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Best of the Breed: 2018 Jaguar XE SV Project 8

When the Jaguar XE was first released in 2015 initial reviewers were wondering how well it would fare against the German benchmark BMW 3 Series. As it turned out the standard XE had excellent handling dynamics, exemplary steering feedback, and well sorted body control. The British newcomer was so good at taking corners it was almost enough to forgive the uncooperative navigation system and annoying noise intrusion. This lack of polish showed a level of refinement not quite as cohesive as a car like the Mercedes C-Class or Audi A4. But now, with the Jaguar XE SV Project 8, those issues are irrelevant.

The objective of the Project 8 is just like the F-Type Project 7. Make it faster, louder, better looking, better handling, more aerodynamic, and most importantly - more special. To do that, Jaguar is reigning in the same engine used in the Project 7 with an added layer of chili powder. Under its sculpted carbon fiber bonnet the Project 8 is home to a 592 hp and 516 ft-lb 5.0-liter Supercharged V-8. Approximately 25 more horsepower than the last project - crowning this XE as the fastest road going production Jaguar.

Sitting close by is its ZF 8HP 8-speed automatic transmission that Jaguar calls Quickshift along with Jaguar's own transfer-case style all wheel drive system. An electric differential with its own oil cooler resides on the rear axle enabling each wheel to maintain traction on most hairy conditions. Killing speed, if you ever want to, is realized by a set of Carbon Ceramic Brakes (Another Jaguar first). These brakes are not like the Carbon Ceramic Matrix sets used on the F-Type Project 7 as these are lighter while providing the same kind of fade resistance and pedal feel as the CCM. The discs are 400mm and 396mm in size with 6-piston fixed aluminum calipers on the front and 1-piston sliding calipers in the rear.

Putting the hammer down in the Project 8 will send you from 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds eventually leading to a top speed of 200 mph. If you hadn't guessed already, this is the fastest accelerating Jaguar. The heightened performance is aided by widened tires, retuned suspension, and Silicon Nitride Ceramic wheel bearings. Jaguar denotes the SNC bearings as F1-style wherein the hard bearings supposedly reduce contact with the hub, thus lowering rolling resistance.

265/35 ZR20 and 305/30 ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires replace the fickle Pirelli P-Zero rubbers found on the standard car. The Project 8 uses SLA suspension in the front with multi-links in the rear, but the engineers have added stiffer adjustable coil springs next to a continuously variable shock absorber. This drops the ride height by 15mm in track mode provided you can tell the difference.

Despite the thicker front and rear driveshafts, larger engine, and bigger wheels, the Project 8 is the lightest V-8 sedan Jaguar has ever made at 3,847 lbs. It may not look it, but nearly every aluminum body panel has been reshaped or replaced for weight saving measures. In the front, for instance, the entire front bumper has been molded in carbon fiber to give the 9.5 x 20 wheel more clearance in the wheel well. This lead to Jaguar lengthening the car slightly while finding a new place for its Xenon headlights to fit. On the lower side, the grilles has been enlarged with upsized coolers behind while a two-position carbon fiber front splitter rides just above the deck.

Underneath, Jaguar gave the Project 8 a smooth underbody flanked by carbon fiber side skirts. Wider aluminum flared wheel arches reside further aft of the XE, with a reshaped carbon fiber rear bumper and diffuser cleaning up turbulent air. The arches are extended by 55mm for its 11 x 20 rear alloy wheels. On top of its new aluminum trunk the Project 8 is pushed down by a two-position carbon fiber rear wing generating 269 lbs of downforce at 186 mph (When the splitter and wing are in track mode).

Jaguar says the splitters and underbody reduce lift by 205% so its grip should be good enough to reposition some of your organs in a hairpin turn. If the cornering performance doesn't make your hair stand on end, its exhaust will. The quad-exit exhaust running through the diffuser is built from titanium and uses flaps to deliver all the cracks and bangs that make car lovers' spines tingle.

Inside the cockpit Jaguar shows how they throttle the line between a racing and luxury car. For human comforts, the XE possesses a 12.3" digital gauge cluster, 10.2" center console touchscreen, 3d map navigation, visible accelerometer readouts, LTE with wifi connectivity, climate control, 11 speaker Meridian sound system, USB ports, and Bluetooth. The XE doesn't have Android Auto or Apple Carplay but it does support apps available on both phone types that allow you to control the car like checking gas levels, lock, unlock, and preset interior temperatures.

At its base, the Project 8 is equipped with magnesium-framed leather and Miko suede front bucket seats. Countries that aren't in North America can order the Project 8 with a Track pack featuring carbon fiber front racing seats, 4-point harness, rear harness retention hoop, and deleted rear seats (saving 12.2 kg or 26.8 lb). There's also a 1 of 300 plaque so 298 owners can see how they missed out on the best numbers.

All Jaguar XE SV Project 8 cars will be hand built at the Special Vehicle Operations facility in Warwickshire, UK. The 3-acre research, development, and personalization center contains 4 state-of-the-art painting robots which allows clients to choose from 10,000 different colors or paint match any color they desire. Additional options provided by SVO involve changing colors on the brake calipers, grille surround, side mirrors, aero parts, plaques, and decals.

If you wish to acquire this wonderful car, it's too late. Jaguar plans to make 300 XE SV Project 8s, and by the time you read this they've all been spoken for. Its starting price in the UK--not that it matters now--is £149,995. Jaguar will also build the Project 8 only as left-hand drive models. Of all the colors to choose from, Jaguar can color me impressed.