In-depth reviews

2019 Jaguar XE SV Project 8 review – saloon turned supercar

Jaguar's XE SV Project 8 takes a rather extreme approach to the supersaloon recipe than most, but has an equally extreme price tag to match

Evo rating
Price
from £149,995
  • Performance, poise and ability on track, usable on road, bombastic soundtrack
  • Cup 2 tyres struggle in the wet, a few levels above the usual saloon price point

Here is a supersaloon in the Lotus Carlton mould: big, bold and brawny, but able to deliver a sledgehammer hit of performance without sacrificing character and tactility at the altar of effectiveness. The ingredients may be similar to recent German efforts – V8 engine, all-wheel drive, sumptuous cabin – but it manages to feel like the project of passionate engineers rather than bean-counters.

That’s not to say the Project 8 is perfect; far from it. It’s horrendously expensive for a start, as well as being perilously heavy. As parent company JLR struggles in several markets, the emergence of Project 8 does have a worrying ‘dying days of MG Rover’ feel to it too, but it’s reassuring to know Jaguar can still surprise us now and then.

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> Jaguar XE review

More recently, Jaguar has followed up the original Project 8 with the Touring variant – mechanically similar to the caged, bucket-seated car that arrived first, but shorn of its rear wing and with full cabin trim. It’s perhaps the best expression of Project 8, more in keeping with Jaguar’s long-standing values but every bit as potent and engaging as the more track-focused car.

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Jaguar Project 8: in detail

  • Engine, transmission and technical details – The most powerful development of JLR’s 5-litre supercharged V8 yet. Aluminium and carbonfibre construction has supposedly helped keep weight down – who knows how heavy it’d be without it…?
  • Performance and 0-60 time – Powerful engine, effective all-wheel-drive system and easy eight-speed auto make for a car with blistering pace.
  • Ride and handling – Rides in the manner you’d expect of a Jaguar sports car, and despite considerable mass has surprising agility. A better road car than track car, though it’s certainly not bad on a circuit.
  • MPG and running costs – Expect fuel bills to be huge and tax rates not much better, but as a specialist performance car, relative lack of use should keep running costs down.
  • Interior and tech – XE cabin trimmings don’t quite tally with the huge price tag, but the seats are excellent and the option of a rear cage a fun if incongruous touch.
  • Design – A mixture of class and brutality from some angles, and a distinct lack of elegance and taste from others, but compelling all the same.

Prices, specs and rivals

We’ll just blurt this out: £149,995. That’s a lot, and is perhaps at least partly behind the Project 8’s relatively slow sales so far. It’s not that the Project 8 doesn’t deliver in terms of performance, more that similar money gets some deeply desirable cars from elsewhere in the automotive spectrum, and a Jaguar XE – no matter how much development has gone into it – will always struggle to compete with true exotica.

You can, for instance, get a Porsche 911 GT3 for around £141,000, and if your dream Project 8 is in Track Pack spec, then the two-seat Porsche with its own rear cage is little less practical but even more of a thrill.

If a British badge and greater comfort are required, then the £163,000 McLaren GT, £120,900 Aston Martin Vantage and £159,100 Bentley Continental GT must all be in the running. None are as overtly exciting as the Jaguar, and the Jag’s rarity make the vagaries of future values a mystery, but all are accomplished driver’s cars with arguably more badge appeal.

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