Having wasted the early 2000s building soft, wallowing luxury cars for retirees, a healthy injection of Tata cash has given Jaguar a new lease on life. Along with efficient family cars designed to steal sales from the Germans, the SVO team is flexing its muscle with cars like the XE SV Project 8. With just 300 examples to be built, the Project 8 is officially the most powerful production Jaguar in history.
The regular XE S, which we drove and loved last year, wasn't exactly down on power. With 250 kW (335 hp) from a supercharged V6 and a lively rear-driven chassis, it's all the sedan anyone could ever really need. But need and want are two very different things, and there are clearly people who wanted an XE capable of knocking the world off its axis with sheer tire-frying power.
That power is provided by the most powerful iteration of the company's supercharged 5.0-liter V8 we've seen. It puts 591 hp (441 kW) of power to the road through all four wheels, and makes the car capable of dispatching the 60 mph (98 km/h) sprint in just 3.3 seconds. Top speed is 200 mph (322 km/h), making this humble four-door sedan faster than the range-topping F-Type SVR launched last year.
There's a very good reason this four-door sedan is quicker than a two-door sports car. Like the F-Type Project 7 launched in 2014, the SV Project 8 is designed to push the boundaries of what's possible in production sports cars, and won't be mass produced. Just 300 will be hand built, all of them in left-hand drive, making this a rare slice of British madness that is targeted at buyers outside its country of origin.
Because it's being built in such small numbers, Jaguar has been able to fit expensive parts aimed specifically at improving track performance. The bonnet, bumpers, bodykit and massive rear wing are all made of carbon fiber, while the new 20-inch wheels are forged from aluminum. They help make this the lightest V8 sedan in the Jaguar lineup, although the huge engine and uprated handling hardware will make the SV Project 8 heavier than the XE S.
The track focus continues under the skin, where the double-wishbone front and integral-link rear suspension has been upgraded with stiffer springs and adjustable dampers that, in track mode, drops the car by 15 mm (0.6 in). SVO also says the car's silicon nitride ceramic wheel bearings are the first to be used on a road car, and the electronic rear differential is upgraded with an oil cooler, a first for the XE range.
Inside, the comfortable leather pews from the standard XE have been swapped for a set of leather and Alcantara bucket seats. Magnesium-framed performance seats are standard, but a set of carbon fiber buckets with a four-point racing harness (pictured above) can be added to the mix. They come as part of a Track Pack, which also includes a rear roll cage in place of the rear seats. Given this is a special edition aimed at track work, we'd be ticking that box on the options list.
Outside, the changes made to the basic XE are fairly obvious. That rear wing is big enough to be used as a coffee table, the swollen wheel arches are unique, and the fresh front bumper has much more pronounced air intakes than before. Coupled with a range of unique colors – headlined by the Valencia Orange pictured here – they make for a mean looking Jaguar.
"We have really been able to unleash the potential of our engineering and design teams in specifying Project 8," says Mark Stanton, SVO Director. "We are at the beginning of a very challenging and exciting development programme which will see us focus on ensuring Project 8 delivers track performance on a level previously not targeted by Jaguar. The SVO team is full of performance car enthusiasts that are now briefed to deliver motorsport science and soul in what is effectively a four-door supercar."
All this performance doesn't come cheap. The XE SV Project 8 will be priced from £149,995 (approx US$192,000) without any options fitted, making it significantly more expensive than the BMW M4 GTS – arguably its closest rival. But price is likely to be irrelevant here, and Jaguar isn't likely to struggle to shift them.
The car will make its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on June 30, but you can see it in the video below. Make sure your volume is cranked up, because it sounds incredible.