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Ten things we learned riding shotgun in the Jaguar Project 8

Jag’s bonkers, 592bhp, £150k, bewinged XE is here. Here's why it's exciting

  1. It’s the most extreme SVO product so far

    There’s been fast road-going Jaguars before, but none where the explicit mission was to extract the fastest possible lap time. Mark Stanton, Director of JLR’s SVO department calls it a “no constraints vehicle.” In fact, 80 per cent of the parts are new or upgraded over the standard XE.

    We know the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 well from other Jag (and Land Rover) products, but here it’s been cranked up to 592bhp, and by using an adapted version of the F-Type SVR’s four-wheel drive system, it can charge from 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds, and kiss 200mph flat out.

    There’s height-adjustable suspension, adjustable aero, carbon-ceramic brakes, the option of two- or four-seat configurations, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and 122kg of downforce at 186mph, while 75 per cent of the exterior has changed.

  2. It looks… muscular

    Study the new M5 and you’ll notice BMW decided against flaring the wheel arches, largely down to cost. Given the Project 8 is priced from £149,995 and will be hand-assembled at SVO’s new technical centre in Coventry, that’s not an issue here and why, up close, the Project 8 looks so damn good.

    To accommodate wider tyres and a wider track, the rear arches are flared by 55mm per side, which in turn required reshaped rear doors. The front arches are also pumped by 19mm and the headlights moved 14mm forward to make space for the forged 20-inch wheels. Both arches feature race-car style cutaways to release pressure and turn up the aggression.

    The front bumper, with its distinctive lozenge mesh, is now made from carbon-fibre. So too the rear bumper, vented bonnet and front splitter. Overall, only the roof and front door panels are carried over from an XE.

  3. Its Cup 2 tyres don’t like the rain

    Minutes before we were due to go out for a series of fast passenger laps around the Goodwood circuit, the heavens opened, coating the track and leaving puddles scattered everywhere.

    Fortunately, David Pook was driving, the man responsible for the vehicle dynamics of all SVO cars. If anyone knows how to extract the most in tricky conditions, without ending up in the barrier, it’s him.

    Even so, it’s clear that while not as hairy as they once were, Cup 2s aren’t altogether happy in the wet – sliding under braking on the way in to corners, and trying to oversteer heroically in Dynamic and Track mode on the way out. What we did learn was that anyone who worried that four-wheel drive might dull the Project 8’s attitude, needn’t have. The rear tyres are very much steering the situation, while the overall balance of the car feels fantastic.

    It corners flat, of course, but there remains an underlying suppleness which suggest this isn’t just a race car with number plates… it’s more versatile than that.

  4. It sounds epic

    As the track dried in patches, and Pook felt confident enough to deploy the entire throttle travel, we were treated to the full hit of the switchable quad titanium exhausts.

    To be honest, it’s a noise we’re becoming accustomed to having heard its gargly goodness in any number of JLR products over the last few years. In the Project 8 it’s in fine voice – rasping, booming, warbling on the way up the rev range, with aural cluster bombs when you lift off the accelerator.

  5. We’d go for the four-seat version

    Jaguar is giving all 300 buyers of the Project 8 the option of a two- or four-seat configuration. The former gets bespoke, buttock-clamping Sabelt carbon-fibre seats with four-point safety harnesses and a harness retention hoop that boosts torsional rigidity by 27 per cent over the four-seat version. It also cuts 12.2kg from the kerb weight.

    However, there’s something deliciously perverse about the four-seater version. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to take the kids shopping in the morning, then pop off to break a lap record in the afternoon? Speaking of which…

  6. Its 7min 21.23sec Nurburgring lap time is conservative

    You may remember at the end of last year Jaguar posting the fastest ever Nürburgring lap time for a four-door saloon, beating the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio by a full 11 seconds.

    Well, it hasn’t been resting on its laurels since. In fact, Jaguar is convinced that the detailed fettling it’s been doing to the chassis and software before the final spec is locked down means it could go even faster.

    Pook explained: “The good thing about building only 300 cars, all hand-made, is that you can keep developing the car right up to the start of production. And we’ve done just that.

    “The springs have got stiffer and so have the engine mounts. The suspension arm bushes have changed. The brakes have been refined for the exact pedal feel and performance we want. This has all been done to make the car even more responsive and to handle even better.”

  7. It was benchmarked against the Porsche 911 GT3

    On looks, spec and mission statement, the BMW M4 GTS would appear to be the Project 8’s closest rival. And yes, David Pook says he began by benchmarking against that car, but “quickly moved on” when he realised the Jag was a fair bit faster.

    The car he moved on to was the Porsche 911 GT3. Yep, Jaguar is chasing GT3 levels of speed and driver engagement in a car that starts life as a small executive saloon. Pook freely admits that the Project 8’s four-door body shell means the 911 has an inherent dynamic edge, but you can’t knock the scale of his ambition.

  8. You’d better be handy with the spanners

    A new Track mode, that sharpens up the throttle and gearbox, adds more meat to the steering, loosens the ABS and turns the volume up to 11, is available via a button on the centre console. However, putting the car into full track spec means manually adjusting the suspension, lowering it by 15mm, manually adjusting the wing for a more aggressive angle of attack, and extending the front chin spoiler by 60mm.

    If you’re not handy with the spanner, then this may be a job for a mechanic. But don’t worry, you probably won’t be swapping back and forth on a regular basis. The Jag engineers we spoke to reckon most customers will simply set their cars to the most aggressive configuration… and leave it there.

  9. It’s selling out fast

    Despite a £149,995 asking price, and even though no customers or media have actually driven the car yet, Jaguar already has 200 letters of intent of which 100 are firm orders. With a production run strictly limited to 300 cars, that leaves 200 still up for grabs.

    John Edwards, boss of JLR’s SVO department, says from the very outset he wanted to make the Project 8 a future classic, something that future generations will look back on as one of the all-time greats. If that happens, £150k could be the bargain of the year…

  10. A Jaguar Project 9 is coming

    Jaguar has confirmed that it is already considering a ‘Project 9’ to follow up the lightly feral Project 7 and Project 8 nutjobs. “There will be a Project 9,” Edwards told us.

    “But there’s no decision what it will be yet. It doesn’t necessarily have to be high performance, we’re making up the rules as we go along.”

    Given that SVO will develop and build the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy race car – destined for a one-make race series to support Formula E from later this year – our money’s on some sort of fettled I-Pace with less weight and more downforce. It might sound crazy, but crazy is what SVO specialises in.

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