Heavy Metal

Lurid orange paint­work, lots of lovely horse­power and a very lim­ited run

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents -

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

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