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Five things we learned in half an hour with the Jaguar XE SV Project 8

Nick Francis

26 Dec 2020

We got the keys to the awesome Jaguar XE SV Project 8…but only for half an hour. Here’s what we learned.

This week we got our hands on a car we’ve wanted to drive for a long time – the Jaguar XE SV Project 8. The only problem was, we could only drive it for half an hour. Where many automotive websites would write a full review of the car and not let on that they drove it only for the same amount of time it takes to defrost dinner in the microwave, we believe in total transparency here at YesAuto. That’s why we’re bringing you the five things we learned from our 30 minute spin.

The Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is 300-run special edition based on, you guessed it, the Jaguar XE saloon. As you might expect for a project from JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations division it bears little resemblance to the regular XE, which is why it commanded a £150K price tag when it was released in 2017. It’s fitted with a 5-litre supercharged V8 engine which produces 592bhp, plus there’s a Track Pack which removes the rear seats and fits a roll cage, all of which makes it the most extreme road-going car Jag has ever produced. Make no mistake: this is a track car with some last minute tweaks made to qualify it as road-legal. Here’s what we learned.

Despite being engineered for the track it handles roads surprisingly well

We were fully prepared to lose every one of our fillings during our test drive, and we had our appointments books at the chiropractor. But actually the Project 8 isn’t as nearly brittle on the roads as we expected. While the damping is incredibly firm even in Comfort Mode - it’s ready to go racing in all drive modes - it doesn’t crash over bumpy potholes as much as it pogos over them. Sure, you would find it a little tiring to drive long distances every day, but certainly not impossible.

It sounds like the end of days

Just like the Jaguar F-Type R which uses the same engine, the Project 8 makes a noise which could make God himself stop what he’s doing and pay attention. Piped though quad titanium exhausts, when the noisy button is engaged this car is probably makes the sweetest noise of anything you can buy for the road.

It grips superbly

We recently drove a BMW M2 Competition on Cup 2 tyres. On a wet and cold day. It was frightening. We spent the day trying to persuade the back of the car to not overtake the front, which is what you would expect with so much power on the rear axle and track-orientated tyres. But in the Project 8, with the same tyres, it was a different story. This is mainly down to the fact it uses an intelligent AWD system, but it would be good to know as an owner you can drive it to and from a track day without having to pack multiple rubber. Note: we drove the Project 8 on a dry day.

Track Mode is actually a lot of fun on the roads

Even though we were driving on the road we needed to try Track Mode. That dials back the ABS, adds weight to the steering and sharpens up the throttle map. And, of course, knocks off the safety systems. We expected to be scared senseless by it, but the car is so well setup and balanced that it’s incredibly easy to control. We wouldn’t want to have to perform and emergency stop mind you, but we could get a frisson of four wheel drift out of it easily on an empty country road. The fact that it breaks traction so predictably and with so much communication, as well as trims itself back in line the moment you lift off the throttle, means it’s an easy car to drive hard.

We wouldn’t bother with the Track Pack

While it’s cool to have a car which comes ready-fitted with a roll cage, if we were lucky enough to be buying a Project 8 we wouldn’t go for the Track Pack model. This is supposed to be a super-saloon, and as such it needs to have some room for passengers in the back to scare the life out of in our opinion. The model we drove had the Track Pack so how much difference the weight-saving makes to the car’s behaviour we can’t tell you, but we suspect not enough to make it worth it.

Nick Francis

26 Dec 2020