I drove the Jaguar XE Project 8, a wild $188,000 British muscle sedan — here's what it was like


Jaguar Project 8

  • The Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is a very special British muscle car, produced in a limited run of 300 cars, selling for nearly $200,000.
  • It has a 5.0-liter, supercharged V8 that makes close to 600 horsepower and can propel the car from 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds, with a top speed of 200 mph.
  • I can vouch for the 0-60 time, but not the top speed. And there’s no doubt that the Jag’s V8 creates a joyful noise.
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When we think of British cars, the iconic ones, the mind turns to peppy roadsters and plush Rolls-Royce saloons. True, the history of raw English power was written by marques like Bentley, and these days, McLaren is no slouch.

But when it comes to a very large engine sending a car very fast in a more-or-less straight line, the Brits long ago ceded mindshare to its former colonies and their Yankee muscle.

Muscle cars are made by Chevy, Ford, and Dodge. The concept is brutal and simple: big motor, loud noise, rear wheel drive, tire smoke, hellacious linear speed. European cars, meanwhile, can go around corners.

That cliché sort of overlooks the fact that the muscle-car formula isn’t exactly top-secret. This means that Mercedes and BMW and Audi can produce what by the specs resemble muscle cars. What the Germans have done, the Anglo-Saxons can also do.

This notion was recently driven home for me when Jaguar let me borrow an XE SV sedan, Project 8 edition. Price? $188,495. Production run? No more than 300 worldwide, Jag said back in 2017 when the company unleashed the rare beast.

I quite liked the Jag XE, and the Project 8, from Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) wizards, sure looked good on paper — but it also looked intimidating. Was I ready for unbridled British sinew? Read on to find out.

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The Jaguar XE SV Project 8 was unveiled in 2017, in connection with the annual costume drama-speedapalooza-vintage-throwback-hootenanny that is the Goodwood Festival.

The XE SV Project has “SHOW CAR” written all over it, so I was a bit surprised when Jaguar said I could grab the vehicle for a few days. The vibrant blue paint job made the car stand out in my driveway.

My tester came bedecked in some leaping feline livery stickers. It also had racing stripes, a low-slung carbon-fiber front splitter, racing-spec Michelin tires, and …

… An adjustable rear carbon-fiber spoiler.

The whole point of the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is to take what starts out as a luxury four-door and up the ante so many times that you have a ferocious track warrior on your hands. Charmingly, Jag actually asked me if I might have plans to track this machine (I didn’t).

But if I had, I could have savored the sweet symphony of a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine that edges right up to 600 horsepower, with 519 pound-feet of torque, all piped through quick-shifting eight-speed automatic (with manual mode and paddles) to the Project 8’s surefooted all-wheel-drive system.

And I could have sampled all those things at their limit, or at least at the limit of my high-performance-driving capabilities.

Of course, although we have tested cars on racetracks, we don’t do it off the cuff. So I had to make do with tooling around the New Jersey suburbs in the Project 8. That was it’s own kind of fun. I did get in a few runs to New Jersey lake country, where I enjoyed the staggering power and bonkers acceleration of the machine: 0-60 mph in just over three seconds, with a top speed out there on the horizon of 200 mph.

The Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is a super-sedan all right, but the four-door platform means that one can convey three passengers — and stock up on groceries for a week!

In the end, I richly enjoyed my time with the Jaguar XE SV Project 8, but I also endured a revelation.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with me, but around the time I tested the new BMW M5, another magnificent super-sport sedan, I started to sour a bit on massive horsepower. Don’t get me wrong — the Jaguar XE SV Project is something close to pure joy when you cut it loose, especially in the full-on track mode that maximizes the lusty exhaust note.

On one drive, I had to constantly check myself as I rocketed to the legal speed limit and felt the Jag champing at the bit for more, more, more.

My 13-year-old son was unimpressed with my restraint and declared that the Project 8 would activate his infrequently visited outlaw side.

“If I had this car,” he opined, “I would go to some road in California away from everything and just speed.”

An understandable dream — and one that, in its everyday impracticality, highlights the problem of cars such as the Project 8.

You really can’t ever drive them as they were meant to be driven, which is to say fast and hard and without remorse.

More and more these days, although I admire what engineers can wring out of 100-year-old internal-combustion technology and four tires made of rubber — with no lack of carbon fiber thrown in — I want my sports cars to be, you know, sporty.

I mean, in that sense, something like a 332hp Nissan 370Z, with a straight V6, is plenty of automobile. And really, the sub-200hp Mazda Miata is plenty of ride. When you’re under 350hp, you can get into all of it on public roads and not worry about blue lights or a premature exit from our realm.

Obviously, if you drop close to $200,000 on the Jag Project 8, good on ya!

But I’d personally save many thousands and buy a car that I can drive fully. Although to be honest, I had a perfectly grand time chugging along at 25 mph in the Project 8, listening to its British muscle-car accent and not needing to drop the hammer.

In the end, who needs speed, I guess?