F-TYPE R CAN HANDLE ITSELF AT THE CHRISTMAS TREE

We wanted to do something cool with our long-term 2015 Jaguar F-Type R before we begrudgingly sent it back after a year in our fleet. We settled on drag racing, something we’d been doing (noncompetitively) with the 550-hp, rear-wheel-drive coupe since we took delivery.

We chose the 1/8-mile drag strip in rural Ubly, Michigan, about two hours north of Detroit. Though we had the only car on the property not from the United States, we were welcomed as part of the family. Sure, the Jag is British by nature, something we never forget, but shoving the biggest V8 your factory makes into the smallest coupe you can find? That’s the American way, damnit.

Long-term wrapup: 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe

Long-term wrapup: 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe

The city of Ubly has been supporting the dragway since its opening in 1962. It has been in the hands of the Janowiak family for the duration, many of whom have spent time at the starting line and on the blacktop. The Janowiaks run all the events and befriend practically every driver who crosses the threshold off of South Ubly Road. We’re told the strip is set for a repave, though we find the surface to be quite forgiving.

The dragway runs four different classes on big days, from top elapsed time to juniors. And speaking of those juniors—they’re serious about their racing. In fact, one junior racer we met at the track offered the very headline you see above. From the mouths of babes, right?

So, most drag racing today is done bracket-style, which means the driver has to predict what time he or she will run. It’s called the “dial-in.” During competition, a driver cannot go faster than the dial-in time, or it will result in a loss. Leaving the starting line too early nets the same result. Consistency is key.

With the Jag, we find the easiest way to launch it is in S mode, with automatic gear shifts and with the traction control completely on. We spend the week prior testing all sorts of different procedures, and this turns out to be the fastest and easiest. Even with the traction control in dynamic mode, there is just too much wheelspin to complete a consistent takeoff.

We begin the weekend with about 15 practice runs to find our dial-in time. This is where things get impressive. The Jag, in the eighth-mile, is consistent within about two-tenths of a second for the entire group of runs. No matter the technique or reaction time, it is 7.67 seconds. This is over several hours and varying temperatures. Just watch that Christmas tree for the green, flat-foot it and hold on.

When we finally lose in the semifinals, it isn’t because we can’t hit our elapsed time; it is because our reaction time is that of a slug compared to the journeymen drivers on the strip. By the time that amber light goes down to green, they are gone. They disappear into a cloud of smoke and dust, just as we are moving our foot. Our best reactions of the day are around 0.18 second, which is about half as fast as most of the competitors.

We find out later that the best way to figure out our technique and runtime is to leave earlier and earlier during practice until we redlight and then slowly back off from there. Hey, we only win our first competition race because the other driver redlights.

Our second, third and fourth races in the Jaguar are models of consistency. We hit 7.674, 7.678 and 7.701 before running into a driver with a lightning-quick reaction time, which brings our day to an end. We shake some hands, leave and drive our drag car home, coddled in air conditioning and satellite radio.

That’s what the F-Type offers a buyer: flame-throwing performance, consistency for days and a cool, comfortable ride back to your driveway when the festivities are done. And that’s basically how we treated it in our yearlong loan. Flip it into race mode, turn the exhaust to 11, show up a few guys on Woodward Avenue and roll back to the garage, all without turning off the seat heaters.

In our final quarter with the car, we drove it about 3,000 miles, averaging 16.9 mpg, pretty close to the number we had been getting all year. It spent no days out of service in the quarter and only one day total out of service in our full year with the car when it needed a new front tire, repair of the two front rims, the first scheduled service, an alignment and some warranty work. Not a bad track record, especially with how we treated this smoke-making super-coupe.

We’ll leave it to Editor Wes Raynal to bring us home with one of our last entries of the year.

“Indeed, it’s gorgeous to look at, fast as hell and I forgot how spot-on the steering is. The ride remains a nice mix of near-zero body roll and better-than-decent ride for a sports car. The structure feels oh-so solid. The car is pleasant to tool around town in, and jumping on the gas always makes me smile.”

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