Razor’s edge

Jaguar Land Rover recently invited 66 Magazine for an exclusive look at the Jaguar Project 8

Jaguar Land Rover recently invited 66 Magazine to drive the world’s fastest Barley Sugar...

and a bunch of other fire-breathing models – at Hampton Downs, as JLR New Zealand announced its full Special Vehicle Operations line-up.  

The world’s fastest four-door production car has a bit of a guilty secret. You can’t actually fit four people in it. Or three. Or five.  

Open the rear passenger doors of the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 sedan we’re driving today, and you’re confronted with tubular steel – a half roll cage that forms part of the car’s optional Track Pack. Not an inch of contrast stitched leather in sight. The Track Pack does get you chairs: two snug carbon fibre race seats fitted with proper race harnesses.

Oh, but if your personal iteration of Jaguar’s embodiment of the ultimate race sedan must also, on occasion, ferry kids to Saturday sports, a four-seat specification is available too. Just don’t let the little urchins dry their team socks out on that colossal wing at the back. 

Hand assembled by Jaguar’s in-house go-fast team, Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), the XE SV Project 8 is, as the name suggests, based on the British manufacturer’s mid-sized XE sedan.  

In SV guise, however, the pleasant disposition of the XE is replaced with that of some sort of Tolkienian hell beast. But a Tolkienian hell beast that has just been advised they have tax to pay for the 2020 fiscal year. And they’re out of coffee in their subterranean lair. 

The Project 8 is, to choose a word carefully, feral. It features all the knife edge dynamics of a proper race car, because it basically is one. The bodywork is stretched tautly over aggressively widened wheel arches and those signature breather holes in the valance at the front look fantastic; having this thing appear in your rear vision mirror would be akin to being pursued by Mad Max’s cheese grater. 

The 5.0-litre V8 Project 8 boasts brand new carbon ceramic brakes and the industry-first use of F1-style silicon nitride ceramic wheel bearings on a road car. Whatever those are. Naturally, there’s a special ‘everything up to 11’ race mode within the Project 8’s dynamic drive settings and this particular XE features all-wheel-drive underpinnings. 

Jaguar proved the special model’s worth at Germany’s challenging Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit recently, utilising all 441kW of peak power from its supercharged V8 mill to achieve a 7min 21.23sec lap time. That makes it the fastest production car in the world to have conquered the ‘Green Hell’.

Er, production car? Yes indeed; while certainly no mainstream unit shifter, Jaguar Land Rover is making 300 of these things. They’re all left-hand drive (even the one we sampled at Hampton Downs), and demand is pretty strong in the Northern Hemisphere, so don’t expect to see one parked outside your local Burgerfuel. Oh, plus they start at $350,000. And that’s without the Track Pack. 

But look, don’t stop reading. Just in case you’re under any misconceptions that this SVO stuff is the exclusive domain of first-in-first-served car collectors and the motoring elite, we bear good news. Jaguar Land Rover’s combined Special Vehicle fleet has been expanding over recent years and includes fire-breather editions of the Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar and Jaguar F-Pace; all of which we sampled at Hampton Downs as the local distributor introduced its complete line-up to the public recently. 

Based out of a multi-million-dollar technical centre in the UK, Special Vehicle Operations doesn’t just make shoutier versions of existing models. They also look after bespoke restoration for JLR classic car fans, sort limited edition armoured versions of JLR models for dignitaries and oil barons, and are also responsible for the Jaguar I-Pace e-Trophy race series that New Zealand’s own Simon Evans is currently doing very well in. 

But let’s be honest, it is the shouty ones that resonate most. 

Especially with Kiwi drivers, who helped lead Jaguar to its best year ever in 2019; up 43 percent in the new vehicle market, of which SVO models contribute approximately 10 percent of volume annually. 

It helps when the SVO sub-brand has diversified too. Kiwi customers can now choose between SVR performance models and SV Autobiography models, which up the luxo-factor even more than standard cars. As an example, and despite all the drama the Project 8 delivers, for mere mortals the Jaguar F-Pace SVR is the absolute sweet spot in the entire Jaguar range in my opinion; a perfect summation of the space/pace equation. With a Variable Valve Active Exhaust system which allows you to get to know your neighbours. 

And it gets even better. As if the arrival of the all-new Land Rover Defender couldn’t be any more keenly anticipated, in 2021 that model will debut SVX, dedicated to making off-road vehicles more… well, off-road warrior-ish

In a small nation that still somehow manages to purchase more performance sub-model metal than almost any other nation on Earth, it makes sense that JLR gives drivers access to the full gamut of Special Vehicle Operations fare. The looks are sensational, the noise is addictive, and the on-road/track dynamics suit the keenest of driver. 

Most of them even fit more than two people in at a time too. 

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