It doesn't take long for the cognoscenti to spot me. At stoplights, street corners, and parking lots, the 2019 Jaguar XE SV Project 8's swollen bodywork and park bench-sized tail attract the fanboys like iron to a magnet. My Velocity Blue tester is one of the few Project 8 cars in the States, and I can't remember the last modern Jaguar with so much head-turning charisma. If you're not up to speed, the Project 8 is Jaguar's surprise salvo into sedan madness. And Jag didn't half-ass it, either: it's Jag's biggest engine – a 592-horsepower, supercharged 5.0-liter V8 – stuffed into their smallest steed, the compact XE. Think Aston Martin V12 Vantage, AC Cobra 427, et al. Aiding downforce is a wing that delivers 269 pounds of downforce at 186 mph, so much that Jaguar had to reinforce the trunklid to prevent it from denting at high speeds. There's a flat underbody for reduced lift, and lightweight carbon fiber and aluminum body panels replacing all but the front door skins and roof. The purposeful theme is carried into the cabin, with snug racing buckets up front and seating limited to four. The boy racer cues bely some serious equipment. It's 68 lbs lighter than the next-lightest SE, the 380-hp S AWD supercharged V6. There's also a whole lot of tightening throughout, from the spring rates to the firmer engine mounts. In fact, the stiffening feels like it's been cranked to 11 – even in Comfort mode, the ride is taut and sometimes jarring, never quite feeling at ease enough. If you dig feeling every last ripple in the tarmac, it's wonderful, but anyone seeking a wallowy, coddling ride will find the Project 8 too much. The Project 8's razor sharp feedback begs you to drive on public roads like you're lapping Nardo or the Nürburbring – two of the circuits where the car was developed. But despite its legit origins, dicing such an overtly extroverted car through traffic can also be an enormous social liability. Go-fast sticker graphics? Check. Ginormous wing? Yep. Banana yellow brake calipers? Duh. This is weaponized transport for the street, enough to make the meekest driver look like he or she has something to prove. The Project 8's Alcantara-trimmed interior compliments the aggressive exterior, as do the snug-fitting seats, which use magnesium frames for weight savings (non-U.S. markets go a step further, with carbon fiber seats with four point harnesses). Squeeze the accelerator, and the XE responds with a shove and a snort even from low RPMs. The sensation is signature supercharger: a linear wall of power that just pulls and pulls, unlike the peaky crescendo of turbocharged mills. The unmistakably guttural, mechanical sound of the supercharger becomes downright uproarious when the active titanium exhaust system's four outlets open up fully. Crisp shifts from the ZF eight-speed provide an exclamation point of engagement at higher RPMs. While Jaguar says the Project 8 is the brand's first car to feature a dedicated track mode, even the milder …
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|MPG||16 City / 22 Hwy|
|Power||592 @ 6500 rpm|
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