If you’re going to produce a limited-edition track-focused beast, conventional wisdom suggests starting with a lightweight roadster or stiff two-door coupe. Jaguar has turned its nose up at this so-called wisdom and focused its effort on a four-door sedan with an automatic gearbox – fool’s errand with the 2019 Jaguar XE SV Project 8?
JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations certainly turned over every stone it could to make the XE SV Project 8 as potent as possible. It began by shoehorning its 5.0-litre supercharged V8 between the strut towers before concocting a new intake system and installing a titanium exhaust to lift outputs to 441kW at 6500rpm and 700Nm from 3500-5000rpm. This makes the Project 8 Jaguar’s most powerful ever production car.
It’s quick, too. All-wheel drive and the aforementioned eight-speed auto make for fuss-free sprints from 0-100km/h in just 3.7sec while the top speed is a supercar-scaring 322km/h – a nice round 200mph in the old money.
To ensure the deceleration matches the acceleration, monster carbon-ceramic brakes – 400mm rotors with six-piston calipers up front supported by 396mm rotors and single-piston calipers at the rear – hide behind fattened 20-inch wheels (9.5 inches wide front; 11.0 inches rear) which wear huge Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
The engorged rolling stock necessitated the flaring of the guards, the front swelling 19mm and the rear a whopping 55mm to give the Project 8 a stance unmatched by any other four-door production car.
Its presence is only enhanced by the various aero addenda, including a front splitter, running board-style side skirts, monster rear diffuser and adjustable wing, which along with the flat underbody creates 122kg of downforce at 300km/h. The added high-speed stability no doubt helped during the Project 8’s 7min21.23sec lap of the Nurburgring, the quickest ever by a four-door.
Carbon fibre is used for the bonnet, bumpers and diffuser but this ultimate XE still weighs a hefty 1745kg. An extra $24,000 will delete 12.2kg of that by installing the Track Pack, which replaces the rear seats with a composite panel and roll hoop and ditches the standard seats for lightweight carbon buckets with four-point harnesses. Forgo this option and the Project 8 will set you back $325,000, but given it can only be used on-track (or private roads) in Australia you might as well go the whole $349,000 hog.
Yes, the public highway is off limits to this kitty due to all 300 units being built in left-hand drive. Thankfully, Jaguar has laid on Sandown Raceway for a taste of what the Project 8 can do, racing driver Tony D’Alberto playing chaperone to ensure this rare beast, flown in to display at the Australian Grand Prix, remains in one piece.
Worthy Watch: XE Project 8 Nürburgring onboard
New to the Project 8 is Track Mode which adjusts the all-wheel drive system, adaptive dampers, stability control, ABS, torque vectoring and steering weight to their sportiest settings, while the manually adjustable spring platforms allow for a 15mm ride height drop. Torque vectoring brakes inside wheels during cornering to reduce understeer, working in conjunction with the electronic rear diff to keep the nose pointed in the right direction.
It works. The mechanical specification suggests the Project 8 will be a four-door F-Type V8, but it’s an altogether different animal – quicker, sharper, more composed and yet more aggressive. It’s an unusual sensation to drive such a focused car with back doors, but clearly a lot of clever engineers have done their best to raise the bar for sedan performance.
As you’d hope given the price differential, the Project 8 feels much more at home around Sandown than a Mercedes-AMG C63 did a few weeks before.
The snarling supercharged V8 provides awesome punch, all-wheel drive provides total traction, a hint of torque steer over the kerbs the only hint the front tyres are helping out, the carbon brakes offer great stopping power and the damping has that beautiful race car-like feel of marrying total body control with enough compliance to absorb kerbs and cambers.
It’s a weapon, but ultimately a tough sell. The lack of road certification limits the market to Jaguar nuts who want to rock up to track days in something other than a 911 GT3; for everyone else, the Porsche is cheaper, quicker and can be driven there and back. What’s most frustrating is that the Project 8’s key attributes – grunty engine, all-paw traction, sophisticated damping – would make it one hell of a road car.
Tested and rated with MOTOR car reviews
2019 JAGUAR XE SV PROJECT 8 SPECS
Engine: 5000cc V8, DOHC, 32v, supercharger
Power: 441kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 700Nm @ 3500-5000rpm
0-100km/h: 3.7sec (claimed)