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The final variant of the Canadian Sabre, the Mark 6, is generally rated as having the highest capabilities of any Sabre version made anywhere.

The Air Force announced that the XF-86 had exceeded Mach 1 in a dive on April 26, 1948.

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The F-86 could also be fitted with a pair of external jettisonable jet fuel tanks (four on the F-86F beginning in 1953) that extended the range of the aircraft.

It was also feared that, because these designs were more advanced in their development stages, the XP-86 would be canceled.

Crucially, the XP-86 would not be able to meet the required top speed of 600 mph (970 km/h); North American had to quickly come up with a radical change that could leapfrog it over its rivals.

As well, the ongoing technical development and long production history of the F-86 resulted in some significant differences in the handling and flying characteristics between the various F-86 models.

Some of the important changes to the design included the switch from an elevator/stabilizer to an all-flying tail, the discontinuation of leading edge slats for a solid leading edge with increased internal fuel capacity, increased engine power and internal missile bay (F-86D).

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