Quick Drive: Jaguar XE SV Project 8
Jaguar’s mainstream range is full of pretty, premium cars that are nice to drive but largely quite unremarkable.
However, there’s a corner of the company that’s allowed to be a little unhinged. Special Vehicle Operations is where Jaguars go to unleash their wild side, and with the XE SV Project 8, we might just have the wildest creation yet.
You take one XE saloon and swap out most of the regular mechanical equipment with heavily uprated equivalents, then beef up the body work with flared panels, chunky bumpers and a massive rear wing to give the XE the looks that suit its performance.
Under the bonnet sits a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine making 592bhp – this is the most powerful road-going Jaguar ever made. It’ll go from 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 200mph.
It also has lightweight aluminium and carbon-fibre body panels, carbon ceramic brakes, a flat underbody and much, much more.
Our test car came equipped with the Track Pack, which sees you rip out the back seats to save weight and replace them with a roll cage, as well as swapping the front seats for race car-like buckets.
Climb inside and your brain does take a moment to compute what’s happening. You know you’re in a family saloon, but you have to lift your backside over the lip of a bucket seat that would normally cosset someone wearing a helmet and fireproof race seat out on a race track.
Once in position the seat is firm and rigid, then you look in the rear-view mirror and spot the roll cage where the kids and family dog would normally be. This ain’t no ordinary saloon.
Press the start button and the engine fires to life with a bark and you pull away with a jolt. At first it feels surprisingly serene, crawling through the car park at walking speeds. But as the speedometer rolls round there are further cues this is something a bit special – there’s little or no sound deadening, so you hear every stone ding off the underside of the car, and the steering is tight and direct, the complete opposite of a typical Jaguar.
With the sun setting and open roads ahead it’s time to unleash all that performance. Squeeze the throttle and there’s a surge of torque through all four wheels, the tyres momentarily scrabbling for grip on the cold, damp road.
It’s one of those performance cars that really punches you back into your seat once it hooks up. The acceleration is hugely impressive given the conditions, but the raucous sound from the engine completes the experience.
What’s most impressive is that it feels so sharp and secure in corners. On a cold December afternoon we don’t try to find the limit, but the steering is super responsive, making the car dart into a corner like a sports car despite being based on a large saloon.
The SV in its name stands for Special Vehicles, and after just an hour in the car it’s clear that it fully justifies that moniker. Just 300 will be made, all left-hand-drive, and Jaguar says it still has some available. If I had the £149,999 required, I’d be at the front of the queue.