According to the guys from Longbridge, XPower is to MG what AMG is to Mercedes,
or M is to BMW, so it's only fitting that there's a flagship at the top
of the range bearing the XPower logo. But what a halo car: while AMG and M have to make do
with producing quick versions of existing Mercedes and BMW cars,
the SV and SV-R coupés are standalone models at the top of the MG range.
In fact, they stand quite a long way above the regular MG range,
because at £65,750 for the regular model, or £82,950 for the more powerful SV-R,
they cost at least £30,000 more than the next most expensive MG, the ZT 260.
Like the 260, the SV is powered by a 4.6-litre Ford V8 engine,
only it's tuned for 320 rather than 260bhp, while the SV-R is faster still,
with a 5.0-litre, 385bhp version of the same unit.
Away from the powerplant, however, the SV is like no other MG Rover car.
For a start, it's built mostly in Modena, Italy, with a steel chassis developed
from the that of the Qvale Mangusta supercar of a few years ago.
To the chassis is mounted 65kg of carbon-fibre bodywork, cut on the Isle of Wight,
refrigerated to keep it flexible and shipped to Italy where it's moulded and mounted.
The rolling chassis, complete with engine and drivetrain,
is then delivered to MG Sport and Racing's facility at Longbridge,
Birmingham, for completion.
One wonders whether, if some of the logistical and transportation costs were eliminated,
the SV and SV-R could hit the market at a lower price. If they could,
they might really give the supercar establishment something to worry about.
But as it is MG is planning a production run of no more than 240 cars a year;
and at £65,000, or £80k-plus for the R, which will take the lion's share of sales,
the company is unlikely to be troubled by its self-imposed production limit. RELIABILITY AND QUALITY
Obviously, this is an area where MG Rover does not have the budget of rivals like Porsche,
Ferrari or Corvette, but development time and costs have probably exceeded
those of niche manufacturers such as TVR and Noble.
There shouldn't be too many reliability issues, the SV's chassis was developed
in the late 1990s as the Qvale Mangusta and is finished and corrosion protected
by proven Italian supercar suppliers.
The carbon bodywork is produced by experts in the field, while mechanically,
the SV uses a relatively common Ford 4.6-litre V8 engine, albeit bored to 5.0-litres
in the R version (though this still doesn't seem over-stressed),
and off-the-shelf gearboxes.
In terms of perceived quality, the SV does lag behind some of its rivals.
Interior build is fine, but the single Ford column stalk,
heater switches from the TF and vents from the ZR do not exude the same solidity
as cheaper Porsches or TVRs (the latter, incidentally, has bespoke switchgear and vents).
Otherwise, interior quality is fine, with a well-constructed dashboard
and fairly coherent cabin layout. IMAGE
Could be better.
It's harder to change perceptions when one moves a brand upmarket than downmarket,
and because of its association with tuned Rover hatchbacks,
MG does not have the cachet of a sports car manufacturer anymore.
Well, not one that can sell a supercar at eighty-thousand quid without raising a few eyebrows.
And if its badge and price didn't raise eyebrows, its in-yer-face design -
all aggression, skirts and scoops - certainly will;
its closest visual rival is probably the Nissan Skyline GT-R. Like the Nissan, it attracts plenty of interest,
and its rarity will ensure that it continues to do so.
MG Rover says it'll sell no more than 240 SVs a year,
but we'd be surprised if it hits that self-imposed limit. DRIVING
The SV is certainly one of the more user-friendly supercars around.
Sure, the clutch and gearbox are heavy, but the brake pedal and throttle are not,
and neither is the steering.
A little throttle is needed to get the car rolling from standstill despite
the SV having a 375lb ft, 5.0-litre V8, but once underway it's a very manageable car to drive.
There's no overheating or noticeable heat-soak into the cabin from the engine and transmission,
while the turning circle is exceptionally good (10.6m)
and visibility from the comfortable cabin is impressive.
The ride's notable, too: firm but not harsh, despite 18-inch wheels and low,
At speed, there's some road and wind noise, more than you'd get in a 911,
certainly, which makes the SV a less impressive motorway cruiser than the Porsche,
but straight-line stability is very good and steering weight is consistent at any speed,
although the steering wheel's a little too large for our taste.
Once onto more demanding roads,
the SV shows surprising mettle and, although it may not prove blindingly fast
around a race track, the MG is a capable and thoroughly entertaining road car.
MG reckons that the roll-centre is at about the same height as the driver's hip,
so there's precious little roll in corners and the car steers with accuracy and precision,
with mild feedback through the wheel.
It rides bumps and dips with comfortable reassurance,
without any risk of bucking or grounding, and while the SV doesn't roll significantly,
it's also happy to change direction quickly, making it feel considerably lighter
than its 1500kg kerb weight would suggest.
The front-mid-engine layout and rear-drive mean it's well balanced in corners,
and the big engine's linear and progressive response make trimming a corner-exit
line with the throttle easy.
You might be surprised to hear it, and we were a little surprised to experience it:
the SV-R provided us with one of the best drives we've had in a long time. PERFORMANCE
No complaints on this score: when it comes to driving pleasure,
there's nothing better than a large capacity normally aspirated engine.
Although we've only sampled the SV-R, we have tried the SV's 4.6-litre Ford V8 in other cars,
and found it an affable, flexible and powerful companion.
But the SV-R, which is constituting the majority of customer interest and,
it seems, will steal more sales, is better still.
The standard engine goes off to tuner Sean Hyland of Canada,
where it gets bored out to 5.0 litres and, on its return,
boasts 385 rather than the regular 320bhp. In the SV-R,
it idles a little roughly and won't happily tickle away from standstill
without the application of some throttle, but once underway it's excellent.
The powerband is broad, peak power is delivered - like the 4.6-litre - at 6,000rpm,
with peak torque (up from 301lb ft to 375lb ft) also maintained at the same 4,750rpm.
It sounds pretty good too, a muted woofle at idle, that becomes a pleasing V8 growl
as revs build, though it never gets loud enough to be intrusive.
The five gearbox ratios are adequate given the large powerband,
and third gear is fine for most B roads. A four-speed auto is available on the R,
which we haven't tried, and aren't sure why you'd choose.
Performance figures see the regular SV complete the 0-60mph dash in 5.3 seconds
and reach a top speed of 165mph,
while the R is claimed to reduce the former to 4.9 seconds and be limited to 175mph,
which feels believable but we'd be surprised if the R went much quicker than 175 anyway.
The figures alone would be good enough for five stars here,
if it weren't that some rivals blitz these for less money. SAFETY AND SECURITY
This is where MG Rover's lack of development funds becomes most apparent -
there's switchable traction control and ABS, but no other electronic driver aids,
and no airbags.
Instead, MG has gone down the traditional racing route to driver safety,
fitting a hidden FIA-approved roll cage and four-strap seatbelts that,
although they have inertia operation, can cleverly also be locked in place
by pushing a button on the centre console.
Truth be told, these race-inspired features ought to keep occupants as safe
as in a car with regular side and front airbags, though it's difficult to tell
because neither the MG nor its rivals have been independently crash tested
by the likes of EuroNCAP.
That there is no stability control may be a concern to some,
but it's unlikely to deter the sort of buyers that MG is chasing.
We don't imagine that MG has spent millions making the SV thief-proof,
but there's a deterrent if it has been stolen, cars fitted with tracking
devices have excellent recovery rates and a stolen vehicle can be remotely
immobilised as soon as it's stationary. RUNNING COSTS
Not only does the SV cost a huge amount of money to buy,
running costs will also be considerable.
There'll be around 15 UK dealers set up to sell and service SVs,
so they might not be on your doorstep.
That said, the warranty's good for two years and the mechanicals should prove dependable,
but because all of the bodywork is carbon fibre, even if you gently nose an SV into a kerb
(and the front of the car is deceptively long), a fix could prove expensive.
Insurance costs will be high because of its rarity and likely high repair costs,
although the standard alarm system with tracking device and remote shut-down should assist here.
Although the SV will be rare, we reckon that like a TVR,
used prices may fall fairly quickly -
particularly for the less powerful SV because it's less desirable,
new and used, than the R. A standard SV might make a sports car bargain in a couple of years.
You probably didn't anyway, but don't expect brilliant fuel economy -
combined consumption figures suggest 20mpg for either model,
which you won't get anywhere near in spirited driving.
Carbon dioxide emissions are 324g/km for either mode COMFORT AND EQUIPMENT
The SV's levels of comfort are actually fairly respectable for a supercar,
with very supportive Recaro seats,
an adjustable steering wheel and a relatively conventional cabin layout,
with clear switchgear and dials exactly where they should be.
Visibility is good too, even to the rear, rear three-quarter and mirrors -
sometimes problem areas in supercars, but not in this front-engined MG.
The cabin's also reasonably spacious, with decent headroom
and a height adjustable seat and, because it's only a two-seater,
there's plenty of storage space in a net behind the seats,
and there's a little oddments storage in the door pockets and between the seats.
The boot isn't huge at around 150 litres, and is slightly oddly shaped because of the fuel tank.
That said, squashy bags won't be a problem and MG may offer some bespoke luggage later on.
Equipment levels are okay; as you'd expect there are electric windows,
air conditioning and part-leather/Alcantara seats.
Better still is the alarm system with tracking facility, which can also remotely connect
to engine management software at a dealership to fix electronic faults or
download new engine management settings.
The same facility can also be used to Upload
engine speed and gear selection
data to give lap times on a track day.
However, automatic climate control is, sadly, only an option,
as are floor mats, while metallic paint costs a steep £1,000.
And the sports exhaust is for 'track day' use only, not legal for road use.