Jaguar’s Project 8 sedan costs a lot of money to look this cheap

The oversized spoiler and decals make it look like a Hot Wheels — but you’re going to love it

by HANNAH ELLIOTT/ pic by BLOOMBERG

USUALLY when I review a car, fleet managers just toss me the keys and wave goodbye. But with the 2019 Jaguar XE SV Project 8 — the reigning sedan champ for fastest lap time around Germany’s feared Nuerburgring track — I had some “best practices” emailed over as well.

— Please take extra care with the front splitter during street driving.

— Please be mindful of the carbon fibre front splitter when entering/exiting driveways and manoeuvring tight spaces and parking lots.

— The electronic Track mode is not recommended for street driving. This is specifically with regard to damper tuning in track mode, which you’ll find is much too firm for Southern California roads. [I test drove on the highways and byways around New York, but I got the point.]

— Please avoid driving the car in the rain, if possible. The tyres that are currently on the car are quite aggressive and are not ideal for wet roads. [“So you can’t drive the car in England?” my British other half quipped.]

— Finally, we ask that you please limit total driving to 300 miles (483km).

This is not your father’s Jaguar. It’s not even your grandfather’s Jaguar, which — let’s face it, considering the bad time Jag had with Ford Motor Co — is cooler than your father’s. In fact, you’d hardly guess it descends from what is arguably the most beautiful car ever made, the Jaguar E-Type, which somehow pulls off being elegant and sensual in the same breath.

No, this is the fastest road car Jaguar ever made. Even in “comfort” mode, it is super stiff to drive, dialled in to dominate the track more devastatingly than any other sedan on the market.

Only 300 will be made globally. Kid gloves required. The US$187,500 (RM788,444) Project 8 is special, even if it does look like a life-size Hot Wheels with a little too much, well, everything.

Even my favourite downtown valet, who usually applauds all of the cool things I bring in, said the electric “Velocity” blue paint job, “leaper” decals (the image of a big cat pouncing) and rear wing (you could eat a four-course meal off of) were a bit much for his refined tastes. By contrast, the uptown guy parked it front-and-centre outside the garage, “on display”, he told me proudly. To each his own.

Either way, the most important thing to know is that it’s not just conspicuous- consumption flair. Unlike numerous other “sports” cars whose fake air vents, plastic spoilers and front splitters protruding like augmented limbs promise a level of performance that the car could not approach, even with the most aggressive driver, the Project 8 has the right driving personality, performance and straight-up power to back up — and even justify — its outré mien.

Each of the things that make it look very boy racer actually serves a purpose.

The vent spanning the front portion of the hood, for instance, is necessary to help cool the massive, 592hp, 5.0-litre, supercharged V8 engine. Not only is the Project 8 the fastest production car Jaguar has ever produced, it’s also the most powerful. The engineers over there at the Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) Technical Centre in Warwickshire, England, achieve this dual magic by dropping their biggest engine into their smallest sedan, the XE.

With the 516lb-ft of torque, that engine power and its 3,890lb (1,764kg) body, the car feels blindingly fast to drive. The kind of fast that means your hands are shaking slightly when you get out. The kind that makes you forget there are two extra seats behind you. The kind that transports you into some video game movie where you’re the star of your own getaway, even if it’s only to the grocery store. It goes 0-60mph in 3.4 seconds — or 3.3 seconds with a “Track Pack” option (not sold in the US) — with a 200mph top speed.

Those obnoxious splitters? The spoiler’s angle can be fine-tuned either to reduce drag or to maximise downforce, depending on which the owner prefers on a given day. The carbon fibre hood, bumpers, fenders, side skirts, front splitter and rear spoiler are all forged onto the Jag’s lightweight aluminium architecture to keep weight to a minimum, which was crucial as the car went for its record-breaking run. It did the Nuerburgring Nordschleife track in a time of 7:21.23, which means nothing to us except that it beat the previous record, held by the Alfa Romeo Giulia, by 11 seconds and split the two lap times the 660hp Ferrari 488 posted, besting one of them.

The lap time alone wasn’t the sole objective of the car, says Jamal Hameedi, SVO engineering director, but setting that record with Project 8 proves its engineering and performance prowess, a seal of approval for the type of people interested in buying a relatively practical but totally dominant sedan. (But please don’t try this at home; Belgian test-driver Vincent Radermecker did it with a roll-cage installed for additional safety.)

The stiff, back-crunching chassis that made me wince, even over manhole covers? It’s a feature, not a flaw. The Project 8 uses motor sport-derived suspension and a modified all-wheel-drive system to maximise what the driver feels over every bump and corner, so you can respond quicker and more precisely. Damper mounts are ball-jointed to improve response, and there are two ride heights — one for the road and a lower setting for the track.

The two front seats that do nothing to mitigate those bumps? They are special lightweight, magnesium-framed performance seats that cosset you at the waist like a dancing partner preparing to lift you high — protected in their supportive stiffness.

As for that all-wheel-drive, the handling is biased toward the rear, which makes it feel like a proper sports car. That is, it’s superbly responsive and agile, with in-your-face levels of torque. Choose Track Mode — denoted by a racing helmet logo on the centre console — and proceed with caution.

Eventually you’ll have to stop and for that, you have the largest and flashiest brakes you can buy on a Jaguar: 400mm carbon ceramic discs with six huge piston calipers upfront, but they’re also light. They save the car almost 40lb over the conventional brakes used in the regular sedan version. And they come on special forged alloy wheels that are stronger and lighter than conventional cast alloy with unique carbon inserts inside that reduce drag.

For the Project 8, Michelin developed special Sport Cup 2 tyres that combine track-like grip with road-ready function. (As long as you stay out of the rain.)

As for that screaming blue paint? Well, you’re on your own for that.

Project 8 comes in three standard colours, five optional “SVO Premium Palette” colours, or any of 10,000 body and accent colours for things such as the brake calipers and decals made bespoke by the guys down at SVO. So yeah, you can have it in any colour you want. If it were me, I’d get it dark and stealthy and so unassuming that most people would have no idea what lurks underneath the hood.

The engine note might give it away anyway, especially if you push a button in the centre console that enhances the menacing roar of those pipes for maximum show. I’m just happy that with the Jaguar XE SV Project 8, the bite is even meaner than the bark.