So what exactly is a Project 8, beyond an exceedingly loud, expensive and fabulously extroverted labour of love for the SVO team based at Oxford Road in Coventry? It starts life as the shell of an XE, which gives SVO a relatively good base to work from in terms of aerodynamics, rigidity and weight distribution.
Jaguar Land Rover’s 5.0-litre supercharged V8 is then installed along with the four-wheel-drive system from the F-Type SVR. The silhouette is subsequently put on a course of anabolic steroids to house tracks respectively 24mm and 73mm wider at the front and rear than those of an XE S. Only the doors and roof are carried over.
Aerodynamics are a fundamental attribute, as you can tell from the gaping cut-outs aft of each colossal wheel arch, the carbonfibre bargeboards and a bonnet vent that has been painstakingly positioned to align perfectly with the region of greatest front-end lift. The carbonfibre front splitter, rear wing and ride height can also be manually adjusted for track days and the brakes use vast carbon-ceramic discs.
Jaguar claims this is also the first production car to use incredibly stiff and durable ceramic wheel bearings. All in, more than three-quarters of the ‘major engineering’ has changed from an XE S, and yet the turning circle remains modest enough to avoid town-centre embarrassment and the boot capacity is just five litres smaller than the standard car’s.
The cost, by the way, is £149,995, which is rather a lot for a family four-door but reasonable value if you view this as a saloon that radiates the same uncompromised engineering mandate familiar to employees of Porsche’s fabled GT division. That’s right: from a philosophical and technical standpoint, at least, Jaguar is benchmarking the Porsche 911 GT3. Previously, it was BMW M4 GTS, although Pook and his colleagues believe that when it comes to performance and drivability, their efforts surpassed those of their Bavarian peers long ago in the development process. In this rarefied strata of the automotive world, that really is fighting talk.
Since the Festival of Speed, development has cantered ahead with incremental improvements in almost every imaginable area, and at an expedited rate that simply wouldn’t be possible without such a small, agile team, whose core numbers just a dozen or so personnel. It’s a world away from Jaguar’s mainline models and has resulted in SVO surpassing – “smashing”, says Edwards over the pit-lane clatter of wheel nuts being torqued – every internal performance target initially set for the Project 8.