Jaguar XE SV Project 8 (2020) review

  • Just 300 Project 8s will be built
  • 600hp and 700Nm make this an AMG-beater
  • Hugely fast, bags of fun, highly exclusive

We've separated this one off from the main review as it's so different to the rest of the Jaguar XE range. Following on as the successor to the F-Type Project 7, the Project 8 transforms the XE into a highly-focused – and highly niche - performance saloon. At least 75% of the standard XE has been altered, with bigger brakes, a wider track, bespoke bodywork, sports seats and the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 from the F-Type SVR.

Here, it’s tuned up to 600hp and continues to use the eight-speed automatic gearbox. Just 300 examples will be made, with a set proportion of these available with the optional Track pack - this ditches the rear seats and replaces it with a half roll-cage - and 15 models in discreet Touring spec, which comes without the huge rear wing and keeps the rear seats.

The Project 8 is only available with left-hand drive.

Performance

The Project 8 and its 5.0-litre V8 from the F-Type SVR more than makes up for the lack of performance models lower down the XE pecking order. Tuned up to 600hp, this supercharged engine is the most powerful output of any Jaguar road car. Torque is rated at 700Nm and transfers its power through a rear-biased all-wheel drive system, taking 3.7 seconds to reach from 0-62mph.

The familiar eight-speed automatic is standard, which means the familiar pause when you want to get-up-and go is also sometimes here. Top speed is 200mph – although this drops down to 186mph on the Touring spec, in the absence of the large rear wing.

The XE SV Project 8 has not been tested under WLTP conditions and claims to achieve up to 22.5mpg. Expect the reality to be at least 10% than the quoted figure. The CO2 output under the NEDC system is quoted at 285g/km.

Handling and ride: Project 8 is a thriller

Jaguar Project 8 Touring handling 2019

With sharp steering, uprated suspension, a wider track and sticky tyres, the Project 8 is by far the most satisfying XE to drive. Considering the price difference over the next most expensive model, you’d hope so too.

The best news is that it doesn’t take very long to notice all the changes made to the chassis. Below 4,000rpm the Project 8 is actually quite a docile place to spend time in, but once above this threshold, the engine, noise and sharp steering all gel together as it gets into its stride - at which point this XE SV feels far more alert.
This encourages you to drive faster and it rewards you for doing so on fast-sweeping roads or on a track.

Head down a tight country road and it’s here where you might just want a little more steering feedback and a little less kerb weight. But there’s so much grip available, the Project 8 always feels faithful to you – it simply just goes where you want it to, but on a highly caffeinated level of response in comparison to the regular saloon. The carbon ceramic brakes also do an effective job of bringing this saloon to a stop.

A usable level of comfort

Given the Project 8 is no ordinary XE, the notion of using it more often than just the weekends isn’t actually that far-fetched. The uprated suspension setup maintains a ride quality that soaks up bumps beautifully, but the stiffened-up chassis at the rear can produce quite a thump when going over speed bumps. Also, driving on road surfaces with small repetitive bumps can throw you and your passengers up and down in a laughable fashion - just to remind you about the angry soul lurking beneath that flared bodywork.

Road noise is ever present, otherwise refinement is also good. Of course, the supercharger whine, V8 engine and loud exhaust is quite prominent in the cabin, but at least these theatrical noises are the ones you’d want to hear.

There’s a hint of vibration at low speeds, but the Project 8 is good enough for daily use, especially as a four-seater where it’s much quieter inside than the Track pack. The sports seats are also comfortable, but the Track pack comes with racing seats that don’t recline and have to be slid back and forth manually.

SV Project 8 offers a two seat version

Perhaps a positive aspect of the Project 8’s interior being largely left alone is that the level of interior space and practicality almost remains the same. You do lose the middle rear seat, making this a four seater, but there is the ability to negate carrying rear passengers altogether. Opt for the Track pack and this removes the rear seats completely and replaces them with a half roll-cage. There’s also a fire extinguisher for added safety.

As Jaguar’s SVO department began work on the Project 8 before the facelift, the cabin misses out on the latest updates. The biggest compromise the driver makes is having to sit on the left hand side.

Jaguar XE SV Project 8 (2020)