Count to 50, and say goodbye. That’s how many Project 7s we Yanks are getting, from a global cookie jar of just 250 cars. In the interest of marital stability, perhaps it’s best that few people will ever see this bloody gorgeous U.K. speedster, let alone experience its supercharged snarl as it pleasures and/or violates your eardrums. All of the cars are spoken for already, though some will surely reemerge on the secondary market. One taste of this high-end drug, even at $165,995, and wealthy enthusiasts will take out a second mortgage before the spouse can talk them down.
The single-seat concept P7, which quivered even stiff upper lips at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed, has morphed into a two-seater, which should help with spousal negotiations. But the concept’s bravura fairing still arcs its provocative way behind the driver’s noggin. That fairing and its roll hoop arouse so many swoopy associations: shark fins, torpedoes, jet-age aircraft and, of course, that paddock gigolo, the classic Jaguar D-Type. European models’ windscreens are cut down by 1.57 inches, but U.S. safety requirements nixed that. Taller drivers won’t mind.
This hand-built, aluminum-bodied, 3,571-pound baby from Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations slices 99 pounds from the F-Type R convertible. Carbon fiber lines a dramatic front splitter, with more carbon fiber for hood vents and mirror caps; side skirts and louvers; rear diffuser and spoiler. Jaguar cites 91 percent more downforce than an F-Type convertible at top speed. Carbon-ceramic matrix brakes harness 15.7-inch front rotors, prefill to pressure up as you step off the throttle and reward a forceful shove with fantastically short stops.
Diamond-pattern leather seats, an Alcantara steering wheel, and aluminum paddle shifters heighten the cabin atmosphere. Egos are duly stroked with a numbered build plaque between seats, adorned with designer Ian Callum’s signature. (Here’s to the lucky stiff who gets No. 250.)
But while the P7 will beeline for any prey, the agile handling is the real story, first doled out in suspenseful chapters at the Circuito de Navarra, a fast yet controversial government-funded road course amid Spain’s financial crisiss.
Front wheels tilt with generous negative camber, aligned by SVO-engineered suspension knuckles. Top mounts and anti-roll bars are more rigid. Height-adjustable Bilstein dampers pivot on pricey motorsports-style helper springs, together 80 percent stiffer up front than the R convertible. The rear end is actually a touch more compliant.
The F-Type R’s pleasurable electric steering is now downright brilliant, with a new algorithm that sharpens feel on- and off-center. Rewritten software for Adaptive Dynamics, brake torque vectoring, and the electronic differential includes the smarts to adjust dampers up to 500 times per second.
In one gut-check Navarra section, we bend the car into a right-hander at a howling 135 mph, glide onto the brakes, and downshift to fourth around 90 mph, then carve a second apex and hammer to a near stop for a hairpin. After some confidence-boosting runs, the Jaguar attacks the devilish three-stage complex at a pace that would surely fluster a “mere” F-Type R or even send it off track. While the P7 convinces us—and then some—on the track, it proves near miraculous on snaking Spanish roads. Twenty-inch alloys with Continental ForceContact tires stick to pavement like week-old roadkill. No Jaguar we’ve driven is this blood-curdling quick, this precise or joyful to drive. It is more purely connected, we’d wager, than the Mercedes-AMG GT or the Corvette Z06.
Steering software even accounts for ambient temperature changes. This is a good thing as we blast through wildly variable microclimates on scenic mountain climbs and descents. Temperatures drop 20 degrees atop lush green plateaus grazed by Spanish horses and long-haired goats. Fog shrouds the Jaguar. Rain begins to drip, but we’re having too much fun to erect the clip-on, stowable roof canopy, which requires roughly three minutes of fiddling.
As we dash off downhill switchbacks, the P7 emerges surreally into California-style sunshine, gleaming in British Racing Green glory. We hurtle through this land of País Vasco—Basque Country in Spanish—its ancient canyons and cathedrals, and toward Pamplona. No bulls tonight, but there’s one fast-running cat.
Our somewhat melancholy final miles—we may never meet this car again, after all—are echoed in a Spanish village, where bells begin to chime. A flare from the P7’s black-ceramic exhausts snaps churchgoers to attention. The Jaguar draws such beatific stares that San Juan Bautista, or St. John the Baptist, might be at the wheel.
Back in America, the Project 7 will begin its teasing trickle come fall. To boost their odds, Jaguar zealots might take a hint from these Basque villagers, or Dionne Warwick: Say a little prayer.
2015 Jaguar F-Type Project 7 Specifications
|Engine:||5.0L supercharged DOHC 32-valve V-8/575 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 516 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm|
|Layout:||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD speedster|
|EPA Mileage:||16/23 mpg (city/hwy) (est)|
|L x W x H:||178.3 x 75.7 x 51.5 in|
|Weight Dist. F/R:||N/A|
|0-60 MPH:||3.8 sec|
|Top Speed:||186 mph|