Is the Jaguar XE Project 8 Touring the ultimate sleeper?
Jon is a British motoring journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of Auto Trader and Motor1 UK.
As jobs for DriveTribe go, “Can you go and drive a Project 8?” isn’t one you have to think about. What can I say folks, I’m a team player.
I may not be able to remember my mum’s birthday, but I can distinctly remember when the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 made its global debut at the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed. It was presented in the supercar paddock as a dynamic showcase for the company’s emerging Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division, and looked as if it had taken a wrong turn to Bathurst and leapt up the famous hillclimb in a cloud of vaporised Michelin to land in a flurry of YouTube superlatives. It was a brave move from a naturally cautious Jaguar that, only a few years previously, had decided to mothball the C-X75. Stop crying at the back.
The trouble is, once the vlogging circus had moved onto the next UNBELIEVABLE HYPERCAR!!!, potential customers were left looking at the answer to a question no one had really asked. The fastest car Jaguar had ever made was a £150k, 600bhp rep-mobile.
Two years later and with an undisclosed number of the intended 300 units still available for sale, you could argue this supercar-grade saloon hasn’t been the runaway success Jaguar’s product planners were expecting. This may explain why the P8 has recently been spotted beating its own Nurburgring lap record (7:18:361) and why a few selected titles were invited by Jaguar to come and have another play. We’re pleased they did.
Sat in the midday sun outside Caffeine and Machine, you’re reminded at what a Herculean engineering overhaul was required to drop a now incongruously old school powertrain – are we still allowed to talk about V8s in public? – into a middling compact executive saloon. So much so, that it’s only the front doors and roof that have been carried over from the standard car.
The headlights have been pushed 15mm further forward to accommodate the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 and 265-section Michelin front tyres. The spare wheel has been removed to make space for a new titanium exhaust system, an intelligent centre differential that’s constantly moving traction between all four wheels and an electronically controlled rear differential.
There is motorsport-inspired suspension with a main spring and helper spring, carbon brakes and ceramic wheel bearings designed to improve hub stiffness. There are aluminium uprights machined from billet aluminium, rose-jointed top mounts and a solidly mounted rear subframe, all helping keep the car’s mass in check. And there is quite a bit of mass: 1742kg.
Today, the anything-but-standard, standard Project 8 and P8 Track Pack – this deletes the rear seats, adds half a roll cage and a pair of carbon bucket seats to shave 12kg – are joined by a new Touring version. Limited to 15 units, it’s a sticker free lesson in stealth-wealth dressing, aimed to improve usability with the omission of that park bench for a rear spoiler and extendable front splitter (the two devices work like an aero tag team). If you can find a straight long enough, the Touring version of the Project 8 will hit 186mph to the original car’s 200mph. You’ll get over it.
Don't think about the mahoosive numbers. What matters is what happens when you unleash those numbers
The V8 engine remains unchanged and formidable. Sink the shiny aluminium pedal into the bulkhead and watch the speedo display unprintable speeds as the car grips incessantly and catapults you into the horizon. We didn’t pack our road-testing diagnostic geekery, but the 0-62mph time of 3.3 seconds feels entirely believable. The bassy tenor-like roar and metallic, supercharger-infused top end will also be loud enough to convince people in Lancashire that Quadrilla have started fracking again.
Yet beyond the performance, it’s actually the way the Project 8 rides and handles that is the standout achievement here, and this is without any ‘for a fat lad’ caveats. With so little compliance in the chassis, the car is able to respond immediately to any steering input and it really is four-door GT3 good. Meanwhile the damping offers quite a rounded edge to any impact and the overall set-up seems to be the perfect balance of rebound and compression, with front and rear axles rising and falling as one. Proof, if it were needed, that sports cars do not have to ride badly to be perceived as sporty.
Even better news is the fact that the Project 8 delivers the same agility and response at 20mph as it does at 120mph, so you always feel a connection from behind the (left-hand-drive only) wheel and nothing but complete confidence. More confidence brings more speed and more fun. And it’s all delivered with seats in the back, coffee cup holders in the front, great all-round visibility and an infotainment system that… ok, the infotainment system is still a bit rubbish.
Turn your speakers up...
A limited edition curio for the collector the Project 8 may be, but it’s one that deserves to be celebrated and deserves to be on the driving bucket list.