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Goodwood Festival of Speed 2017

Meet Project 8: a 200mph, £150,000 Jaguar XE

Jag saloon triples in price, buying you a 600bhp V8, intense track focus and supercar speed

Published: 27 Jun 2017

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.

Naturally, Project 8 is rather more than that. Following on from Project 7 – a roofless Jaguar F-Type with a shedload more power – it’s even more bespoke and specialised. Jag’s SVO boss goes as far as describing it as the company’s “most track-focused and powerful road car ever”. Yep, even the XJ220 is outshone.

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Out goes a rep-friendly diesel engine, in comes a 5-litre supercharged V8. It’s familiar from a whole suite of Jaguar performance cars, but none has yet offered the 592bhp – or nice round 600PS – of Project 8. Despite copious carbonfibre components, this is a 1,745kg car, making it several passengers heavier than a regular XE. Doesn’t stop it hitting 60mph in 3.3secs on its way to a 200mph 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 swelled wheel arches. 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. Performance car geeks will immediately know what a serious tyre this is, and while Project 8 is sold as a wildly customisable car, you can’t change the wheels or tyres. Jag’s bloody-mindedness probably comes from the fact the front headlights have been moved forward by 14mm to accommodate the 20in alloys and trackday 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 XE.

Beneath the skin there’s all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Despite the car’s hardcore nature, rear-drive 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 differential on the rear axle (so yes, it’ll do skids) which gets its own cooling system. The suspension and aerodynamics are manually adjustable.

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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 useable, 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 option ditches the rear seats, morphs the front two into proper 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 ceramic brakes possess ginormous 400mm front discs and we’re promised it will “sounds like no other Jaguar”. Given Jag V8 sports cars are riotously, hilariously loud, we had to ask if that means this one suddenly falls silent. Nah. Expect even more volume, particularly when it comes to supercharger whine. For all its trackday focus, you might want to check the noise limits before you book it onto one.

Jaguar will produce a maximum of 300, but interestingly, it’s conducted no market research whatsoever before producing the car. It didnt even warm up Project 7 buyers before announcing it. All will be hand-built, and all will be left-hand drive, apparently for optimising the driving position as well as the car’s weight distribution.

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Rivals? The BMW M4 GTS and whatever Mercedes AMG Black Series we see next are the only plausible comparisons at £150k. But Project 8 is specialist enough to transcend the obvious Top Trumps battle; Jag expects no two will be specced alike, and those who take the plunge will end up with an appreciating asset. Let’s hope, after its meticulous mechanical makeover, that doesn’t temper their commitment on circuit…

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