Watch: World's fastest production sedan tested on Kiwi tarmac
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The world’s fastest four-door production car has a guilty secret. You can’t 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 optional Track Pack. Not a centimetre of contrast stitched leather in sight. The Track Pack does get you chairs: two snug carbon fibre race seats fitted with 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. 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 some sort of Tolkienian hell beast.
But a Tolkienian hell beast that has just been advised it has tax to pay for the 2019 fiscal year. And it’s out of coffee in its 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 new carbon ceramic brakes and the industry-first use of F1-style silicon nitride ceramic wheel bearings on a road car. Whatever those are.
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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 Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit, using all 441kW of peak power from its supercharged V8 mill to achieve a 7min 21.23sec lap time. That makes it the fastest production sedan to have conquered the “Green Hell”.
Er, production? Yes indeed; while no mainstream unit shifter, Jaguar Land Rover is making 300 of these things. They’re all left-hand drive (even the one Driven sampled at Hampton Downs), and demand is strong in the Northern Hemisphere, so don’t expect to see one parked outside your local burger bar. Oh, plus they start at $350,000. And that’s without the Track Pack.
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, I bear good news.
Jaguar Land Rover’s combined Special Vehicle fleet has been expanding and includes fire-breather editions of the Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar and Jaguar F-Pace; all of which media sampled at Hampton Downs as the local distributor introduced its complete line-up to the public.
Based out of a multimillion-dollar technical centre in the UK, Special Vehicle Operations doesn’t just make shoutier versions of existing models, it also looks after bespoke restoration for JLR classic car fans, sorts limited edition armoured versions of JLR models for dignitaries and oil barons, and is responsible for the Jaguar I-Pace e-Trophy race series that NZ’s Simon Evans is doing 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; up 43 per cent in the new vehicle market this year, of which SVO models contribute approximately 10 per cent 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 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 that allows you to get to know your neighbours.
And 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 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.