Lurid orange paintwork, lots of lovely horsepower and a very limited run
Wondering what a Merc pickup would look like?
Behold the barmiest, least rational car you’ll see today. It’s Jaguar’s latest Special Vehicle Operations project. In the baldest terms, it’s an XE saloon that costs a fiver short of £150,000 (P9.894m).
Naturally, Project 8 is rather more than that. Following on from Project 7, it’s even more bespoke and specialized. Jag’s SVO boss describes it as the company’s “most trackfocused and powerful road car ever.” Yep, even the XJ220 is outshone.
Out goes a rep-friendly diesel engine, in comes a 5.0-liter supercharged V8. It’s familiar from a whole suite of Jaguar performance cars, but none has yet offered the 592hp of Project 8. Despite copious carbon-fiber components, this is a 1,745kg car, making it several passengers heavier than a regular XE. Doesn’t stop it hitting 100kph in 3.3sec on its way to a 322kph top speed, mind.
Lap times and top speed were top of the to-do list for Project 8, in fact, despite the aerodynamic needs of those goals often conflicting. So while it looks wild, “form follows function without compromise.” Project 8’s design boss says he was bred on Lancia
Delta Integrales, which helps explain the stunningly swollen wheelarches. But with a 110mm wider rear axle to accommodate, they’re sort of necessary, too. Look closely and you’ll see the arches are cut away, exposing the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber. Geeks will immediately know what a serious tire this is, and while Project 8 is sold as a wildly customizable car, you can’t change the wheels or tires. Jag’s bloodymindedness probably comes from the fact the front headlights have been moved forward by 14mm to accommodate the 20in alloys and track-day rubber. That’s no small feat and not something that would ever happen in mass production. In fact, just the roof and front doors are exchangeable with a regular, £30k (P1.979m) XE. Beneath the skin there’s all-wheel
drive and an eight-speed auto. Despite the car’s hardcore nature, RWD and a manual were never, ever on the table; they conflict too much with the ruthless focus on speed. The AWD is a tuned version of the Jaguar F-Type SVR’s, while the paddleshift transmission is described as Jag’s quickest ever. There’s an electronic diff on the rear axle, but no E63 AMG-style RWD-only mode. The suspension and aerodynamics are manually adjustable.
Mark Stanton, SVO’s director, says the whole thing will be “notably more hardcore” than an F-Type SVR, Jag’s current performance car halo. “My SVR is a usable, everyday car. If this ends up being an everyday car, we’ve missed the point.” Despite that, there’s plenty of equipment inside. Complementing all the carbon and alcantara are the nicer bits of the XE’s options list. Project 8 even operates as a wifi hotspot for up to eight devices. If the eight people clutching those devices can keep up with it, of course.
Worried that’s all a bit too sane? While Project 8 comes with a full set of seats as standard, the (as yet unpriced) Track Pack ditches the rear seats, morphs the front two into Sabelt racing buckets and drops the car 15mm. It also cuts 12.2kg from it, despite the addition of a roll cage and fire extinguisher.
Other highlights? Standard carbon-ceramics feature ginormous 400mm front discs, and we’re promised it will “sound like no other Jaguar.” Given Jag V8 sports cars are riotously loud, we had to ask if that means this one suddenly falls silent. Nah. Expect more volume, particularly when it comes to supercharger whine. For all its track-day focus, you might want to check the noise limits before you book.
Jaguar will produce a maximum of 300, but interestingly, it’s conducted no market research whatsoever before producing the car. It didn’t even warm up Project 7 buyers before announcing it. All will be hand-built, and all will be left-hand-drive, apparently for optimizing the driving position as well as weight distribution.
Rivals? The BMW M4 GTS and the next Merc-AMG Black Series are the only plausible comparisons. But Project 8 is specialist enough to transcend the obvious Top Trumps battle; Jag expects no two will be spec’d alike, and those who take the plunge will end up with an appreciating asset. Let’s hope that doesn’t temper their commitment on circuit…
You’ll be glad of these buckets when you spin out wildly at Becketts Wing is nonnegotiable. You.Must.Have.It