Jaguar XE SV Project 8 – XE Goes Super Saloon

It’s not every day that a modern car manufacturer releases a small batch of super hot and super rare cars, so when I was asked to spend a couple of days with Jaguar and their new Project 8 (project….) on a very special road trip, we jumped at the chance.

Having spent four years on the other side of the showroom at Land Rover, I was keen to see how special and just how fast JLR could make their family and BMW 3 series competitor, the XE, go round the twisty roads of North Wales and the Cotswolds.

One of Ian Callum’s final hurrahs with the company was to produce this very special track focused Super Saloon. With four seats for people and a boot for stuff. He styled and sculpted a wide and aggressive looking machine, put the legendary but now highly tuned V8 super charged engine up front and gave it four-wheeled drive. Sounds a simple formula? Well that’s just the ingredients. To turn a family car into a track focused Super Saloon requires a little more than power and wider wheel arches. This is where the team at JLR’s SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) steps up. Over the course of two years, Ross Restell and his team have brought stability control, torque vectoring and the first application of their new Carbon Ceramic Braking system together.

The Project 8 is completely hand assembled by expert craftsmen at the SV Technical Centre in Warwickshire. The SVO team has produced three models of this new XE if you will:

  • The Touring – limited to just 15 cars in a less aggressive style but still 100% performance model; this is set to be the collector’s car of the family for the disconcerting owner.
  • The Project 8 – A manually adjustable rear wing and front splitter, tells you just who this is aimed at. The owner can tweak and control the aero of the car.
  • Track Pack – The racer’s car of choice. Gone are those heavy seats, replaced by a roll cage in the back with full race spec seats and Harness Retention Hoops in the front; losing the ability to give your mates a lift saves you 12.2kg.

The quickest that the Project 8 had completed the Nürburgring Nordschleife was 7 minutes 23.164 seconds, up until earlier this summer when it broke its own record and completed it in 7 minutes 18.361 seconds making it the fastest four door production car round the track. ever.

Anyway, that’s the stats and info, what about the drive…

The road trip begins at a mountain top café deep inside deepest Snowdonia. The air is crisp as we cling on to late summer but there is a feel of excitement as we spot the three resting machines hiding in the corner. They appear to be Jaguar XE saloons but as only the roof panel and front doors are the same as the current XE, you need a 2nd look. The entire front end has been sculpted from exotic carbon fibre and the wide front and rear arches give the car a stocky stance. The rear wing on the Project 8 and track pack car gives a unique side profile that’s not just there for looks. This adjustable spoiler provides up to 122kg of usable down force, which Ross tells us we will need in these damp Welsh hills! That didn’t really help my confidence, along with my skill level, these test cars are left hand drive. I just know I will be hearing the cats eyes rumble most of the day.

Driving the Project 8 can be summed up very easily. I’m a driver that is used to driving a MINI JCW. The jump into 600 PS with titanium variable active exhaust and dedicated Track Mode was, not surprising, a massive one. But, oh how easy it was. This car is very well designed; the engine and dynamics have been tuned to perfection and as your confidence in the car grows so does the grip, agility and noise. What a sound to be witness to, as a passenger, driver or a lucky bystander. This machine purrs and growls like the big cat that she is. A worthy holder of the Jaguar badge and testament to the designers and engineers that have created her.

Where the law permits the Project 8 will get you and passengers to 62 mph in just 3.3 seconds. And will go all the way to 200 mph given a long enough road. The onboard G force metre will show you, after you have recovered, what 1.5 G of braking force feels like from those new carbon ceramic brakes.

This has been an amazing driving experience. If you happen to be one of the very lucky 300 to own one of these, I am very jealous. A family car that can do 0-62 in 3.3 seconds. Sign me up. P.S. safety first obviously…