Almost a year has passed since Jaguar first showed off its steroidal arch warrior at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. We’ve seen videos of it tearing around race tracks, most notably that long and wiggly one in a hilly corner of Germany, where it set what Jaguar says is a saloon car lap record.
Finally, we get to find out what it’s actually like to drive.
The XE SV Project 8 is a limited-run super-saloon (of sorts), with just 300 set to be built. It’s been developed — and will be built by — Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations, the division that’s responsible for high-performance SVR-branded Range Rovers and F-Types, as well as low-volume specials such as the 2015 F-Type Project 7. The Project 8 will be left-hand drive only.
It shares its basic body-in-white with the everyday XE, but just about everything else is new. Every body panel but the roof and front doors are bespoke, the suspension has been entirely reworked and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres feature on a Jaguar for the very first time.
The familiar 5.0-litre supercharged V8 that serves across JLR has also been shoehorned in. Here, it develops 592bhp and 516lb ft, making the Project 8 Jaguar’s most powerful road car to date.
The aero package is bespoke, too, of course, and capable of generating 122kg of downforce at 186mph. The optional Track Pack, which costs £10,000 and saves 12kg, swaps out the rear seats for a half-roll-cage and adds carbon-backed bucket seats up front with four-point harnesses.
Is Project 8 purely a track car, or can it cope on the road?
The XE SV Project 8 still looks far too track-focused to possibly work on the road. Don’t be misled. For all its stench of racing chic, Jaguar’s most hardcore passenger car works surprisingly well away from the flat expanse of a race track.
With springs that are four and a half times stiffer than those fitted to a conventional XE, the ride is, of course, tight and firm. Sitting in a BMW M5 or Mercedes-AMG E63 immediately after driving a Project 8 would be like floating in a swimming pool on a lilo.
Importantly, though, the Project 8’s ride isn’t too unyielding for the road. In fact, despite the clanging firmness of those springs, there’s enough compliance and bump absorption to deal with most road surfaces. The damping really is exceptional; it skilfully prevents a firm ride from ever becoming overbearing.