► Jaguar's first hot XE is very hot indeed
► 3.3sec 0-60mph, 200mph top speed
► 300 will be built, at £149,995 each
We’ve been waiting a couple of years for Jaguar to announce a hot version of its XE saloon, but we didn’t expect this. It’s called the Jaguar XE SV Project 8, follow-up to the F-type Project 7 and the latest offering from JLR’s now three-year-old Special Vehicle Operations division. Project 8 features all-wheel drive, a 592bhp V8 engine, unique chassis updates, and bespoke bodywork. But really, that’s underselling it – Project 8 is almost unbelievably extreme.
‘Jaguar has always had a high level of duality,’ says SVO director Mark Stanton, ‘but Project 8 is much more single-minded. For the first time ever, lap time is a key target.’
The stats include a 3.3sec 0-60mph time, 200mph top speed and still-porky 1745kg kerbweight; SVO boss John Edwards wouldn’t be drawn on what exactly the lap time target might be, but for reference, the BMW M4 GTS has lapped the Nürburgring in 7min 20sec…
Project 8 will cost £149,995, a massive £100k premium over the next most powerful XE, the V6 S. It’s a lot of money, but this is a very different, highly specialised car and its predecessor, the F-type Project 7, has only increased in value. Just 300 examples will be hand-assembled at SVO’s new £20m, 20,000sq metre facility. Bad news for Brits, though: all will be left-hand drive.
Seventy five percent of Project 8 is said to be altered compared with a standard XE. That includes the 5.0-litre supercharged V8, which makes its debut in the XE. A modified air intake, recalibrated software and titanium exhaust with quad 89mm outlets all contribute to performance improvements. The 592bhp output represents a 25bhp increase over Project 7, and an audio clip played at the preview suggested a deeper, more distinctive soundtrack heavily overlaid with supercharger whine – something Jaguar usually tunes into the background.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox remains, with the shifts recalibrated for extra punch and the rotary controller ditched for the F-type’s more sporting ‘pistolgrip’ shifter. Aluminium paddleshifters are also fixed to the steering wheel.
Project 8’s fully variable all-wheel-drive system is re-tuned to split an even larger percentage of torque to the rear wheels than the F-type SVR, which is also more rear-biased than other F-types. Power is apportioned side-to-side across the rear axle by JLR’s electronically controlled differential, introduced to XE for the first time.
The basic double-wishbone front/Integral Link rear suspension is retained, but heavily updated. The ride height is manually adjustable through 15mm on stiffer springs and uprated continuously variable dampers, and there are new billet-machined knuckles, adjustable upper control arms for customisable camber settings, and the rear subframe is solidly mounted. Carbon-ceramic brakes are standard, but at 400mm front and 396mm rear they’re larger than the existing hardware optionally available on F-types. Another first for JLR: the 20-inch wheels roll on F1-style silicon-nitride ceramic wheel bearings, and are shod in Michelin Cup 2 tyres more typically found on Porsche 911 GT3s and track-focussed Ferraris. They measure 265/35 ZR20 front and 305/30 ZR20 at the back – so large that the headlamps had to be shifted forwards by 14mm.
But it’s with the bodywork that Project 8 really lets its hair down. So much of the aluminium bodywork is modified or replaced with carbonfibre parts that only the front doors and roof panel carry over. Carbonfibre front wings are 19mm wider, the rear arches are flared by 55mm, and carbon is employed for the vented bonnet – crucial for cooling and to evacuate air that tries to push the bonnet up above 150mph – front and rear bumpers, sideskirts and rear diffuser too.
Designer Wayne Burgess says he was inspired by the Lancia Delta Integrale rally car as a kid, and there’s certainly a brutal, racecar-like functionality to Project 8’s body addenda. There’s some nice detailing too, including huge air intakes on the front bumper that reference the Jaguar heritage lozenge, and the aggressively sliced cutaways to the wheel arches that bring WRC cars to mind.
Like the chassis, the aerodynamics are manually adjustable: the carbon rear wing sits on CNC-milled aluminium supports, and can be set in one of two positions; the front splitter can be manually extended. Jaguar quotes a 205% reduction in lift versus the XE, with 122kg of downforce at 186mph.
Inside, there are new sports seats fixed to magnesium frames, and the rear bench is specially sculpted to offer extra support for two rear passengers – the standard XE has room for three in the back. But if you want to go the full touring car, the Track Pack saves 12.2kg. It ditches the rear seats altogether, replacing them with a cage, and the front seats are swapped for proper buckets. Creature comforts remain, including touchscreen infotainment and a Meridian audio system as standard, plus a new 12.3-inch TFT instrument binnacle display which debuts for Project 8.
Project 8 makes it global debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on Friday June 30, with the first cars scheduled to be hand-built in March 2018.