JAGUAR XE SV PROJECT 8 TOURING

THE TRACK-HARDENED

BY JAMES DISDALE

THE TRACK-HARDENED Jaguar XE SV Project 8 Ė claimed to be the fastest sedan around the Nurburgring Ė has not been quite as fast moving out of showrooms, despite there being only 300 of them. In an effort to shift the remaining 15, Jaguar has built this less-extreme road-biased version.

Still with 441kW and available only in left-hand drive, the big change is the aerodynamics, with the previous high rear wing replaced by a subtle lip. To balance it, thereís also a new splitter at the front. Oh, and the top speed has been pegged back from 320 to a mere 300km/h in deference to the resulting reduction in high-speed stability.

Essentially, itís the same bespoke machine, with a wide-arched body sharing only the roof and door skins from the standard XE. The double-wishbone suspension gets niceties such as recalibrated adaptive dampers and anti-roll bars, billet suspension knuckles and squidge-free ball joints. The 20-inch wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres.

Consequently, the Touring is pretty much the same as the track versions. Yet thatís no bad thing because, despite its circuit focus, size and weight, the XE SV Project 8 is an engaging and entertaining road car. Not only is it supremely fast and impressively poised, it delivers a sense of occasion thatís arguably unrivalled.

As a road car, it feels too stiff at first, and at low speeds follows every surface change, but the ride never gets crashy, the adaptive dampers rounding the edges of the worst imperfections. Get some load going through the car and, apart from on really lumpy surfaces, thereís just enough composure and suppleness to keep you connected and just about comfortable.

Grip from those gumball Michelins is immense in the dry, yet youíre always being given feedback; the electrically assisted steering is quick and precise, turn-in is extremely positive, and the all-wheel drive system strikes a fine balance between adjustability and security. This isnít a tail-happy machine, but thereís enough torque being sent to the rear to allow a combination of steering and throttle to adjust your line when youíre really going for it.

Project 8ís appeal is largely that powerhouse of a supercharged V8.

It delivers a startling turn of speed, pulling with demented conviction from almost any revs. Jaguar says the 0-100km/h sprint takes 3.3sec, and it feels that quick, even if the eight-speed auto lacks the speed and smoothness of the best dual-clutch units.

But itís the noise that really captivates, especially with the titanium exhaustís adaptive flaps fully open. Itís loud as it bellows and crackles away, but itís an authentic sound; if you donít burst out laughing with every artillery barrage-backed upshift, you need to be checked for signs of life.