In the red, white, and blue—British—corner, meet the most powerful sedan Jaguar has ever sold, the XE SV Project 8, from this point forward only to be known as Project 8. What a freak of a thing. It makes 592 horsepower from a 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 that, oh yeah, also produces 550 lb-ft of torque. All that English rage is routed through an eight-speed ZF transmission to all four wheels via the same system you’ll find on the F-Type R, so if needed, fully 50 percent of the torque can spin the front wheels. The brakes are big, name brand (buongiorno, Brembo!), and carbon ceramic. The adjustable suspension can drop from Street to Track mode (you’ll need to visit your dealer), and the front splitter and big carbon-fiber wing are adjustable, too. Craziest of all, most of the body panels are carbon fiber. In fact, only 20 percent of the original XE remains, and most of that is the interior. Jag is making 300 examples, and they cost $188,000 a pop. Blimey.
In the red, white, and green corner, you have an Italian thoroughbred of a four-door family sedan. Not only did we name the Alfa Romeo Giulia our 2018 MotorTrend Car of the Year, but the smoking-hot 505-hp Quadrifoglio version has also never lost a comparison test. Neither has the 280-hp 2.0-liter iteration of the car, but that’s not the car we’re here to discuss. No, we’re going to preach about the 2.9-liter V-6—a Ferrari V-8 with two cylinders lopped off—and the amazing Giorgio chassis the Giulia rides on. Designed for a cool 2.7 billion euros by the gent who oversaw the Ferrari 458 Speciale, the Giulia’s underpinnings are quite literally second to none. You can triple that when talking about the Quadrifoglio. Whatever makes a sport sedan sporty has been triple baked into the GQ’s DNA. Unlike the Jag, the 15 percent less powerful Alfa relies only on rear-wheel drive to put its power to the ground (though it’s the same transmission). At a not so light 3,785 pounds, the Italian is still noticeably lighter than the 4,041-pound Brit. Oh, and at $80,000, the Alfa Romeo is less than half the Jaguar’s price. And away we go.
Even dogs are fully aware that the more powerful Project 8 will outperform the potent but outgunned Giulia Quad. The question is, how? Well, in terms of acceleration, the Project 8 hits 60 mph in a wowza 3.2 seconds. That’s 0.1 second behind a Porsche 991.2 GT3 with PDK, tied with the Chevy ZR1, and 0.1 ahead of both the Jeep Trackhawk and the new W-12 Bentley Continental GT. The Alfa is slower, but it ain’t no slouch, popping off a 3.8-second sprint to 60 mph. That’s fantastic for a rear-drive sedan. That’s as quick as an Aston Martin Vantage. In the quarter mile the results are essentially the same, with the Jaguar needing what used to be a supercar’s time of 11.4 seconds and the Alfa Romeo requiring a pretty dang quick 12.1 seconds. For some context, the 641-hp Lamborghini Urus, the quickest SUV in the world, rips 1,320 feet in 11.3 seconds, and the 650-hp Camaro ZL1 takes 11.5 seconds. Check out the trap speeds for a moment: 121.7 mph for the Project 8 and 118.5 mph for the Quadrifoglio.
The lighter Alfa Romeo just outbrakes the Jaguar, coming in at 99 feet versus the Jag’s 101. Anything around 100 feet is exceptional. The real difference shows up on our figure-eight course, where the Project 8 is a full second quicker than the Giulia Q, 23.2 seconds versus 24.2. Couple of points here. Like the Richter scale (kinda), a full second difference on the figure eight is essentially an order of magnitude faster. Moreover, while a 24.2-second lap is fantastic for any car, let alone a sedan, a 23.2-second lap for a four-door flirts with world class. For instance, the BMW G10 M5 does a 23.3-second lap. The Project 8 is a handling freak.
Now, in the second such instance of Jaguar shooting itself in the foot I’ve recently lived through (the other is some awful marketing decision to only stick the F-Pace SVR on all-season tires in North America, a decision that’s since been rescinded), neither of the two Project 8s we tested was able to go into full Track mode. Two. What’s up? Neither car was fitted with the actual dampers found on the production car, and as such we couldn’t drop the cars all the way down to track height. Would a Jag Project 8 in full Track mode record an even sweeter figure-eight time? Probably.
We also lapped both sedans on the big track at Willow Springs. We did this for two reasons. One, lapping is super fun and gives us an excuse to hang out with our pro shoe and good buddy Randy Pobst. Two is that for what seems like too long in my book, the four-door production car lap record on Big Willow—1:29.69—has been held by the 640-hp third-gen Cadillac CTS-V. Records are made to be shattered, and if any two sedans have a shot, they are these. Results: The Alfa didn’t come close, coming in at 1:31.80, 2.11 seconds off the big Caddy’s time. There’s no smoking gun or anything like that—the CTS-V’s 135-horsepower and 187-lb-ft advantage was simply too much for the burgundy Italian to overcome. The Jaguar, however, clipped the Caddy by 0.1 second—1:29.59—making up for its power disadvantage with grip, grip, and more tenacious grip. Interestingly, the larger Cadillac weighs 33 pounds less than the Jaguar. The Project 8 is just that capable. Would the Brit have gone even quicker if the suspension was fully in Track mode? Probably.
We decided—we being myself and my Head 2 Head co-host, Jethro Bovingdon—to do something absolutely bonkers with the two sedans. That being to shut down a 10.7-mile stretch of road and drive up it as fast as we could. At one point, the Giulia Quadrifoglio held the Nürburgring Nordschleife sedan record, 7:39.00. An amazing time, the same as a Ferrari F430 Scuderia and a 997 Porsche Turbo. Then (of course) the Jaguar Project 8 smashed the Alfa’s record, completing the Nordschleife’s 12.9 miles in 7:21.2. An unbelievable time, and 0.4 second faster than a Ferrari 488 GTB driven by Christian Gebhardt, Jethro’s teammate from last year’s 24 Hours of Nürburgring (they placed 21st overall and first in their class). True, that Project 8 had a full cage and was minus its rear seats, but Jaguar will sell you the car like that. Well, sell non-Americans that car. It’s impressive, whatever the configuration. Because we can’t go to the ‘Ring, we decided to do something similar here in California. Originally called the Sandschleife, the dusty high desert road we found in the southernmost part of the Sierra Nevada was quickly renamed the Deathschleife. I’ll leave the results of that one a mystery for now; to see these two on the Deathschleife, you’ll have to subscribe to our app and watch the Head 2 Head episode for yourself.
I will tell you this much: Jethro and I both preferred the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio to the Jaguar Project 8, for a few reasons. There’s a balance and a playfulness to the Giulia that frankly is about as good as sedans get. A few four-doors have a similar special sauce. The E39 M5 leaps to mind, along with the put-out-to-pasture Chevy SS and the Alpha-platform Cadillac ATS-V and CTS-V. That’s about it. The Jag is close, but it’s just not there. True, the Jaguar’s steering really does feel like a combination of the 997.2 GT3 and the fifth-gen Camaro Z28 (the latter being a car that Jaguar’s boffins almost inexplicably benchmarked), but the car just doesn’t dance. Not the way the Alfa does. Yes, sure, true, the Project 8 is the quicker of the two, there’s no doubt about that. Every test bore out that inevitable conclusion. However, we simply enjoyed the way the Italian drove more. As simple as that. If the suspension was able to fully drop into Track mode, might the results of this one been different? Naw.
Then there’s the horrible part called reality. Does 300 cars built really count as production? Really? Also, $188,000? That’s like, well, that’s like so much money it’s kinda nuts. For that sort of money, you should step out of the Jag absolutely certain that there’s no other sedan on earth that even comes close. For instance, the big Brit was only able to best the Cadillac by 0.1 second on the track, and the Jag’s essentially double the price. As already stated, not only does the Alfa come close, but it’s also actually better to drive. I’d be curious to see what Jaguar could do to an XE for a price in line with the Giulia Quad, M3, C63, and ATS-V. A $75,000 to $80,000 little sedan that still has a supercharged V-8, all-wheel drive, big carbon brakes, and sticky tires. Sadly, there’s no XER or even XFR on the horizon. Sometimes that’s just how it is. You know how else it is? The Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio remains undefeated here at MotorTrend. Rightfully so.
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