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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

The fastest thing with four doors: the Jaguar XE SV Project 8

Alix Capper-Murdoch clambers into the world's quickest production four-door saloon

The regular Jaguar XE isn’t exactly a motoring sight to write home about, but should you clap eyes on its most-extreme variant, the SV Project 8, you might very well find yourself penning a paean to your nearest and dearest.

Why? Well, mostly because it lays claim to being the fastest production four-door saloon on the planet – and there are only 300 of them in the world, so the opportunity to experience one is a rare one, something that I am fortunate enough to have at Dubai Autodrome.

Radiant in bright blue, my test car is lean and sleek, with an aggressive motorsport look and feel. This is no flabby middle-management motor. Monster flared arches sit over race-ready tyres and lightweight forged alloy wheels. There’s an adjustable front splitter that is undoubtedly less about aesthetics and more about increasing stability and performance, especially in Track mode, which lowers the car by 15 millimetres. The tail is just as aggressive, with a rear diffuser and a large wing that can be adjusted to create greater downforce through corners or reduce drag on straights.

Lift the carbon-fibre bonnet and you will find the most powerful engine yet fitted to a Jaguar road car: a 5-litre supercharged V8 producing a not-to-be-sniffed-at 600hp and 700Nm of torque, driving all four wheels. The result is a jaw-dropping top speed of 322kph and a 0-to-100kph time of 3.7 seconds.

This insane saloon came about when Jaguar asked the engineers in its special vehicle operations division to take the XE into supercar-challenging territory. It set a record time round the Nurburgring’s Nordschleife circuit in Germany a year ago during testing, but since then, the engineers have made improvements to the dynamics and handling.

They really should re-name it Project Goosebumps. From the second you turn the ignition key, you will feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up – the engine note is gorgeous. I had expected a 1.7-tonne vehicle to have a lot more body roll, while the power delivery is smooth and the gear changes on the car’s eight-speed automatic transmission are quick and flawless. If you use the paddle-shifters, each change takes a mere 0.2 seconds – which is literally quicker than the blink of an eye.

Around the Grand Prix Circuit at the Autodrome, you can quickly highlight all a car’s flaws and assets through the track’s two long straights, fast and slow twists and undulating corners. And what the circuit shows in this instance is that the Project 8 is (unsurprisingly) powerful and dynamic, with great stability and even better performance. The all-wheel-drive system creates handling akin to a rear-wheel-drive supercar. There is also a Track Pack version of the car, with lowered ride height and carbon-fibre racing seats, plus competition racing harnesses to keep you firmly anchored in your seat.

If you’re looking for a rare, unique and collectable road-going sports car, then from Dh682,100, plus VAT, this is your ride – although you better be quick, with such a limited number of vehicles available worldwide, each one hand-assembled in the United Kingdom. Until the unlikely event that I find something else road-legal and quicker on the track between now and December 25, the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 remains top of my Christmas list.

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