- Available for £120,000
- 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8, all-wheel drive
- Most powerful road-legal Jaguar ever
- Pukka chassis means it handles brilliantly too
- The sound isn’t bad, either
- If you’re betting on Jaguar to fail, buy one now
If you asked a typical PHer to nominate the best format for a really serious performance saloon, they might very well say ‘something small with a really big motor in it, and probably all-wheel drive’. Or words to that effect.
So there was an understandable amount of hubbub, and not just in PH circles either, when a couple of months after its announcement in May 2017 Jaguar’s Special Vehicles Operations outfit took the XE SV Project 8 for some demo runs at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2017.Suitably impressed by its V8 blare and outlandish looks the Goodwood clientele made it Showstopper of the Festival ahead of the Koenigsegg Agera RS, AMG GT R, Ford GT and two entrants from Aston Martin, the Vulcan and Vantage AMR Pro.
You could see why too. It was well mad. In simple terms SVO had bolted Jaguar’s hairiest motor – a supercharged, intercooled, titanium active exhausted 600hp version of the 5.0-litre AJ-V8 – into an all-wheel drive version of Jaguar’s smallest vehicle, the XE.
The result was the most powerful road-legal Jaguar ever. There was a bit more to it than that though. Jaguar reckoned the Project 8 was also the most agile and extreme performance Jaguar road car ever. Carbon fibre was used without fear or favour in the body panels and aero parts, which included a road-scraping front splitter and a sky-scraping rear wing which created 122kg of downforce at 186mph. Front and rear tracks were widened by 24mm and 73mm respectively and top-shelf Bilstein adaptive dampers were fitted, giving the car the facility to drop by 15mm for the track. There were also new anti-roll bars, billet suspension knuckles and F1-style silicon nitride ceramic wheel bearings, an industry first for road cars. Huge carbon ceramic brake discs clamped down on model-unique 20-inch wheels fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
With all this lot in place, Jaguar’s agility claims were amply backed up when the P8 claimed the production saloon car lap record at Nürburgring at 7min 21sec. For comparison, that was seven seconds faster than a BMW M4 GTS and four seconds quicker than the next quickest four-seater, the Mercedes-AMG GT63 S. Jaguar then put some Pilot Sport Cup 2R tyres onto the P8. That chopped another three seconds off the Ring time.
Technically, the Ring car was a ‘production intent’ prototype rather than an official production model, and some might quibble about the definition of ‘production model’ when just 300 of them were going to be hand-built at SVO’s Tech Centre in Coventry for a worldwide audience. Whatever, by 2018 the car also held records at the Dubai Autodrome and at Laguna Seca in California.
More importantly for owners (as opposed to hired hotshoes) the Project 8 felt utterly brilliant not only on just about any racetrack but also on most public roads. The chassis was a cracker. Press folk found this out when they got their hands on pre-production cars in the early summer of 2018, at which point prospective owners were being encouraged to sign on the dotted line and fix their specs.
Another thing that needed no fixing was the power. Independent dyno testing showed that the P8’s claimed 600hp actually peaked in good atmospheric conditions at around 620hp, a number that gave credibility to the claimed top speed of 200mph.
In normal trim the Project 8 had four seats, the two front Performance ones being mounted on lightweight magnesium frames. A £10,000 Track Package that wasn’t available in the United States replaced the rear seats with a harness retention hoop and the Performance front seats by proper carbon fibre racing buckets with four-point competition harnesses. This Package cut a little over 12kg off the overall weight, but you were still in command of a saloon weighed 1.75 tonnes.
The UK starting price for the P8 was a testy £149,995. Perhaps unsurprisingly at that price, and bearing in mind that they were all left-hand drive – necessitated by the positioning of the electronic power steering system once the bulkhead and brake pipes had been shifted to accommodate the engine – even with only 300 due to be built some cars were sticking around showrooms. To unlock some more buyers, in mid 2019 Jaguar launched a 15-off run of more discreet Project 8 Touring cars which didn’t have the Track Package option or the adjustable rear wing. Instead, they had a less shouty bootlid spoiler and a new front splitter to rebalance the downforce. Just to be on the safe side the top speed was limited to a still media-friendly 300km/h, or 186mph in real money. The price was unchanged at a fiver short of £150k. We’re not sure how many Tourings were sold but Project 8s in general were still hanging around in UK showrooms by spring 2020, with Jaguar planning to hold SVO driving event days in an effort to unload them.
The number of Project 8s on sale at any given moment rarely exceeds half a dozen, but even so these prices seem a bit hopeful. Today, Project 8 used prices are slightly weird. You’ll see a low-miler at over £150k and assume that’s because it’s a Track Pack car, but then you’ll also see ‘regular’ non-TP examples with all their saloon innards intact also being advertised at the same £150k-plus. As of the end of 2022 the good news was that you could also find four-figure mileage cars in the UK at under £120k, or maybe less if you look abroad, given that they’re all left-hookers. If you wait a little longer they might well drop further. More on that at the end of this piece.
SPECIFICATION | JAGUAR XE SV PROJECT 8 (2018-20ish)
Engine: 5,000cc V8 32v supercharged?
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive?
Power (hp): 600@6,500rpm?
Torque (lb ft): 516@3,500-5,000rpm?
0-62mph (secs): 3.7?
Top speed (mph): 200
Weight (kg): 1,745
?MPG (official combined): 25.7
?CO2 (g/km): 254
Wheels (in): 9.5 x 20 (f), 11 x 20 (r)
Tyres: 265/35 (f), 305/30 (r)
On sale: 2018 - 2020?
Price new: £149,995?
Price now: from £120,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE AND GEARBOX
The Project 8’s 600hp supercharged 5.0-litre V8 wasn’t exactly a new kid on the block. The preceding Project 7 of 2013 had run the same motor in a 550hp state of tune, and plenty of other non-Project Jags had been rocking it in one guise or another for what seemed like ages, so from a surprise and delight perspective you could say that the drivetrain wasn’t earth-shatteringly exciting.
You couldn’t say it wasn’t just earth-shattering though, especially when it was hooked up to such a fine chassis as the Project 8’s. With 0-62 times in the three-second range and 0-100 in under eight seconds, all in a comfortable four-seat saloon – unlike the Project 7, which you more or less had to drive in a crash helmet – it was very much a case of if the powerplant ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
516lb ft might not seem a lot in the grand scheme of things but that amount of torque was available from 3,500rpm to 5,000rpm, resulting in an instantaneous and almighty step-off that took all the uncertainty out of overtaking on UK roads in a left-hand drive car. The 30-70mph lunge took well under three seconds. The eight-speed non-DCT ZF Quickshift automatic transmission was up for this, providing an addictive rasp on upshifts. The noise in general was soul-tradingly epic. Dynamic mode didn’t open the valve on the exhaust system: you had to manually switch it open, a nice design touch for more considerate owners.
The default power delivery was basically as much to the rear wheels as possible, with the fronts only being fed up to 30 per cent of it (we think, though some say 50 per cent) when absolutely necessary. The P8’s oil-cooled electronic active differential was an XE first.
It’s a strong drivetrain too. Historically these blown Jag V8s produce a fair bit of heat. Over time this can break down plastic coolant pipes. Rattling at idle can mean that the supercharger’s sprung drive coupler/isolator is on the way out.
The official average fuel consumption of 25.7mpg was perfectly achievable in everyday use and over 30mpg on a longer run at sensible speeds was by no means unusual, quite amazing really considering the performance. There again if you booted it everywhere you’d be getting scarily close to single figure mpgs.
Annoyingly, there’s no information on Jaguar’s website for servicing costs, whether it’s for a Project 8 or a bog standard XE. We couldn’t find any independents advertising P8 servicing services either, which seems a bit strange. For a not very good comparison, an independent annual service for an XKR-S using genuine Jaguar parts should be in the region of £400-£500.
Although the Project 8 is too rare for us to be able to make any definitive statement on its longevity and reliability, the components used (especially in the chassis and bodywork) were top quality, and so far at least there are no skeletons that we’re aware of to warn you about.
The regular XE’s double-wishbone front and Integral Link rear suspension gained 450 per cent stiffer springs on the P8 along with manually adjustable aluminium Bilstein adaptive dampers which offered a 15mm lower ride height for track use. There upper control arms were also adjustable for camber setting.
The car ran on staggered-width 20-inch wheels shod with specially developed Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, which sounds like a guaranteed recipe for chiropracty, but once you’d moved into speeds that weren’t low – when the P8 was quite prone to following road imperfections – the Project 8 made maximum use of Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics system and of its additional Track mode. If you could get past the car’s slightly overwrought appearance in non-Touring guise it was a brilliant road weapon.
Turn-in from the electrically assisted steering was wonderfully accurate, damping and body control were superb and the flow of comms from the road surface was more than adequate. For hooliganistic purposes, the assurance of the all-wheel drive combined with the grip of the Cup 2 tyres meant that few cars fired out of T-junctions more decisively than a Project 8, wet or dry.
The standard carbon ceramic brakes (400mm up front with six-piston calipers, 396mm rear) were in the higher-spec CCM compound. They played a handy part in retarding the Project 8 from extreme speeds while also allowing it to rotate nicely under braking.
Many of the regular XE’s aluminium body panels were replaced by carbon fibre items in the Project 8, the most significant items being both bumpers and the vented bonnet. In fact, only the door skins and roof were carried over from the standard car. The adjustable front splitter and rear wing were carbon. This mix made the Project 8 the lightest V8 saloon in Jaguar’s range.
The car came in a choice of three standard colours, Fuji White, Narvik Black or Caldera Red, or you could have one of five SVO Premium Palette colours: Valencia Orange, Velocity Blue, Meribel White, Verbier Silver and the satin matte Corris Grey. Effectively though, through the Bespoke side of SVO, you had access to 10,000 colours and various tri-coat, tinted clear coat, pearlescent and ChromaFlair finishes.
To the relief of some, the SVO and leaping-cat graphics were optional, but we’re not sure if that optionality also held true for the cheesy ‘No Step’ legends on some of the aero parts.
Project 8s didn’t get the facelifted XE cabin because SVO started work on the P8 before that refreshed XE came out. Still, they did get an Alcantara-wrapped wheel and a digital gauge cluster with navigation and a 10.2-inch TouchPro infotainment system. Options included an 825-watt Meridian sound system (up from the standard 380-watt system), a head-up display, smartphone and GoPro installation kits, traffic sign recognition, adaptive speed limiting, heated windshield, and a smoker's package – very Jaaag, and just the job while careening casually around Spa on a rainy day.
The regular Performance seats had full electrical adjustment and were very supportive. The carbon buckets in the Track Package had superior lateral clamping and were adjustable for height but only if you knew one end of an Allen key from the other. Luckily, the design of the Allen key made that easy.
You had to remember the XE’s position as the smallest Jaguar, but buyers who went for the non-harness-hooped Project 8 were pleasantly surprised by the amount of room in the back. Those who went for the hoop weren’t always quite so impressed by the squeaking that came with it, but that was normal for that sort of thing. There was always a fair bit of road noise in an P8 but the overall level of noise in the Touring models seemed slightly lower than in the more extreme versions.
Some of the interior carbon trim pieces had a hastily stuck-on vibe about them that was out of keeping with the value of the car. You might have thought the same thing about the non-LED headlamps and indicators, but with everyone running LEDs these days you could put halogen lighting just as easily onto the pro side of the P8 argument as onto the minus side.
The idea of a four-door saloon which could be bought with only two seats seems odd on paper. Thankfully, nobody drives cars on paper, so let’s just salute Jaguar’s SVO for so successfully hitting the Project 8 brief, a big part of which was to create a four-door saloon with the spirit of a Porsche 911 GT3 and the useability and attitude of an E46 BMW M3 CSL. Another crazy-sounding ambition, but there’s no arguing with the result of SVO’s endeavours as the finished product was a genuinely fabulous thing.
It’s a shame that a couple of glitches have so far prevented the P8 from being inducted into any automotive hall of fame you can think of. Alfa Romeo’s announcement of the Giulia GTA and GTAm in spring 2020 undoubtedly had a negative effect on the sales of the Project 8. We think that the total number of P8s sold from the 300 planned didn’t exceed 250, which seems unfair given that it’s now well over two years since the GTA was announced and more than a year since its preview drives, but still the £153,000 Alfa (or the £157,700 stripped-out GTAm) remains an elusive sight. Alfa’s PR line was that all 500 examples were spoken for by September 2021, but we’ve heard stories of GTA deposits being returned to buyers whose patience has run out.
Objectively, the Jag was more than a match for the Alfa. Although its all-wheel drive componentry made it more than 200kg heavier than the rear-drive GTA it was also 60hp more powerful than Alfa’s Ferrari-buffed 2.9 V6 twin-turbo. The claimed 0-62mph times were pretty much identical, but in an autobahn test the non-Touring models of the P8 would have had another 10mph in reserve when the Italian car had topped out at 190mph.
Crucially, on styling (possibly) and heritage (definitely) the XE model didn’t quite match the Alfa. For many potential buyers the leap of credibility they were required to make between a 2.0 diesel XE and the Project 8 was just too great to justify the extra cost. The hamstringing effect of this and of the GTA ‘spoiler’ announcement makes you feel a bit sorry for the SVO department who were only doing what they were told to do, i.e., turn out really special cars. The Project 8 firmly ticked that box. The transformation that SVO brought about on the XE, which was at heart a business exec’s runabout, was little short of staggering. They had to redesign the entire front end of the car to fit the V8 in and to make sure that the 20in wheels didn’t foul the back of the headlights. You wonder how successful the Project 8 would have been from a sales point of view if SVO had been based in a German manufacturer’s plant rather than in Jaguar’s.
The major difference between the Project 8 and the GTA is that you can buy used Project 8s. Right now the entry price is a little below £120k. That might drop further yet. There again, if the Jaguar marque disappears – something that’s being touted as a distinct possibility – could the Project 8 end up on a pedestal as the undefeatable high water mark of Jaguar sporting saloons, and the most powerful road-legal Jaguar in history? That would hike the prices somewhat. As things stand you suspect that the vast majority of the 250 or so that have been sold are being stored, which is a sad fate for such a fine driving machine.
Whatever, there were four P8s for sale on PH Classifieds in November 2022. None of the 15 Touring cars were up for grabs, and only one had the full Track Pack. This 2019 car in look at me green and with just 100 miles to its name was up for £154,995. The same money will buy this more sober non-TP example with under 200 miles on the clock but for a saving of more than £30k you might find this 2020 1,200-miler in the usefully stealthy Corris Grey matte paint quite interesting at £119,950. If you prefer blue you can save another grand by choosing this 8,000-mile 2019 car at £118,890.
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