The Spinal Tap Jaguar
This one goes all the way to 11. The most powerful, most track-focused Jaguar road car in history packs a 591-hp punch and a 200-mph (322-km/h) top speed and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.3 seconds. It has fenders teased out wide over gumball tires, a rear wing borrowed from a small plane, and it sounds like an earthquake when you fire it up. Hand-built by the crew at Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicles Operations, the 2018 Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is the very definition of a factory hot rod.
Building Project 8 is more than just bolting on a few choice go-faster goodies, however. SVO engineers say 75 percent of the muscular Jag sedan, from body to suspension to engine to interior, is unique. “This is the car to make our reputation,” says SVO boss John Edwards with a broad grin. Think of it as Jaguar Land Rover’s take on the legendary AMG Hammer.
Project 8 starts life as a Jaguar XE sedan aluminum body shell. Only the roof panel and the front door skins are left unchanged: A new bodyside stamping and new rear door skins incorporate 2.2-inch flares over 305/30 tires on 20-inch rims. Carbon-fiber front fenders feature 0.75-inch flares, and the headlights have been moved half an inch farther forward to ensure clearance in the wheel wells for the 20-inch rims and 265/35 tires. The carbon-fiber hood is vented to extract hot air and to reduce pressure buildup in the engine compartment at high speed.
The front bumper, adjustable front splitter, side skirts, rear bumper, and rear diffuser are also all made from carbon fiber, helping make the 3,847-pound (1,745-kg) Project 8 the lightest of the current lineup of V-8-powered Jaguar sedans. And they’re not just there for show: In addition to these aerodynamic tweaks, the Project 8 has a reprofiled trunk floor to help make the rear diffuser more effective, and the angle of attack of that giant carbon-fiber rear wing can be made more aggressive for track work. With the wing and the front splitter in their track settings, SVO claims the Project 8 generates 269 pounds (122 kg) of downforce at 186 mph (299 km/h).
Like the aerodynamics, the Project 8’s suspension can also be manually tweaked for a day at the track, thanks to adjustable spring platforms that allow the ride height to be dropped 0.6 inch. Other changes to the suspension include new SVO-designed billet steering knuckles with Formula 1-style silicon nitride ceramic bearings up front that reduce mass and friction, while the rear upper control arm assembly features ball joints rather than bushings to increase stiffness and stability.
Project 8’s carbon-ceramic brakes are another first for Jaguar. Designed for higher performance than the carbon-ceramic matrix units fitted to the Jaguar F-Type SVR, the front rotors, which are clamped by six-piston calipers, measure 15.8 inches while the rears are 15.6 inches. The system uses motorsport-grade brake fluid, and it can independently brake the inside wheels of the car during cornering to help turn-in response.
The 591 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque delivered by the 5.0-liter engine under the hood shows the bandwidth of Jaguar’s supercharged V-8. All that extra grunt—the most generated by any Jaguar road car engine—has been achieved with minimal engineering changes: A unique air intake system, fed by ducts in the front bumper, and a new free-flowing titanium exhaust with four 3.5-inch tailpipes has enabled SVO engineers to get more air through the engine more rapidly and recalibrate the engine management software accordingly. Peak power comes at 6,500 rpm, and maximum torque is available from 3,500 rpm to 5,000 rpm.
Transmission is the ZF eight-speed automatic long used by Jaguar, but it’s been tuned to deliver shifts in as little as 200 milliseconds and to shift nonsequentially—going directly from, say, eighth to second under extreme braking. Drive is distributed to all four wheels via beefier driveshafts front and rear, and the rear axle is fitted with an electronic active differential that precisely monitors the torque distributed to each tire. To keep the diff cool during track days, an oil cooler is located in the rear diffuser.
Inside, air conditioning keeps the driver cool during track days. Project 8 might be a race-face Jaguar sedan, but it still has all the usual luxuries, though they’re all wrapped in carbon fiber, aluminum, and Alcantara activewear. Project 8 gets the top-end 12.3-inch TFT digital instrument pack, but the top of the instrument binnacle and the dash is covered in Alcantara to reduce reflections in the windshield and the 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment system has been upgraded to display stopwatch, G loadings, acceleration, and braking graphics. The XE sedan’s standard rotary PRNDL controller has been replaced with the sportier pistol grip unit used in the F-Type. A 380-Watt Meridian audio system is standard, though most owners will probably prefer to listen to the thundering exhaust note instead.
In standard trim Project 8 is configured as a four-seater. The standard XE rear seat has been reprofiled to provide snug accommodation for two, while driver and front passenger are ensconced in Jaguar’s new magnesium-framed performance seats. In markets other than the U.S. and Canada, Project 8 will also be offered as a two-seater when customers order the Track Pack option. With the Track Pack, the front seats are replaced with even lighter carbon-fiber racing seats and the rear seat is removed, contributing to an additional 27-pound (12-kg) weight saving. The pack also adds a half rollcage, four-point racing harnesses, and a fire extinguisher.
Just 300 Project 8s will be built, and all will be left-hand drive, even those sold in Jaguar’s home market. The car is still undergoing final tuning and development, but Job 1 is scheduled to roll out of SVO’s new technical center near Coventry, England, in March 2018. No price has been announced for the U.S. versions, but in the U.K. this strictly limited edition, ultra-performance Jaguar sedan will cost the equivalent of $192,000 USD.