than the meager four-cylinder, whose character feels out of place in such an emotive car. As for the choice of stick-shift and convertible, well, life's short, so we're going to let the sun shine in while we change gears ourselves. Here's the lowdown on our top-down F-Type:

  • Model: 2018 Jaguar F-Type Convertible
  • Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged six-cylinder
  • Output: 340 hp / 332 lb-ft of torque
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual
  • Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 16 City / 24 Hwy
  • Options: Climate Package 1 ($1,380 dual-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, heated seats, heated windshield), Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert ($460)
  • Base Price: $72,095 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $73,935

Performance

Backing up the supermodel looks of the F-Type is performance hardware that runs the gamut from a 300-hp four-cylinder to a honking V8 with 575 angry ponies chomping at the bit. Regardless of cylinder count, the F-Type delivers a driving experience that's as visceral and engaging as a round of bullfighting.

Acting as price-leader is the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that's packing 296 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque. This is the first time that Jaguar has built a sports car with less than six cylinders, so, naturally, we harbored a bit of trepidation concerning this bite-sized powerplant. Luckily, our concerns were mostly unwarranted. Of particular note was the impressive amount of torque, which helped push the F-Type to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds – a figure comparable to the base 340-hp V6 that had heretofore been the entry-level source of motivation. Credit for this gusto can also be attributable to the featherweight nature of the four-pot. It measures in at 115 pounds lighter than the six-cylinder variant, and, as anyone who has shed some pounds will attest, this kind of weight loss isn't insignificant. All told, a four-cylinder F-Type gives up surprisingly little to its extra-cylinder brethren.

The supercharged V6 is available in three levels of performance, ranging from 340 to 400 hp. The V6 is the only way to get a genuine six-speed manual; all other engines are solely offered with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 340- and 380-hp versions of the blown V6 have been around since the F-Type first hit the scene, so we're familiar with their overall excellence. The 400-hp 400 Sport model, though, is a new, one-year-only special that wrings out another 20 horses. With just the almost-negligible power increase and little else to differentiate it, the here-and-gone 400 Sport should make for an interesting Barrett-Jackson featured listing 30 years from now.

The V8 cars enter 2018 just as raw and untamed as they were before. The 575-hp SVR in particular is a punishing, best-for-the-track kind of car, and is the only F-Type that should be avoided if you're trying to daily-drive one of these pretty kitties. Otherwise, your back will be thrown out in a week thanks to that stiff and unforgiving suspension. Luckily, all other F-Types ride and handle superbly, striking a nice balance between sports-car and boulevardier.

Style

The F-Type's performance stats – and everything else in the world – become nothing but mumbo-jumbo as you soak what's one of the prettiest new cars on the road at any price point. There's just no getting by it, this car oozes beauty from every minuscule body gap. It sits long and low, looking as taut as a limbered gymnast in full-stretch mode. The rear hatch slopes back with casual parabolic grace. The rear fenders hint at the muscle underneath; the front fenders and wheel wells sit far enough ahead of the cabin to recall the gloriously-proportioned Jaguar coupes of yore. And somehow, the F-Type avoids being retro. At most, it dances around vague similarities that could (or could not) be inspired by it's famous ancestors.

The interior is intimate enough that you almost expect a candlelight dinner – if there were any room for the dinner or the candles. Plain and simple, the F-Type is an unabashed two-seater; stuff in two fellows of larger girth and even the term two-seater becomes a stretch. Luggage room is equally tight: 13 cubic feet in the coupe, and just 7.3 in the convertible, a figure that's less than the diminutive Mazda Miata. Luckily, the interior is well-equipped and built with quality materials, and a recent overhaul of the touchscreen interface makes any infotainment interactions significantly less aggravating than prior years.

The Best and Worst Things

Those looks, that sound, the value.

That four-cylinder, that (lack of) space, that (useless) trunk.

Right For? Wrong For?

Someone who wants a highbrow sports car that can turn heads and turn corners with equal abandon will find the F-Type an enticing choice.

For those trying to use the F-Type for weekend getaways, either pack light or buy something else. When space is at more of a premium than a Miata, long-distance, multi-day trips become dicey propositions at best. Cars like the similar Porsche 718 do a much better job with space utilization.

The Bottom Line

A good sports car is like a fine wine – it only gets better as time goes by. It's why the old E-Types have skyrocketed in value since the last one rolled off the line, and it's why the 2018 Jaguar F-Type is sure to one day be the subject of wistful "they don't make 'em like this anymore" lamentations. In classic Jaguar fashion, the F-Type is powerful, gorgeous, and at home anywhere there's refined taste and discerning expectations. Whether it's coupe or convertible, the F-Type is a GT car of the finest order, and is a worthy torch-bearer of Jaguar's two-door heritage.