Despite having been announced about 30 months ago, revealed to the world in the summer of 2017 and driven last year, there are still some of the 300 Jaguar XE SV Project 8s to sell. Everyone will have their own theories as to why this has happened - there are a few to discuss here - but this Touring Spec is essentially a new ploy to get a few more sold. Mechanically identical to every other Project 8, as you'll probably be aware, the Touring has a more subtle aero package that actually drops the top speed from 200mph to 186mph. And, er, looks cooler.
The Touring was never in the original P8 plan; instead it's said to be a response to customers who liked the car but found the exterior a bit... shouty. And well, if no spoiler is good enough on a GT car for Porsche Motorsport, it's good enough for Special Vehicle Operations.
That said, the Touring remains an incredible-looking thing; a sleeper of a sports saloon, something in the M5 or E63 mould, this is not. The arches, vents, slats and diffusers mean there's absolutely no danger of mistaking it for a regular D180. If anything the Project 8 now looks more muscular - as if the body were grappling to contain what's lurking beneath. Don't forget, either, the engineering effort that has gone into it: the headlights were moved forward to accommodate tyres, wider tracks necessitated entirely new rear doors to be made and 75 per cent of the rest of the body is bespoke to this car. Those dismissing it as some hot rod with a supercharged V8 plonked into an XE couldn't be wider of the mark.
Jaguar's driving event for the Touring also involves driving a 'normal' variant and a Track Pack. As a reminder of the 8's prodigious ability, the latter is an emphatic and hugely entertaining demonstration. It's a more raucous and intense sporting Jaguar than we've known, of course, but crucially never one that's excessively raw or jarring. The steering is more connected and weightier, yet never loses that feeling of consistent and faithful response - this is no flighty track weapon, and a world away from the numb, artificial systems that characterise so many sport saloons. The gearbox can be as serene as required, with its landmine of an engine relegated mostly to the background, just like any big, fast Jag. It's easy to imagine actually touring in one, even a Track Pack. Albeit just the two of you...
Special mention though must go to the suspension, and its infallible ability to retain total composure. On the road set up for the manually adjustable dampers (with spring 4.5 times stiffer than a regular XE's don't forget), the car does an astonishing job of keeping more than 1,700kg in check without totally destroying the ride comfort. Indeed there are far lighter cars than this that are both more agitated and with worse body control; it feels distinctly motorsport-influenced, with that seldom found quality of absorbing everything thrown at it, regardless of load, surface or speed, in one damper stroke, without ever becoming harsh. And without doing the aloof, magic carpet thing McLaren's were once accused of - the driver is definitely still part of this. That's some achievement on a four-door saloon.
Handily for the 15 buyers of P8 Tourings, what feels like 90-something per cent of that exhilaration, finesse and reward is there in the new car. Removing the cage means a fraction is lost in stiffness, though it's surely negligible. And it can be tough to make a case for a £150k, four-seat Project 8 - compare it to what that money buys you in two-seaters and things get very tricky, very quickly.
It's easy though to make an argument for the Touring being the most desirable of these mad XEs. Because while Special Vehicles have executed some phenomenal work transforming an XE, and even though that Nurburgring time feels eminently believable, and plus the fact Dan P raved about it from Portimao, it's track car cred doesn't quite stack up. The weight robs it of some immediacy and the gearbox isn't really sharp enough to rival the very, very best - which, let's be frank, is what's on offer at this money. As a saloon, it's supreme; bought purely as a two-seat track car, however, a McLaren 570S is better. An M4 GTS might be, too.
But as a four-door, four-seat rocketship for the road that can also monster a circuit? It's near enough perfect. Handily like it's 911 namesake from Porsche, by cloaking a car of rare talent in a more subdued bodyshell, the remit and expectations change - even if the experience is barely any different. Without the wing this XE is a car that might just run under the radar more easily than a Megane Trophy, yet has twice the horsepower. Which is fun. There's that same obscene soundtrack, one unmatched for blood and guts fury, the same unimpeachable brake power and same luxuriant sophistication to the handling, now in a sports saloon that can almost be considered a rival to the regular ones. Well, a hybrid Panamera Turbo is £138k - so nearly.
Which brings us, rather nicely, to the crux of the XE SV Project 8's issues. Subjectively and in isolation it's an utterly wonderful car: fast enough to make an M3 seem torpid, sufficiently engaging to make an M5 feel numb and with the sort of attitude coursing through it that means an E63 might as well be a diesel. Without any other concerns, it would be a delightful car to live with, balancing out being a Jaguar and being a formidable track car with considerable aplomb.
However, we all know it can't end there, as this remains a £150k Jaguar XE that's left-hand drive. It's easier to make a case when a Touring is one of 15 rather than one of 285 as the others are, though the fact remain that left-hand drive is a bit of a pain in the UK - especially with the visibility of modern cars - and consequently the experience doesn't linger quite as long in the memory as a £150k one should. Hopefully there are enough customers for whom that's inconsequential, and who will appreciate the collectible appeal (with 60-80 of the original 300 expected to stay here, that means a tiny amount of 15 Tourings), because this car proves the huge depth of talent Special Operations has to draw on - and should be remembered as such. One can only hope that future projects under their tutelage will be experienced by a few more buyers, and pitched to give the establishment a genuine contender - rather than immensely endearing sideshow.
SPECIFICATION - JAGUAR XE SV PROJECT 8 TOURING SPECIFICATION
Engine: 5,000cc, supercharged V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 600@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 516@3,500rpm
0-62mph: 3.7 sec
Top speed: 186mph
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