Jaguar Project 7 Concept

The Jaguar Project 7 Concept debuted at the Goodwood Festival of Speed just last month. But unlike most concepts, which serve only to collect fingerprints on a stage, the track-ready one-seater spent its days barreling past the hillclimb crowds with Mike Cross, chief engineer of vehicle integrity at Jaguar, beaming behind its right-hand-drive steering wheel. What's more, the powers that be at Jaguar even let yours truly drive the Project 7 during the Concurs d'Elegance festivities at Pebble Beach last week.

Built on an all-aluminum V8 F-Type chassis with modified suspension, the Project 7 (a name acknowledging Jaguar's seven Le Mans wins between 1951-1990) is best thought of as an F-Type masquerading as a D-Type. The two-door is fitted with a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 good for 550 horsepower (no pictures as Jaguar wouldn't allow us to open the hood). An eight-speed automatic, with a torque converter, sends the power the rear wheels, allowing the single-seat roadster to crack the 60-mph benchmark in just over four seconds.

Modifications to the bodywork include a new lowered windshield, carbon-fiber aerodynamics and a rear fairing with integrated rollover hoop. The driving position has also been lowered by more than an inch, allowing the sole occupant to not only escape the airflow, but take advantage of a lower center of gravity.

Driving Notes
  • Jaguar bolted an extra racing bucket into the vehicle at Pebble to allow supervised test drives (the automaker was understandably interested in protecting its one-of-a-kind concept). After a short introduction, I walked over to the right side, opened the door and wedged myself into the proper seat, the one behind the wheel. The driving position was low and, quite frankly, less than ideal. I am six-foot two-inches tall, and even with my height I found my eyes at a comically low elevation. Complicating things was the chopped acrylic front windshield that was blurry, scratched and distorted - now I know what the outside world looks like for a captive fish.
  • After pressing the start button, I realized how petty my visibility complaint was. The V8, nested under the front hood, fired to life with a raspy roar and then settled immediately down to a burbling growl. After backing out of the lot, I moved the electronic gear shifter into D and pressed gingerly on the accelerator. And then magic spilled out of its quad exhaust pipes.
  • The sinister engineers at Jaguar have methodically crafted a devilish exhaust note that will have enthusiasts running for a fresh pair of Depends – it is that good. Under partial acceleration the sound was deep and distant, resonating off the objects around it. Under full throttle it wailed and exploded as if combustion was happening three feet aft of the rear bumper (I consistently visualized tongues of flames licking at the asphalt). And under deceleration it boomed, popped and cackled with an angry and inconsistent rhythm. I am not going to say the Project 7's exhaust note is perfect, but it is damn near close.
  • I felt like a circus lion on a chain, as nearly every moment behind the wheel was spent at a restrained pace. I floored it once, for about two full seconds, and the atmosphere-ripping burst of power tore both rear tires free. But I had to lift quickly, for fear of terrorizing an elderly woman walking her Havanese a few feet off the right quarter panel. Aside from that brief moment of acceleration, the balance of my time was spent modulating the throttle for the loudest possible backfires. Regrettably, all of the audible mayhem was accomplished at the expense of the local residents – my apologies to the neighborhood, of course.
  • The F-Type is arguably one of Jaguar's best-handing sports cars in years, but a short spin through a planned community is no way to test a concept wearing a production vehicle's underpinnings. After driving it, I honestly have no idea how the Project 7 really drives. But considering how sumptuous it sounded, I am sure it accelerates like a Saturn V, corners on rails and brakes as if grabbed by an arresting wire. Yet before those luscious accolades spill from my mouth, I must drive the concept at speed to confirm. Jaguar, when do I get to go again?