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Jaguar F-Type Project 7 First Drive Review

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/15/2015 Jason Cammisa

The last thing you think when you encounter a Jaguar F-Type roadster is that it needs anything more. It doesn’t need to be more glamorous, more expensive, or more sexy. It most certainly does not need to be more powerful. And it probably shouldn’t be more rare.

And yet here we are, looking at the Project 7, which is all of those things. This is the first vehicle to come out of Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) team, a group charged with turning normal excess into capital EXCESS. This is our favorite flavor of nut job.

Jaguar F Type Project 7 Side Profile In Motion 02© Provided by MotorTrend Jaguar F Type Project 7 Side Profile In Motion 02 Jaguar F Type Project 7 Front Three Quarter In Motion 13© Provided by MotorTrend Jaguar F Type Project 7 Front Three Quarter In Motion 13 The Project 7 is based on the open F-Type and makes enough noise to startle the deaf. It has no roof, just a “canopy” that stores in the trunk and fools you into thinking it’s usable in the rain. Named for Jaguar’s seven wins at Le Mans, the Project 7 takes visual cues from Jaguar’s stunning D-type racers, at least where the fairing behind the driver’s head is concerned. The carbon-fiber body kit and rear spoiler are functional, providing a claimed 91 percent more downforce than the regular F-Type convertible at its 186-mph top speed.

Just 250 units of the Project 7 will be produced, 50 of which are coming to America. Jaguar quotes a curb weight that’s 99 pounds less than the regular F-Type’s, though that reduction takes into account the lightweight carbon-fiber buckets that the rest of the world gets. The Project 7s coming here won’t get those, and they won’t have the lowered speedster windshield, either. You can blame (or thank) our country’s safety standards for those omissions.

Jaguar F Type Project 7 Drift 22© Provided by MotorTrend Jaguar F Type Project 7 Drift 22 Luckily our government doesn’t have a problem with cars that produce enough power to blow apart tectonic plates. Because the rear-drive F-Type is already completely overwhelmed by its 550-hp V-8, SVO gave this one 25 additional fracking horsepower. The horses (and 15 additional lb-ft of torque) come courtesy of a computer reflash that allows the supercharger to pump in slightly more boost, and engineers admit that the brutal engine is still not at its output limit. The transmission — ZF’s eight-speed automatic — apparently is. So 575 hp is likely all we’ll see out of this engine.

Hold the sad-trombone waah-waah because that’s already way too much power for this insane roadster. If you so much as twitch your right ankle, the 7 will melt two black strips of asphalt all the way through first, second, and third gears. You won’t hear any tire squeal, because the exhaust completely drowns it out. The violent crackles coming from the exhaust pipes are deafening — the F-Type might be the loudest car ever. Floor the Project 7 in a tunnel, and your ears will ring for at least four hours. If it lasts any longer, call your doctor.

The new-for-2016 Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) was tuned by SVO for better feel. A stiffer lower intermediate shaft on the steering column helps the on-center info-flow, and revised software provides a sharper effort buildup as lateral loads increase. Welcome changes, both, but last year’s hydraulic setup provided far more road-surface and camber-change feedback to your fingertips.

Jaguar F Type Project 7 Front Three Quarter In Motion 07© Provided by MotorTrend Jaguar F Type Project 7 Front Three Quarter In Motion 07 As with other F-Types, though, steering feel takes a back seat to butt feel because the important stuff is all happening at back. The regular F-Type drives like it’s got casters for rear wheels, and the SVO guys did some homework to try to tame that handling lunacy. The Project 7 wears front springs that are 80 percent stiffer than the regular F-Type’s. The rears, however, are just 8 percent more robust. This would normally induce a heaping metric ton of understeer, and to counter that, SVO fabricated new front knuckles to tuck in the tops of the front wheels. Camber is set from the factory at -1.5 degrees, one full degree more severe than the regular F-Type. The changes are mostly noticeable on the racetrack, where the rear tires still have no chance of coping with all of the V-8’s thrust — but this F-type now allows at least some throttle before it’s aimed straight ahead. If you’re very delicate with the throttle, you can almost accelerate smoothly out of a corner without upsetting the rear end.

Almost. Any ill-timed request for too much power, no matter how small your mistake, throws this roadster sideways. And more so than in other F-Types, the 7 is not just about power-induced oversteer. SVO boasts about its “Torque Vectoring by Braking” programming, which means the computers have been instructed to emulate what your death-wish alcoholic college friends used to do from the passenger seat: yank the e-brake on corner entry to induce yaw.

Jaguar F Type Project 7 Drift 04© Provided by MotorTrend Jaguar F Type Project 7 Drift 04 The last thing an F-Type needs is additional encouragement to fling itself sideways. The system works a little too well — we had a “moment” at the end of the front straight at the beautiful Circuito de Navarra racetrack, thanks to your idiot writer’s lack of respect for the Project 7’s insatiable desire to scare its passengers senseless. My too-quick turn-in resulted in a huge slide that required near-full opposite lock to catch. With stability control on. In a roofless car. With no cage. Or five-point harnesses. Oh, and turn-in speed was a tick under 160 mph. If that never happens to me again, it’ll be a lifetime too soon.

Drive the Project 7 like you want to survive to see the sun set (i.e. like you’re scared to death of it), and it’ll settle down and remind you of just how charming the F-Type is. It’s decadently comfortable, with a taut ride that somehow, despite those 80 percent stiffer springs up front, is never busy and certainly never harsh. Cruising is quiet, with reasonably well-controlled airflow. Let’s not forget what the thing looks like. The F-Type is a stunning car, the Project 7 even more so. It’s a visceral feast for all senses — and your wallet. Forget about the $165,000 base price. That’ll pale in comparison to the fines you’ll rack up for speeding, disturbing the peace, reckless driving. And of course replacing the rear tires every two weeks.

And after all, isn’t all of this the whole point of owning a sports car? Shouldn’t it be almost too gorgeous, too fast, too dangerous, too rare, and too expensive? Well, then. More, please. Jaguar F Type Project 7 Front Three Quarter In Motion 15© Provided by MotorTrend Jaguar F Type Project 7 Front Three Quarter In Motion 15 Jaguar F Type Project 7 Drift 15© Provided by MotorTrend Jaguar F Type Project 7 Drift 15

Jaguar F Type Project 7 Drift 05© Provided by MotorTrend Jaguar F Type Project 7 Drift 05

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