|Performance, poise and ability on track, usable on road, bombastic soundtrack|
|Cup 2 tyres struggle in the wet, there’s only 300 of them.|
There are clearly people like us working in Jaguar’s SVO skunkworks, because that can be the only reason for the existence of the XE SV Project 8. Designed in the same vein as mad, motorsport-inspired machines such as the BMW M4 GTS, the Project 8 is the brand’s most powerful road car to date, with a mammoth 592bhp from its supercharged V8; this is a big cat with some seriously sharp claws.
Limited to just 300 units (all left-hand drive), the four-wheel drive XE is intended as a high performance saloon that’s just at home on track as the road. It’s also charged with highlighting SVO’s engineering ability, which is considerable when you consider how little of the standard XE makes it through to the finished product.
It certainly doesn’t look like the cooking model, what with its massive wheelarch extensions that cover vast 20-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Cup 2s, huge rear spoiler on stilts and jutting chin spoiler. It’s a similar story inside, where you can choose between a relatively sensible four seat layout, or a stripped out Track Pack set-up that ditches the rear bench in favour of a rollcage.
SVO has really gone to town on the XE, starting with the bodywork. Only the roof and door skins are carried over from the standard model, although here they are stamped from aluminium. Carbonfibre is used for the wings, bumpers, bonnet and boot, while the front and rear track are increased by 24mm and 73mm respectively. Cut outs in the arches and the deep front splitter help reduce lift by an impressive 206 per cent, which is vital in a car that’ll crack 322kph.
Under the skin, the Project 8 uses the same basic double wishbone suspension, but upgrades include the addition of a billet suspension knuckle with ceramic bearings, stiffer bushes and the adoption of ball joints for the upper control arms at the rear. The anti-roll bars have also been recalibrated, as have the adaptive dampers and the electric power steering. Go for the Track Pack option and you can manually lower the ride height by 15mm for circuit work, plus you get a roll cage in place of the rear seats.
Brake upgrades run to carbon ceramic discs front (400mm) and rear (396mm), which are clamped by six pot and single pot Brembo callipers respectively.
Engine, transmission and 0-100kph time
Despite tipping the scales at 1745kg in its lightest Track Pack guise (this upgrade saves a total of 12.2kg), the Project 8 is no slouch. Jaguar claims that the 0-100kph sprint is all over in 3.3 seconds, while a top speed of 322kph should be in reach.
These attention-grabbing figures come courtesy of the brand’s familiar supercharged 5.0-litre V8, which benefits from some subtle modifications to the induction system, plus a modified exhaust that uses plenty of titanium in its construction. The result is a thumping 592bhp and a rippling 516lb ft of torque.
What’s it like to drive?
That the XE is fast comes as no surprise, you’ll also not be shocked to learn that it’s pretty good on track too – more of which later. However, what does catch you out is the Project 8’s ability to deal effortlessly with road duties, with one – the tyres. When it’s dry the Cup 2s deliver tenacious grip, but they struggled a little on the damp and greasy tarmac of our test route. It never got terrifyingly wayward like a BMW M4 CS (the four-wheel drive saw to that), but occasionally you’d have to cope with the odd twitch as they hit standing water or you attempted to accelerate hard and early out of a corner. However, it was controlled enough that you could consider the XE as an all-weather daily driver. Just.
The rest of the time, the XE proved rapid, responsive and remarkably refined. For starters, it managed well with some of the ripped and torn roads, riding the surface with an impressive blend of suppleness and control – few track focussed cars this side of a Porsche 911 GT3 are as effective in this regard. It feels agile and alert too, the direct and meaty steering allowing you to place the car with confidence. Yes it’s wide, but it never comes across as unwieldy, and before long you’re picking apart tight and technical sections of road at an alarming rate. There’s even some throttle adjustability there, especially in Dynamic mode, which features the same steering and damping maps as Normal, but adds a sharper throttle and recalibrated four-wheel drive and e-diff.
Price and rivals
Since the limited run BMW M4 GTS went off sale there’s no real direct rival to the Project 8. However, consider its $198,980 price tag, performance figures and track focus, and its path crosses some very specialised machinery, such as the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and McLaren 570S Track Pack. Both these cars will be ultimately faster around a circuit, and a fraction more rewarding, but neither has the Jag’s humour or ability to, just about, pass itself off as everyday family car. Then there’s the car’s exclusivity, with just 300 examples being built at the SVO factory. It’s a rapid and exciting machine, the Project 8; it’s just a shame that, as it stands, Jaguar isn’t planning to put the lessons learned into a more affordable series production version of the XE.
This article originally appeared at evo.co.uk
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