What’s the best way to be a hit at a party? Bring a damn good costume.
It’s no surprise then that Jaguar chose the just-completed Goodwood Festival of Speed as the fete for debuting its entirely new XE SV Project 8. Goodwood, like the newest, hottest XE four-door sedan, is not subtle. The long-weekend car fest held in late June each summer in southern England is as loud as a rock festival and the “music” is made by hundreds of vintage, multi-million-dollar cars, their modern-day supercar peers, competition vehicles from every pursuit ranging from Formula 1 to motorcycles with side cars, all vying to not just look pretty, but to scream uphill on a narrow path barely two lanes wide and a few miles long. Basically “The Hill” is a drag strip with a few turns in it. Unlike a drag race, every car goes off against the clock, not in pairs. Still, it’s taken exceptionally seriously, even if for fans it’s more like attending the circus than an actual car race — you can watch a bunch of vintage Formula 1 cars scream one by one up the hill for 20 minutes, then go roam the pits to see teams frantically readying their cars for the next volley to be sent up the Hill. Repeat this all day and it never gets dull.
So what better venue for Jaguar to debut its fastest-ever street car?
And, for certain, the XE SV Project 8 blows away the preceding F-Type SVR, both on acceleration and horsepower and when it went up the Hill it did so with an exclamation point, the baby Jag’s titanium exhaust blasting an impressive tune to the thousands of gathered car nuts on hand Friday afternoon.
The XE SV Project 8 is a street car meant to slaughter any perception you might have had that Jaguars are soft. The Project 8 is very loosely based on the XE four-door sedan, with only the roof and the front door panels unaltered, and 80 percent of the mechanicals are entirely new or upgraded.
This includes the 592hp supercharged V-8, good for 516 lb. ft. of torque. The latter is reasonably manageable, arriving at 3,500 rpm, so you don’t have to twist the engine to full scream to get going in a hurry, although revving the V-8 to 6,500rpm will be necessary to scrape the claimed 3.3-second 0-60 time. What’s noteworthy here is that while Jaguar has managed to gain another 25hp vs. the F-type SVR, almost all the mods went toward better airflow, not enlarging displacement; Jaguar clearly didn’t want its new supercar to be a maintenance hog.
When it’s not ripping tarmac, probably what you’ll notice first is all the aero bits. This is barely a street car, which is obvious first from the massive carbon fiber side sills that integrate at the rear with hugely fared fenders that add 2.2 inches of width vs. the stock XE. These curved aluminum fender surrounds bulge to accommodate 305-width rear tires fixed to 20-inch forged aluminum wheels. They haven’t added these swooped effects for cosmetics: without them the car simply wouldn’t stay glued to the ground at a purported 200mph top speed. That’s why those wider fenders, both front and rear, also end sharply, with big cut-outs at the rear of each, since that allows the air to “let go” rather than create turbulence.
Likewise, the Project 8 is also considerably longer than a stock XE, with nearly the entire front end made of carbon fiber and extending another .7 inches. Note that the hexagonal pattern in the grille (an echo of the shape of vintage Jag logos) continues right through to the outer grilles, and his latticework sucks in maximal cooling, some of which vents through the giant duct cut into the carbon fiber hood.
While Jaguar further altered the rest of the car’s body, including the underside of the trunk, and added aft shark-slits below the bumper, to pull heat from the rear carbon-ceramic brakes, the massive rear wing is probably the most overtly brash feature — one totally necessary to generate the hundreds of pounds of downforce (269 lbs. at 186mph) to prevent the XE from getting squirrelly at speed. Overall the Project 8’s body produces a 205 percent reduction in lift vs. the stock XE.
The transmission is still an eight-speed manumatic, although shifts now arrive as quickly as 200 milliseconds, and if you hold the gear selector on downshifts, the car will grab the lowest possible gear, rather than just the next in line (handy for 4-to-2 gear changes ahead of a sharp curve, for instance). Like the standard-issue XE, the Project 8 has AWD, but here Jaguar added an electronic differential to better distribute power between the two rear wheels. Jaguar also added a dedicated track mode that smites traction-control, and the electronic power steering unit was re-calibrated for as much steering feel as possible.
The suspensions was also significantly massaged. The layout is the same as that of the XE (double-wishbone front, Integral Link rear), but Jaguar had to greatly increase lateral stiffness, with firmer damping throughout, and changed suspension mounting points, all to dial out body role. The Project 8’s front- and rear anti-roll bars are more rigid, so the ride will likely be a teensy bit less city-commuter friendly but deliver far more grip. The entire car can be dropped via manually adjustable springs, ideal for track days, and the driver can also adjust camber angles.
Not for ‘Merica
The forbidden fruit part of this whole recipe? Price, for one. While a U.S. sticker hasn’t been announced, the 150,000 pound cost announced in the U.K. translates as $182,000, which puts the Project 8 on par with top-range Porsche 911s and AMG Benzes that ply the near-supercar ether. Sure, the Project 8 would be more livable than a Lamborghini Huracan, with a proper four place cockpit, but what won’t be sold in the U.S. is a track model that deletes the rear seat and adds a front roll cage. Don’t blame Jag for this; U.S. regulations won’t allow it. Also, you’ll have to wait at least until this coming winter to receive your Project 8, and you sure better sign up fast, too. Unlike its rivals, Jaguar isn’t building these on demand: They’ll make 300 units and that’s all, so when they’re gone, they’re truly gone.