Top Gear - MG SV

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Feb 20, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Road test
    [January 26 2004]

    I'm trying to find a way of conveying in words what the sound of the SV's engine is like, but it's a struggle. I actually don't think I have got the writing skill to do it. Normal engine type words - bellow, growl, roar - are hopeless.

    When you press the ignition button your ears do go to Def Con 3 from the volcanic rumble that fires out of the Scorpion exhaust vents, but it's more than a sound, it's a... moment. It's that look on Michael Caine's face in Zulu when all those warriors appear on the horizon. And while everyone around falls silent, the car, completely oblivious to its effect, is busy creating its own little black hole, with the air intakes sucking in all the birds, flies, air and trees within a hundred yards.

    This is a very promising start, an indication that MG has been doing good engineering, because the power unit for the SV is the 4.6-litre V8 normally used in Ford's Mustang, and in that car it's one of the world's worst engines. But the British boffins have reworked everything, even the block, to transform it into something of a masterpiece. In standard tune it puts out 320bhp, which in a car weighing just 1,400kg, is good enough for 0-60 in 5.3 seconds; and then onwards to a top speed of 165mph, at which point Gordon Brown will send you a love note, because at that pace it's downing a kilo of unleaded every minute.

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    But this is a mere canap?, because MG also offers a hairy chest pack that tunes the engine up to 400bhp. And if you want the full Lawrence Dallaglio, a nitrous kit takes it up to a thousand - 150bhp more than Schumacher's Formula One car.

    It'd be a bit of a shame then if after all that hard work the car itself looked like it had been styled by Graham Norton and Julian Clary after a Village People concert. But no, the SV's appearance is completely in keeping with the noise it makes - big skirts, full on venetian blind side vents, massive haunches; all of it crouching low to the ground like a proper race car. In a subtlety contest only a forklift truck would do worse than the SV, but it's a fantastic sight, and all of it made from carbon fibre.

    At this point I'm even starting to think 'what a nice MG', and normally I would rather be stuck in a lift with Paul Burrell's book than admit to that. MGs may have been acceptable when they were driven by pipe-smoking chaps who had dogfights with Messerschmidts, but in any decade beyond that you enter a nightmare world of wheezy engines, comedy handling and owners with facial hair.

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    But I'm prepared to put my MG prejudices aside and set my hopes high because the car is full of British pluck. Rover, as you may know, is currently struggling along on less money than a Salford pensioner, but it has still thrown up this, a car that on paper has all the credibility of something proper. The company's been wise with whatever pennies it has found in the teapot and besides the monster engine, impressive looks and carbon fibre clothing, you've also got a chassis made in Italy by the same firm that makes them for Ferrari and Lamborghini.

    It should be good, and on the move, once you've come down from the first wave of engine-induced euphoria, there's even more surprise and delight when you find that the handling is beautifully balanced. It is a gem for the enthusiastic driver. The bucketfuls of grunt coupled with the pliance in the suspension, mean that, when you do overstep the mark, what follows is a totally controlled Holiday On Ice powerslide.

    So it looks good, sounds good and it even puts a smile on your face every time the back end sets off on its own. And then there's the interior, which is to say the least, manly. It's a world of big knobs and aluminium and bucket seats, with the smell of mechanics and workshops never far away. If an MG owner from the Seventies had been in a coma for 30 years and woke up today, he'd think the SV was perfection, and there lies the start of the its problems. Yes, I'd love to wrap up here and drive off to Dorset for a pint of twigs with Kenneth More, but I must go on, and report the bad news.

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    You see, MG man in a coma may think the SV is heaven, but he won't have driven a Porsche GT3, which unfortunately is what the MG's up against, because even in the base form, it costs £75,000. That's way above TVRs and Nobles, yet it doesn't feel as well finished as these other cottage industry Brits, and the fit and trim in a GT3 is on a different planet.

    And where are the airbags, satnav, and seats that move with electric rather than muscle power? I may be missing the point here, but buying a 75 grand car should be an experience of expectant hope followed by fulfilled joy, not an audition for the SAS. TVR is a small operation, but they still mill their own switchgear to give the car a sense of value. You cannot charge Porsche money and hope people won't notice the Rover door handles.

    And then there's the gearbox. I found first, second, fourth, and fifth, but third was just a pipedream. All this added up to a litany of disappointment which I hoped would be cured by Dr Stig. I was being a fussy 43 year old, and maybe in his racing driver hands it would blitz our Top Gear track, make his stopwatch explode, and all would become clear as its race car blood shone through. It didn't.

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    In the dry, it was still a second slower than the GT3, which had set its time in the wet. It was the same story with the BMW M3 CSL. In his automaton warble, the Stig downloaded concerns that the suspension geometry needed some more work lavishing on it to firm up the car in the corners. Only then would the set up do justice to the marvellous engine.

    Now look. If we're going to beat the Bosch, to pull off a Battle of Britain rather than suffer a Dunkirk, we have to finish the job properly, not let everything slide over the cliff for the sake of a ha'porth of tar. I really wanted this car to be supreme, and I'm not alone. You could genuinely feel the sense of disappointment amongst our television audience when The Stig's lap time slid onto the board below the Germans.

    So the willingness from the punters is there, and when it's on full song, blasting down the tarmac, rushing to meet an appointment with a monster power slide, you just know that this car has a heart and soul that the Gallardo, with its precise Audi under- pinnings, will never have. But then the wind noise taps you on the shoulder to remind you that this car's been built on a budget, and you just feel cheated.

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    So finish it. I understand the gearbox was faulty, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt there, but after that, fix the trim, fettle the suspension and make it good. Make it worth 75 grand. Inside the SV there's a great car waiting to get out.

    Jeremy Clarkson

    REVIEW (right click, save as)

    STIG'S TEST (right click, save as)

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    MG supercar headed Stateside?

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    By AUTOWEEK
    (08:30 Feb. 18, 2004)

    They won’t bring TVRs over here, so how about this? MG Rover has confirmed that its SV supercar could be introduced to the States by 2006. The car is closely based on the floorpan of the long-gone Qvale Mangusta, but now features a two-door coupe body made from carbon fiber. Peter Stevens, the car’s designer and managing director of X80 Ltd., the company that makes it for MG Rover, said the SV could "piggyback" on most of the Qvale’s federal approval.

    The SV, which is about to go on sale in Britain, is powered by either a 320-hp or 400-hp 4.6-liter Ford four-valve V8, depending on tuning. A 460-hp version is planned, closely related to a Le Mans GT racing version. At the top of the range, also due to arrive in 2006, is a 765-hp SV-S model running the same engine the company ran in a dragster at Bonneville last year.

    U.K. prices for the SV range from £70,000 (about $133,000) for the base version up to an estimated £120,000 (about $229,000) for the SV-S.

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  2. DSHR

    DSHR Well-Known Member

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    The MG looks like a combination of about 100 different vechicles.
     
  3. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    It looks much better in the Top Gear video, and the sound it makes is quite nice.
     
  4. DSHR

    DSHR Well-Known Member

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    Dam that was pretty impressive. I didn't read the write up before hand :hs:
     

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