by Sebastian Cenizo
When you set out to obliterate a record, the sky is the limit when it comes to cost, time, and engineering. The regular Jaguar XE is what we've reviewed as a disappointing, but still attractive, four-door sedan. Boasting the accolade of being the fastest four-door production car in the world, however, with a Nurburgring lap time of 7:21.23, the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is a little less disappointing. The record has since been re-broken, with around three seconds shaved off that astonishing time. With a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 producing 592 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, this all-wheel-drive rocket can accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 3.3 seconds. The eight-speed automatic gearbox that does duty in other XEs has been recalibrated to allow for even quicker shifts, allowing you to instill fear in each of your three travel companions (the Project 8 loses one seating position). However, with an eye-watering price that is nigh on $190,000, one has to really love the Jag to justify its purchase.
The SV Project 8 is an all-new model for 2019, but is based on the regular Jaguar XE. In order to be a record-breaker, a staggering number of changes have been made. These include bespoke carbon fiber body panels, lightweight forged alloy wheels, carbon-ceramic brakes, an adjustable front splitter, a flat underbelly with a functional rear diffuser, and a huge adjustable rear wing. That supercharged 5.0-liter powerplant also makes the Project 8 the only V8 XE on sale.
Telling the Project 8 apart from the regular XE is easy even for the most nonchalant and lukewarm car enthusiast. The entire body has been reworked, with swollen fenders, exaggerated side skirts, a unique rear diffuser, a quad-exit exhaust, and a massive carbon-fiber rear wing. The latter item can be swapped for a more subtle, fixed trunk spoiler if you get the Touring package. As standard, you also get a panoramic sunroof, and at the front, the LED headlights and signature center grille are the only normal parts of the car. The front fascia features a 'fading' grille with an adjustable carbon splitter below it. Specially developed and aerodynamically enhanced 20-inch forged wheels also help set the Project 8 apart.
The Project 8 has a menacing road presence and plenty of visual aggression that is enhanced by its dynamic proportions. From nose to tail, this super sedan measures 185.6 inches with a wheelbase of 111.6 inches. Width across the body, excluding the wing mirrors, measures 76.9 inches, while the ride height measures 56.5 inches in standard form. Thanks to adjustable coilover suspension, you can lower the ride height at the track for even better ground-hugging stability. However, this car is not as light as you may expect, with the all-wheel-drive system being responsible for a large chunk of its curb weight. This starts at around 3,847 pounds, although options can increase that somewhat.
The Jaguar XE SV Project 8 comes in four SVO Premium hues: a clean Meribel White, a menacing Corris Grey Satin, an eye-searing Valencia Orange, a BMW-esque Velocity Blue, and the classic British Racing Green. As standard, you also get the pouncing cat logo in a satin gray finish and stripes to complement it. We'd do without the gaudy decals, however, and the subtler Touring package, fortunately, does away with these, although you can spec them back if that's your style. However, more sedate colors are as standard: Fuji White, Caldera Red, and Narvik Black.
The Project 8 was developed with only one goal in mind: to be the fastest four-door production car in the world. To achieve this takes more than just a big motor, but you still need one. A 5.0-liter supercharged V8 has been shoehorned under the hood, producing 592 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The eight-speed automatic gearbox remains, but getting the power to the ground requires more traction than a rear-wheel-drive setup can achieve, so all-wheel-drive is there instead. Aiding grip are a set of specially developed Michelin Sport Cup 2 summer tires, while massive carbon-ceramic brakes, adjustable coilover suspension with adaptive dampers, and adjustable aerodynamic aids all contribute to the car's capability. 0-60 mph is achieved in just 3.3 seconds, with top speed achieved at the 200 mph mark. If you opt for the Touring package, that second figure drops to 186 mph. Unfortunately for U.S. buyers, the option of a rear-seat delete and the addition of a roll cage and lighter manually-adjustable bucket seats is not available. We also get a panoramic sunroof rather than the standard carbon roof that the rest of the world has access to, and, while this would be considered a nicety in more sedate automobiles, here it feels like watering down a race car for the sake of improving sales.
The only engine available in the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is a 5.0-liter supercharged V8. We have no complaints with that, as the mill produces a whopping 592 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. In addition, the engine benefits from stiffer mounts to reduce flex and provide better output through minimized drivetrain losses. But enough of the technical speak - the SV Project 8 sounds absolutely mental with active exhaust flaps open, and even in the cockpit with the windows closed, a fair amount of that lovely supercharger whine permeates the cabin. Pulling off from a traffic light or from a starting grid on the track will give you a massive shove in the back if you're too blasé about your throttle inputs, and as you're sucked into your seat and the scenery whizzes by at illegal speeds, the eight-speed automatic gearbox supplied by ZF keeps up effortlessly, shifting quickly and smoothly - with the latter quality a welcome contrast to the ferocity of the beastly engine. Naturally, you can shift gears yourself using the steering-mounted paddles too, allowing you to live out your fantasies of being a genuine racecar driver.
With so much emphasis on performance, it would be almost acceptable for the Project 8 to be completely devoid of any inclination to good manners. However, Jaguar fitted it with adaptive dampers too, allowing it to maintain a semblance of usability on the road. Typically, switching to Track mode will firm these dampers up more than their default setting does, but this is literally far too firm for anything but a glasslike surface. Unfortunately, even in its most laidback mode, the Project 8 wants to corner flat and just turn as quickly as possible, meaning that comfort has indeed been pushed to the wayside. On the plus side, the steering is direct and full of feel, the front tires communicating clearly through the sueded steering wheel. Braking is taken care of with a set of carbon-ceramic rotors that measure 15.7 inches in front and a fractionally smaller 15.6 inches at the rear. Reversing the effects of that insane engine is easy when you have stopping power like this, with good pedal feel and incredible response bringing the sports sedan to a stop quicker than expected. It's not all perfect, though, as throwing the Project 8 into a corner without first figuring out where the balance should be and overdoing the throttle won't result in the kind of predictable all-wheel-drive oversteer that a BMW product will exhibit, so understeer can be a problem if you're not prepared for it.
The Jaguar Project 8's greatest feat on the Nurburgring wasn't its lap time - the fact that it circuited the entire track without running out of fuel was even more impressive. Jokes aside, this is a heavy car, both literally and at the gas pumps, with EPA estimates of 16/22/18 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Premium unleaded is required, and with a 16.6-gallon gas tank, you'll be making some oil mogul even wealthier. Mixed range is estimated at just 298 miles, although it is justifiable considering that this is a 200 mph car.
If you're spending over $180,000 on a super sedan, you want to feel like you're sitting somewhere special. Although the Project 8 boasts features like magnesium bucket seats, a 12.3-inch digital driver display, and an 11-speaker Meridian sound system, the interior looks and, sadly, feels much like that of the regular XE, a car that has been lambasted the world over for failing to meet its luxury billing, with sub-standard materials and a very laggy infotainment system. The Project 8 is marginally better, with a greater spread of soft-touch materials and premium upholstery, but the difference between it and the regular model is not great enough for our liking.
The Project 8 is a four-seater. If that seems confusing, it's because the traditional three-seat bench in the back of the regular XE has been dropped in favor of two sculpted, bucket-like seats. Up front, two actual buckets with power adjustments cosset the front occupants. The seats are framed in magnesium and are quite supportive in the corners, although larger individuals may find the shoulder space a little confining. The driving position is good and the view out is not too bad, but once again, the back suffers with doors that are undersized and there is a minimal amount of legroom.
Carbon fiber, piano black, and brushed aluminum trim are the contrasting accent materials in the cabin, while Ebony leather with Alcantara inserts and Oyster contrast stitching adds a racy, but slightly upmarket, feel. However, despite there being suede material on the steering wheel and leather on most of the dash and the door card uppers, the overall ambiance is largely unchanged from that of the regular XE, and that is highly disappointing - not just because you expect exclusivity in a car of this price, but mostly because the regular XE is poorly finished and feels cheap. Some of the money spent developing this car really should have gone towards upgrading the interior.
Buyers of the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 will likely be just as unphased with what the car can carry as they are with its fuel economy. Nevertheless, should a cross-country blast be on the cards, these owners will be able to fit a decent amount of luggage in the trunk. Just as with the regular XE, trunk space is measured at 16.1 cubic feet, enough for four large suitcases. However, the opening isn't the best that the luxury sedan segment offers, and it can be tricky to load your stuff.
In the cabin, the door pockets are reasonably sized, allowing one to stow keys and the like, while a center console bin doubles as space for a pair of cupholders and as a spot for your phone or wallet.
Despite its racy aspirations and achievements, the XE SV Project 8 comes with a reasonable number of standard features that include things like a panoramic sunroof, heated auto-dimming wing mirrors, a 12.3-inch configurable driver info display, automatic LED headlights, remote access through Jaguar's app suite (only on Apple devices, however), adaptive dampers, park sensors, a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, and push-button start. Other advances are track-oriented and include a valved titanium exhaust system, an adjustable rear wing, adjustable front splitter, and adjustable coilover suspension. Variable drive modes are supplemented by features like a stopwatch, g-force meter, and digital gauges for brake and throttle input too. Options include adaptive cruise control with traffic-sign recognition and a heated windshield.
The XE SV Project 8 comes with a pretty high-end sound system - a Meridian 11-speaker setup that includes a subwoofer. It also features Bluetooth and USB connections, a Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, and HD Radio. Controlling all of this is an attractive, but dated and frustratingly laggy, 10.2-inch Touch Pro infotainment system with navigation. While you are likely to spend most of your time listening to the supercharger sing, it's a disappointment that a road car produced in the year 2019 still has such poor responses and is generally way behind the systems found in cheaper competitors.
The 2019 Jaguar XE range as a whole has been unaffected by recalls, but it may be worth noting that the 2018 model suffered two recalls. One was in late October of 2017 for an instrument cluster that would go blank and another was in February 2018 for a fuel leak in the engine compartment.
In terms of warranty, all new Jaguar models come with five years/60,000 miles of limited coverage, as well as complimentary scheduled maintenance, roadside assistance, and powertrain coverage for the same period.
No variant of the Jaguar XE has been crashed by the IIHS or the NHTSA, and with such a limited run of models, it is unlikely that this version will be the first to be willfully smashed.
As standard, the Project 8 shares some safety features with its lesser brethren, including airbags (frontal, side-impact, rear head airbags) and a rearview camera. Other features include parking sensors and automatic high beams. Optionally available too is an adaptive cruise control system with traffic-sign recognition and a head-up display. Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking is also an available feature.
The Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is going to take some time to explain when someone asks what you drive. Not only does it have a ludicrously long name, justifying a $187,000 British four-door that doesn't bear an Aston Martin badge is likely to be quite a difficult task. Let's start with the looks. Although this is subjective, you don't have to pay extra for a Touring package that tones down the boy-racer styling slightly. That aside, the interior is downright disappointing in almost every way. Yes, you get suede on the steering wheel and on the instrument cluster binnacle and door cards, but other than that, the Project 8 looks largely the same as a regular XE. The rear seats are almost useless unless your friends are all height-impaired, and the ride is firmer than the glass on the Tesla Cybertruck. The engine is phenomenal and the gearbox works brilliantly, and on a track, the mechanical grip is phenomenal, with lateral maneuvers dispatched with alarming efficiency. It's also a cool anecdote to be able to own a car of which only 300 examples are in existence; but for us, something a little less hardcore and a little more affordable seems the smarter choice.
The 2019 XE SV Project 8 is only available in limited numbers, and as such, Jaguar felt that a high asking price was feasible. The base price is a whopping $187,500 before a $995 destination charge. Although purchasing one requires an application process to be fulfilled, we suspect that a fully loaded model would easily exceed $200,000.
The XE SV is only available as a singular model, the Project 8. Under the hood lies a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 with 592 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Power is channeled through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and is distributed to all four wheels via an electronic active differential. The car rides on 20-inch forged lightweight wheels shod in super-sticky Michelin rubber, and carbon-ceramic brakes keep everything under control. As standard, an adjustable rear wing, extended side sills, and an adjustable front splitter are fitted, with each being fashioned from carbon fiber. Other adjustable bits include the coilover racing suspension which is kept in check by adjustable dampers. Out the back, an active titanium exhaust system exits on either end of a functional diffuser. A panoramic sunroof is also fitted to add some luxury, while the cabin features leather, Alcantara, and aluminum elements. Carbon fiber also features, as do a 12.3-inch digital driver display and a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system. An 11-speaker Meridian sound system provides aural pleasure when the motor is left to thrum in the background, and dual-zone climate control helps keep the interior temperatures well regulated.
5.0-liter Supercharged V8 Gas
While we don't know what all the Project 8's available features include, as only potential owners get to build the car, we do know that adaptive cruise control with traffic-sign recognition and a heated windshield are available. One of the more recent additions to the Project 8 offering, a package intended to help the hardcore racer sell better, is the Touring package, a no-cost option. This deletes the massive rear wing and the adjustable front splitter. In their place are a fixed trunk lid spoiler and a fixed carbon front spoiler to help maintain straight-line stability at speed. However, although acceleration remains the same, the selection of this option brings the Project 8's top speed down from 200 mph to 186. Only 15 of the 300-strong production run will be equipped with this package. As an aside, this package also removes the standard SVO decals, although you can opt to have them re-applied if you so desire.
Since numbers are limited and the price is lofty, prospective buyers will have to act fast if they want to get one of these special cars. If we had the funds and were so masochistic in our views of ride comfort that we were inclined to purchase one, we'd certainly opt for the Touring package if possible. The more restrained and slightly more subtle design would be welcome in conjunction with an iconic British Racing Green paint job. In addition, there are very few tracks where the top speed of 186 mph could be exploited, let alone the standard car's 200 mph. We'd also consider opting for the adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning add-ons, as replacing this car in the event of a crash would be near impossible.
The BMW M3 is discontinued for 2019 until the new model arrives, so its coupe brother, the M4 CS, is another car you can consider. Starting at $103,100, this sports coupe is one of Germany's finest machines. Powered by a 3.0-liter straight-six engine with two turbochargers, the Bimmer produces 454 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission handles gear changes, and all of the output goes to the rear wheels. Despite this, it's almost as quick as the Jag, dispatching the 0-60 mph sprint in 3.7 seconds. Top speed is limited to 174 mph, however, and the M4 CS has a Nurburgring lap time that lags behind that of the Project 8, managing it in seven minutes and 38 seconds. Nevertheless, this is the car we'd choose. It's far more comfortable, has a much more upscale interior, and it's a riot to drive - even when you're not at maximum attack.
Already one of the greats, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio has been lauded, not just for its gorgeous sheet metal, but for its astonishingly good performance. At a base price of $74,245, it's less than half the price of the Project 8. With a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6, it's naturally less powerful too, producing 505 hp, but its eight-speed auto sends power to the rear wheels, making it far more entertaining and fun to drive. The interior is awash with carbon fiber, Alcantara, and leather, and although not all of the materials are up to the standard set by German rivals, it's far more justifiable here because of its price. Also, it's Italian, and you can't help but forgive those olive oil fanatics for being absent-minded when finishing the car. Based on its looks alone, we'd take the Alfa, but with a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds and a frenetic top speed of 191 mph, the decision is even easier. The Jag may have all the boxes ticked, and it may be a faster machine, but it lacks soul.