Car of the Month : August 2006

MG Rover wanted to build a showcase flagship for the MG range – and when it managed to pick up the Qvale operation in 2001 for a mere £10m, its principal product, the Mangusta, was the perfect building block to achieving this plan.

Jerry Flint is well known in MG circles, and has run plenty of the company’s cars in his time – currently, the car in his fleet flying the flag is an XPower SV. Lucky man…

Strong, not silent type

Mess with at at your peril…

THE MG XPower SV is without doubt, one of the most controversial cars introduced during the ‘Phoenix’ era of MG’s history. Those against the car, were often heard talking loudly about the questionable wisdom of a company introducing a new supercar when it needed every available penny to fund the development of its vitally important new medium car, the RDX60.

As it happens, there was absolutely no way that MG Rover was going to get that car into production on its own following the demise of TWR and the fall off in sales in 2003, but company executives knew it was going to need a strategic partner to revive the RDX60, some nice showcase products would be in order to atract those potential parties.

The XPower SV was one such product, and although it had been in development since 2001, and had been through troubled times of its own, its arrival on the market was a clear indication of what MG Rover could achieve with the smallest of budgets. There has been talk that the programme cost a total of £35m, which in industry terms is chicken feed…

Whatever the politics behind the XPower SV, there’s no denying it looks good on the road – and sounds even better thanks to the presence of a 32V Ford V8 under that long bonnet. Jerry Flint’s car is the standard 320bhp version, and we can confirm that it’s quick enough to interest, and handles and rides like a true thoroughbred. We drove the car shortly after testing a TVR Griffith, and can confirm that the SV’s interior quality is well beyond the level of this – and if you like exposed carbonfibre weave, there’s plenty of it on show, just to remind you that this side of a Ferrari Enzo, you’re behind the wheel of one of a select few cars made from stuff.

On the road, one’s first impressions are dominated by that incredibly stiff carbon bodyshell. On broken and undulating country lanes there’s never a sign of the shakes, and there are no interior rattles and creaks to spoil the party. Ride is also agreeably soft, and feels no firmer than a modern sporting saloon such as a Jaguar S-TYPE R. The steering is also incredibly talkative, and tells you all there is to know about the road surface.

That stiff shell and compliant springing means that suspension can be tightly tuned, and at no point does one feel that there’s any flex, flop or play in the chassis. Body roll is well contained, and responsiveness is impressive given the car’s size and weight. Given enough space, and power drifts are an on-demand feature, and because the it’s such a controllable beast, it all feels accessible to the point of friendliness. If the driver does get over confident, it’s good to know there’s effective race-spec brakes to gather it all up.

In short it’s a terrific driver’s car – and one the Longbridge chassis engineers should be more than proud of.

If MG Rover wanted to produce a showcase for the prodigious talents of its engineers, here’s the perfect car. If only it hadn’t been so expensive.


Thanks to Jerry Flint for the drive of his SV.

Keith Adams

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