What is it?
A Jaguar concept called Project 7, conceived in just four months for July’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, where it made its debut.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: four months to put a fairing and some blue paint on the back of an F-type and punt it up the hill at Goodwood? We could all do that in our spare time, couldn’t we?
I dunno. The more I hear, the more I think it’s a fairly remarkable turnaround. Cesar Pieri, a Jaguar designer who has only been at the company for a year, was making some sketches in March, for a modern car with a nod to Jaguar’s heritage. His colleagues liked them, and they sketched some more.
A couple of days later they slid them onto design director Ian Callum’s desk, and he liked them too. So did everyone else they then showed it to. So they decided to put it together for Goodwood.
And so followed three or four weeks of further sketches and computer models, three or four weeks of real modelling at Gaydon, including CNC milling of a full-scale clay model, which takes a week. They spent two weeks getting the fillets around the D-type-inspired rear just-so, placing silver film over the clay model and working the material so that shadows, highlights and reflections are perfect.
Then there is the carbonfibre front splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser. Each of these throws up issues: attaching the front splitter meant getting the aero team involved to decide what angle the rear wing should be, because putting on the carbon at the front upsets the front:rear lift balance. Likewise the rear diffuser, while an aesthetic rather than aero touch, necessitates finishing the exhausts with a ceramic coating, to stop the diffuser burning.
Ditto the windscreen had to be cut down yet, because this is a working concept, rollover strength had to be retained. And following all that, because this is a working car, the chassis engineers wanted a week on the test track at Gaydon to set-up the suspension. And the graphics on those tyres? Turns out nobody in the UK can do them. So the team, by hand, scrubbed off the mouldings from the sidewalls, made up the vinyl templates, and did it themselves.
And all to send Project 7 up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed; five runs over three days, of no more than a minute each, creating a stir that, I think it’s fair to say, has overwhelmed not just the Jaguar design team, but everybody else within the company too.
What's it like?
Mechanically, Project 7 is pretty much an F-type in V8 S form. Or at least, it was when they started, and if mechanical things on it are not standard F-type, they’re pinched elsewhere from the Jaguar line-up.
Most notable among those are that, in place of the V8 S’s 489bhp supercharged 5.0-litre engine, into Project 7’s nose has been dropped an engine with the calibration for the Jaguar XKR-S which, happily, happens to make 542bhp. Weight is almost unchanged, save for it being 20kg lighter at the rear — lost and accounted for by the absence of a roof mechanism.
Twenty kilos is not a great deal on a car that tipped our scales at 1810kg when we road tested it, but the set-up work took it into consideration nonetheless: the fine tuning ensured that, when Jaguar’s chief engineer for vehicle integrity, Mike Cross, stuck it up the hill at Goodwood, it gave him the handling and just the amount of oversteer he liked. No more, no less. I say “no more”. He likes quite a lot.
The suspension has been lowered by 10mm over the standard F-type (and runs on the optional 20in ‘Blade’ alloys). But the more significant alteration to the way Project 7 feels, the engineers say, is that the seating position is a faintly staggering 50mm lower than an F-type, thanks to being a non-adjustable (unless you get the spanners out) bucket.
It’s trimmed similarly to an F-type, although there’s a spot of extra quilting – as there is on the door cards, too – whose pattern, like the new mesh grilles at the front, mimics the oblong shape of the Jaguar Heritage logo. Which is a sweet touch. And time consuming, presumably.
There are other nods to the past, too: most obvious being the Ecurie Ecosse-like colour. And the fairing, which is as obvious a nod to the D-type as you can get.
Which brings me to the significance of the name and the roundels. It’s all Le Mans-referenced, as you’re no doubt aware. Jaguar has won the 24-hour race seven times, including, famously, with D-types in the 1950s. This doesn’t herald any kind of return to motorsport, you understand, it’s just a nice thing to do: a classic twist on a very modern car.
You sit low in it, in a cockpit that feels very much F-type, apart from some unique stitching in a bodywork-matching colour. That windscreen is so much reduced that, when you see the car in profile, which I think is a real signature view of this car, the screen top and the fairing are at exactly the same height.
The rest of the cabin highlights – the magnesium gearshift paddles, which look much classier than the standard gold-finished ones – and the carbonfibre trim on the centre console, are all things you can specify from the F-type options list.
Even the sound is familiar. Fire up the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 and it woofles away enticingly. And within about 30 seconds of slotting the gearbox into S and pulling away, I’m confident that it’s extra poke, and the fact that it’s streaming with rain, that has more effect on the driving experience than the loss of 20kg from around the rear or the 10mm drop in ride height.
I’ll level with you here: I drive three laps in the car, before the rain becomes just too heavy for Jaguar’s concern about preserving the interior. But that’s okay. Five minutes at full speed is significantly better than the ten feet at walking pace you might be allowed in some concepts.
And it’s enough to tell me that this thing is chuffing fast. Let’s call it 1790kg and 542bhp. The slightly heavier, and considerably less powerful F-type V8 S hit 60mph in 4.0sec dead on this very circuit in our hands.
With an extra 54bhp, then, you could realistically assume you’re looking at a 0-60mph time of three-point-something (though Jaguar claims 4.1sec), and a top speed of a claimed 186mph. As soon as you breathe on the throttle exiting a second-gear hairpin, Project 7 wants to light up its rear tyres. Which is ideal.
I think the steering’s lighter than I remember, but that’s probably because I haven’t driven an F for a while – I’m told there are no changes, while the body feels pleasingly tied down on circuit, so you feel quite confident, and it’s well balanced. As concepts go, it is as drivable and enjoyable as they come.
Should I buy one?
Well you can’t, obviously, because it’s a concept, but no matter. What’s exciting, what’s compelling, about cars like Project 7 or some other great concepts (like the 2005 Holden Efijy, the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, or the 2010 Audi quattro concept), is that they’re the passion of a small group of petrolheads, having a great idea, getting on with it, and presenting it to a management that feel compelled to say “we love it. Go do it”.
Jaguar's Project 7 isn’t so much about the car itself. It’s about a group of people having a wild time in a studio, and asking: “What can we do to an F-type that makes it more exciting?”
The result is a car that makes you feel good about it – and the company that makes it. And you can’t ask for much more than that.
Jaguar Concept 7
Price £NA; 0-62mph 4.1sec (claimed); Top Speed 186mph; Economy 23.0mpg (est); CO2 290g/km; Kerb weight 1790kg (est); Engine V8, 5000cc, supercharged petrol; Power 542bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 501lb ft at 2500-5500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic