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Reasons to like the Jaguar XE SV Project 8.

Chris Haining July 2, 2017 Goodwood 10 Comments

Like many, I grow tired of the constant flow of ‘most powerful this’ and ‘new Nurburgring record holder’ that. Familiarity breeds contempt, and when there’s a six-figure pricetag involved, such a machine moves straight into the world of ‘might as well not exist’.

They do, exist, though, and while essentially irrelevant to the average man on the street, they have palpable halo effect which reflects well on the more affordable offerings from the same brand. The latest ‘best of the best’ from Jaguar is a case in point. Yes, it costs even more than a Goodwood Festival hot dog, but it really does inject an agreeable shot of lunacy into an otherwise sensible lineup. My favourite thing about it, though, is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

You could say that the Project 8 is a cynical marketing exercise, and you’d be right. All the signs are there that Jaguar Land Rover’s crack Special Vehicle Operations squad knew all along that an outrageously fast version of the brand’s Jaguar XE 3 Series fighter would make people take notice and eventually buy more entry-level 2.0-litre diesels. But ‘win on sunday, sell on monday’ has always been the case.

Look at a BMW M3 or a Mercedes-AMG C63. These are cars which are implicitly claimed as the next best thing to a racing car. Everything about the way they’re presented intends to look faster, more powerful – more like a DTM or Touring Car than other models in the range. They’re very technical looking, very dour, very serious. Yet, they’re not really anything all that special.

OK, they have upgraded components and more powerful engines, but they’re still just ‘the most expensive trim level’ of a fundamental ordinary car (and I write this fully knowing that both cars are unutterably excellent, but that’s not the point). A BMW M3 is still ‘just a three series’.

On the face of it, the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 is ‘just an XE’, and one that will be sold for twice as much as a well-specified M3, to just 300 cash-heavy punters. It’s marketed as a ‘collectors edition’, one of the most cynical phrases the industry can muster. It’s just as well, then, that the Jaguar is completely and utterly outrageous.

When I read the press release for the Jag it read as just another long list of must-have marketing terms, with frequent mentions of carbon fibre, airflow management and the hated ‘more powerful version’ of a proven V8 engine (achieved by simply telling the engine management system to produce more power). Read further into the things listed, and it suddenly shows itself to be quite a long way down the road to insanity. For example, Jaguar claims ‘an industry-first use of Formula 1-style silicon nitride ceramic wheel bearings on a road car’. Interesting.

Seeing the Project 8 in the flesh is to realise that SVO has taken the XE quite a long way between everyday super-sedans like the M3. The way the rear door shutline has been worked into the rear flared arches, for instance – presumably with the use of entirely new door skins (I assume they haven’t used fibreglass and filler…). And then you notice the details that make it individual. The engine intercoolers, for example are mounted not behind mesh or slats like in so many cars, but behind an entirely singular pattern of hexagonal holes. If this had been a Merc, Bimmer or Audi, that would be a grille.

I confess my heart sunk a little when I spotted the above. ‘TOW’ decals on road cars became a cliche years ago – ever since boy racers found they could give their jalopy free race-car cred using a Sharpie and a stencil. It also smacks of tuning into the tastes and habits of a valuable demographic – Ken Block-worshipping Millennials will be familiar with ‘TOW’ markings on every murdered-out R33 or drift-weapon S14 that’s ever been Instagram’d. Except here it’s far too subtle to have any legitimate motorsport connections – pop-out towing eye covers like that have become kind of self-explanatory, anyway.

And then I saw this.

Suddenly, I knew that, with these decals, Jaguar is just dicking around. It’s just a bit of fun. You could argue that ‘NO STEP’ is a legitimate warning, but it’s also common sense. On an F/A 18, NO STEP indicates a particularly fragile bit of plane which would hurt – either it, you or both – if you stood there. This carbon-fibre Jaguar component  may not be up to bearing a human’s weight, but it’s not like you’d mistake it for a running board. Or perhaps it’s there as litigation – a ‘told you so’ like ‘CONTENTS HOT’ on a coffee to go.

The whole car is ‘a bit of fun’. It goes quite a long way beyond the normal super-sedan remit, oozing ridiculousness. I applaud SVO’s efforts.

(All images copyright Chris Haining / Redusernab 2017)

  • wunno sev

    i feel compelled here to point out that the “WARNING: COFFEE IS HOT” lawsuit that’s often used to point out the excesses of our legal system is not as frivolous as it might seem. the coffee in that cup was much hotter than it was supposed to be. McDonald’s was aware of the potential for injury when setting their corporate policy of selling coffee 30-40 degrees hotter than most consumers intend to drink (or indeed, can drink safely). their reasoning was that many customers buy the coffee and drink it later, once they get to work or after finishing their meals.

    viewed in light of this information, the complaint seems much more reasonable. for perspective, i’ve spilled coffee on myself more times than i can count, and none of those spills resulted in third-degree burns. why would i take extra precautions while handling McDonald’s coffee? is it not the same product i get from Starbucks, where the coffee doesn’t scald upon ? the lawsuit wasn’t over the customer spilling on herself, it was over McD’s selling a product much hotter than customers should reasonably expect, and the resultant spills – which one should expect when selling a liquid – causing injury.

    • Dean Bigglesworth

      I’ve never been offered coffee at drinkable temperature anywhere. It’s always scalding hot.

      • crank_case

        The average coffee temp wouldn’t cause the sort of burns seen in that lawsuit, there was also an issue with the cup design it was served in and the defendent was found partially negligible. It was actually a pretty reasonable case when you look into it. Like a lot of things repeated on the internet, the truth is usually a lot more subtle.

  • Troggy

    I think the British like to discreetly remind us that they built some of the finest aircraft of WWII and they do this with TOW and NO STEP decals on anything that requires any engineering whatsoever. Your comparison to the FA/18 is probably not that far off the mark.

    I would love to know what the reason for the cutline of that rear door is though. If I ever ever come face-to-face with one (who am I kidding? I doubt I’ll ever see one in the flesh!), the first thing I would do is open one of the back doors and trying to figure out why it could not follow the contour of the wheelarch. It looks like it would severely restrict the angle that the door could open if there were any obstacles nearby. Not that the average owner would be bothered about trivialities like that.

    I’m just glad that with the imminent end of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, other manufacturers are producing four-door sports sedans. It makes my little Aussie heart roar when I see this, even if Australia won’t be building anything like it again. I’d like to think that the Falcadore somehow had some influence on the Project 8.

    • AlexG55

      I think the British like to discreetly remind us that they built some of the finest aircraft of WWII and they do this with TOW and NO STEP decals on anything that requires any engineering whatsoever. Your comparison to the FA/18 is probably not that far off the mark.

      The start button of the Morgan Three-Wheeler is a weapons release button from a Eurofighter Typhoon.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the other way round.

        Btw., my favourite stencil up to now was on the SR-71 (inner underside of an engine), saying (something close to) “Minimize removal – difficult to replace”.

  • Dean Bigglesworth

    So a bodykit and and tune, basically? and some fancy bearings. The thing looks like someone got a hold of a tuning catalog from the nineties and decided to order everything. The front bumper is particularly revolting. Did they forget they had intercoolers behind the bumper and suddenly go “Oh Shit! We need some holes, somebody get the scissors! We gotsta put some holes in this here boomper!”

    It’s the “fat, middle aged woman in yoga pants that hangs out with teenagers” of cars.

    • crank_case

      It’s a Max Power Jag… both ends of of British Automomotive culture. Now that Street Machine is back on the shelves, I eagerly await a sit up and beg ford pop influenced F-Pace with wolfrace slot mags. They won’t even need to go find a Jag IRS rear axle!

  • Rover 1

    It’s good to see the proper grille badge back. A thankful step back from using the ‘Leaper’ symbol everywhere when it doesn’t work unless it has a direction.

  • I had to look up some images of that rear door to get a better look. It is interesting that it seems that they have created a new door skin for a 300 car run. Not only that, but new fenders, quarters and hood as well. It looks like only the front doors and decklid are shared with the base XE. I’d guess those stamping dies, the molds for the bumpers, are going to be into 7 figures for the tooling (wild guess with limited general knowledge of what tooling costs). Then again, at 300 units a million in special tooling adds less than $3,500 in cost to what is likely to be a very expensive special edition car.

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