First Drive: Jaguar’s XE SV Project 8 Touring is theatre on wheels
What is it?
The XE SV Project 8 is a limited-run, flat-out hardcore version of one of Jaguar’s most well-known saloon cars. It’s packing a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 and a set of dynamics which adhere it far better to a track than the motorway jaunts usually associated with the run-of-the-mill five-door on which it is based.
But the big wing and roll cage aren’t attributes that everyone wants on their performance saloon. That’s why Jaguar has released this – the Touring – which deletes some of the out-there styling characteristics while retaining the same earth-shattering performance. We’ve been out to see what it’s like.
If you thought that the standard XE SV Project 8 was limited in number – just 300 have been built – then things take another step towards exclusivity with the Touring, with just 15 created. As we’ve already mentioned the key feature of this model is the fact that it downplays the car’s performance, which could appeal to those who prefer their performance saloon to look a little more under-the-radar.
The performance hasn’t been watered-down at all either, though because that rear wing has been removed, the top speed is now a ‘lowly’ 186mph – down from the regular car’s 200mph.
What’s under the bonnet?
The Touring utilises a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 with 592bhp and 700Nm of torque. Together, that manages to push the Project 8 from 0 to 60mph in just 3.3 seconds and, as we highlighted earlier, flat-out it’ll manage 186mph. It’s helped by an all-wheel-drive system too, which aids management of all of that outright power. When it comes to gearing, that’s sorted by an eight-speed automatic ‘box. There’s a titanium exhaust system here too, which gives the Jag an even more raucous note.
There are continuously variable dampers too, an electronic rear differential and big, effective carbon-ceramic brakes. Jaguar really has thrown all of its performance know-how at the Project 8, and that does seem to be somewhat reflected in its astronomical £160,000 price tag.
What’s it like to drive?
The Touring remains largely unchanged over the standard Project 8, and that’s no bad thing. The experience is dominated by that engine; plant the throttle and you’re met with an otherworldly bellow as the car punches its way through the air in front of you. And because it’s supercharged, you’re only rewarded for the longer your keep the right pedal pinned.
But the Project 8 isn’t only accomplished on the straights. In the bends, the car’s stiff suspension combined with aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres mean that the car clings on. A by-product of this is that it’s quite jostly to drive on the road at low speeds, but that’s part and parcel with a car like this.
The eight-speed gearbox may not be the sharpest, but it switches cogs effectively enough. The seating position is also excellent; our car came with traditional leather seats, but we tested another regular Project 8 with carbon, fixed-back bucket seats – and we’d definitely choose the latter, as they’re by far the most supportive – even if they aren’t quite as padded.
How does it look?
The regular Project 8 is menacing, and the Touring version still has more presence than most sports saloons. The removal of the rear wing does reduce the look-at-me factor, but that’s the ethos of the model – it’s meant to be a performance car that doesn’t have to shout about it through looks.
The proportions are excellent too; the car has a strong, muscular stance without being overly large. The front section is particularly smart, with its swiss cheese-style air intakes giving it a distinct visual change over the regular XE.
What’s it like inside?
The interior of the Project 8 does, for the most part, resemble that of the regular XE – and that feels like a bit of a shame. Yes, it’s been garnished with plenty of carbon-fibre trim pieces, but mainly it’s regular Jaguar. We’d like to have seen the latest dual-screen infotainment setup fitted to other Jaguar Land Rover cars used here – particularly given the car’s six-figure price tag.
The rear seats are comfortable and spacious, and there’s a decent sized boot too – so this is a performance car that you really could use every day.
What’s the spec like?
The Project 8 gets all of the luxury items that you’d expect. There’s satellite navigation, air-conditioning and a full speaker system, all combining to help make a car which is comfortable to simply sit in and drive around like a usual saloon. As we’ve mentioned, the carbon-backed sports seats are the ones we’d be choosing if we had the option – they’re brilliantly supportive and actually help to make the car feel a little more special inside.
It doesn’t feel lacking in creature comforts but, as we’ve mentioned, it’s just not a cabin which feels all that special. Given the presence that the car has from the outside, it just seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Unfortunately, all Project 8 models are left-hand-drive only. Though some buyers may not be bothered by this, it is a bit of a pain in the UK – and it certainly does diminish the overall driveability of the car.
The Project 8 Touring is an attractive prospect. Certainly, any car with a close to 600bhp V8 engine under the bonnet and proper mechanical upgrades gets our vote – it just struggles when you consider it within a wider context.
Though it may be one of the more powerful cars in its segment, its limited number and left-hand-drive only layout mean that it won’t be the most attractive option for some. It’s a great showcase of what Special Vehicle Operations can do – we just hope that it trickles down into cars that more people can buy, and therefore enjoy.