That deep-pitched growl emerging from your Jaguar isn't the big cat itself, although the primal look on the F-Type coupe's steering wheel logo gives pause.

Providing the backbeat for F-Type's debut last year as a convertible, the engine's throaty rumble harkens to America's muscle car days but in a low slung, import version. Call it The British Invasion meets Mini Me.

Now Jaguar seeks another hit by upping the high performance ante, dropping a V-8 engine into the follow-up two seater coupe's "R" trim. In its race car-like garb, the hardtop morphs from a plenty juiced 380 horses to a 550 hp dynamo sporting an eight-speed automatic transmission and 20 inch wheels.

Yet the R version also manages to include a sophisticated communications-navigation system, high-end audio player and a trunk that can handle up to five pieces of luggage.

The iconic carmaker brought out the 2015 F-Type coupe this spring. The first models in Charleston arrived late last month at Baker Jaguar on Savannah Highway. A well-equipped F-Type R at the dealership was priced at $102,000.

Jaguar, part of an Indian company that also owns Land Rover, also offers the coupe with the 380 hp six-cylinder engine starting at $65,000.

The carmaker has crafted a model that owners can "take to the streets for weekend fun," said Karl Braun, sales associate at Baker Jaguar. The coupe can prove attractive to a range of buyer groups: a senior couple was among the customers last week. At the same time, Braun sees the sports car as popular with "middle aged guys" and gals fulfilling, within limits, their need for speed.

Jaguar's audacious move to produce the spirited F-Type hastens the carmaker's reintroduction to the manufacturing map after a few-year gap between new models.

"This is the first time (Jaguar made) a two seat sports car in decades," Braun said. The designer kept many of the traditional Jaguar styling cues while creating a new look for the F-Type soft-top and then the coupe, he said.

In an afternoon spin behind the wheel this week, the new F-Type R two-door demonstrated how a car can deliver open road thrills without the top down. It also showed how a vehicle with 200 mph as the top line on the speedometer can at least pass as an about-town car.

As a sports model, the R coupe sat low to the ground, requiring some mild gyrations to get in and out.

The sharp-looking, streamlined edition employs a key fob that triggers the push button start and can automatically unlock the door when the device is in your pocket or otherwise nearby.

Revving up the engine emits the low-octave growl, heard most distinctively when the car's stopped or at lower speeds. The V-8 kicks in as the F-Type effortlessly accelerates. Next to the gear knob is a "speed" switch distinguished by a checkered flag marker that boosts the high performance level on the interstate and highways. The driver can also shift to a manual-like mode with hand paddles on the steering wheel to change gears.

The F-Type R handles well, hugging corners and smoothly gliding between lanes; and the braking system proved superb in stop-and-go I-526 traffic. Grab bars are a nice safety feature for the passenger seat.

What made the coupe stand out, though, were all the things you don't necessarily expect to find in a car that would be at home on a race track.

Seating was quite comfortable, and the sports car offered more than adequate head and leg room. While there's no storage space behind the seats, the trunk was more than decent-sized.

The R model sported an easy-to-use climate control, audio and navigation system, with touch screen features as well as knobs and buttons on the console and steering wheel. The Meridian sound system was top notch. There's also a rear camera and an warning beeps when backing up. The two center drink holders were well placed and fairly large, and plug-ins for pods and tablets weren't hard to find.

From a safety standpoint, the F-Type hardtop sported lights in the side-view mirrors to let the driver know there are vehicles in neighboring lanes.

The sports car even has a fuel-saving "eco" system that when deployed shuts off the engine at traffic lights and elsewhere when the car's stopped (Tap the gas to restart).

Quibbles about the R coupe were few. Side and rear visibility was good but not great, and the $102,000 cost seems a tad on the high side even for a virtual race car.

But the car clearly kept up Jaguar's winning streak since introducing the F-Type, and should build some momentum - 550 horses worth.

To learn more about the F-Type R coupe, visit your local Jaguar dealer.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or