The 'Cruel Intentions' Car is a Main Character

'Cruel Intentions' is starting to look a bit dated, but the 'Cruel Intentions' car that turns its plot is as classic as ever.
Written by Alex Reale
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
American cinema
owes a great debt to a non-human actor: the automobile. Think of Thelma and Louise, Back to the Future, or The Big Lebowski. None of these films would have a plot without the help of a
1966 Thunderbird
, or a DeLorean, or a 1973 Ford Gran Torino. 
Cars are props, scene partners, and beautiful backgrounds. Sometimes they’re even pawns in ill-conceived schemes.
, the
car ownership super app
, looks at how the Cruel Intentions car from the 1999 movie plays a crucial role in the plot.

Brief summary of a (retrograde) plot

Cruel Intentions (1999) is a modern-day adaptation of the 1782 French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, in which two cruel ex-lovers spin a manipulative web of seduction against the backdrop of a France that is still pre-Revolution. Fast forward two centuries and the two manipulators are Manhattan prep school kids, step-siblings whose selfish dealings take place in New York mansions.
Featuring a star-studded cast, including Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Selma Blair, and Ryan Phillippe, the movie is a very late ‘90s mix of purity themes, unlikely dialogue, and cringey racial and sexual politics. But there is one bright spot in this dated dramedy: the car. 
Ryan Philippe’s character, Sebastian, inexplicably owns a beautiful 1965 Jaguar XK140, which is the subject of a cruel (get it?) bet between him and his step-sister Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar). If Kathryn wins the bet, she gets the car. If Sebastian wins the bet, she’ll sleep with him, step-sibling status notwithstanding. (There was a lot of this going around in the ‘90s. Remember Clueless?)
We won’t spoil it, but we do want to talk about the Cruel Intentions car.
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The Cruel Intentions car: Specs

The Jaguar XK140, built between 1954 and 1957, followed the XK120, an instant British classic.
reports that increased American interest in these models was catalyzed by a 1950 Pebble Beach win by racer Phil Hill in an XK120. Clearly, there was something special about these Jaguars.
The XK120 was sleek and elegant, and the XK140 took this blueprint and added on size and weight, says Jalopnik. Featuring a “3.4-liter, cast-iron block inline-six with two SU carburetors,” this derivation offered 210 horsepower, and it is described as “heavy” by both Jalopnik and
This heaviness is a feature, not a bug—it takes real concentration to move the car along, but the reward is an unforgettable engine sound and a feeling of earned acceleration. Ironically, it’s highly unlikely that Sebastian did anything to earn the pleasure of driving an XK140 in Cruel Intentions. But however he came by it, the car does look incredibly good on screen.

A car man’s car

If you don’t trust the opinion of a spoiled brat like Sebastian, rest assured that avowed car man Jay Leno is a fan of these Jaguars. In fact, he explains in his XK120 episode, he can pinpoint this model as the starting point for his lifelong love of cars. So the good news is that you don’t have to watch Cruel Intentions to get a sense of this Jag’s main character energy. It’s a big enough star on its own.
Even the Cruel Intentions car needs great insurance.
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