Reviews

2002 TVR Tamora

Blackpool, England—
TVR has a reputation for hand-building ferociously fast sports cars, and the new Tamora will only reinforce it. With a 350-horsepower, 3.6-liter Speed Six engine motivating 2337 pounds, this two-seat roadster has a better power-to-weight ratio than such renowned tire smokers as the Turbo, the GTS, the Ferrari 360 Modena, and the . TVR’s performance claims are appropriately dramatic. A splash of indulgent imagination is needed to believe that the Tamora will top 170 mph, but we can easily picture reaching 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and hitting the 100-mph mark just 5.1 seconds later. Indeed, the British magazine Autocar recorded 4.2 and 9.1 seconds, respectively.

Driving it, you get the impression that emulsified scenery is being squirted through a fire hose. Unfortunately, though, even if TVR returns to the United States, we won’t be seeing the Tamora Genuine supercar performance belies the Tamora’s true role in its low-volume, high-profile British manufacturer’s range. According to Peter Wheeler, TVR’s hard-driving and engagingly unconventional supremo, the new baby is actually a relatively soft option for TVR addicts who like to use their cars for commuting.

In theory, tuning the 24-valve straight six to deliver peak power and torque at high revs—maximum power is delivered at 7200 rpm—reduces the risk of young stockbrokers inadvertently unsticking the tail while negotiating rain-soaked urban traffic circles and sharp corners at commuter speeds. The perceived daily-driver role also explains why TVR is making brave noises about scaling new heights of reliability. This is not a word with which Wheeler’s otherwise laudable enterprise has been synonymous in the past. True to his boutique brand’s extrovert reputation, the fiberglass-bodied Tamora is a real eye-popper with its bold swoops, swirls, scallops, and spoilers.

The marque is determined to be different, so the Tamora features details such as doors that open when you touch a button on the underside of the side-view mirror. Wheeler and his team are sharp enough to realize that one of the reasons for TVR’s ongoing success is that it doesn’t fob customers off with parts-bin components from major manufacturers. Ford parts are easy to spot on a supposedly exclusive Aston Martin, but TVR’s keep-it-in-house philosophy embraces just about everything from unique engines to beautifully crafted switches and instruments. These pleasing features complement a snug, welcoming cockpit with exceptionally supportive seats and an adjustable pedal box. The five-speed manual gearbox’s stubby shifter looks very sporting but earned “stiff, heavy, notchy” grumbles in the notebook. The enormous turning circle warranted another item in the debit column, notably when trying to juggle the Tamora in and out of tight parking slots.

That said, driving this TVR is about as much fun as you can have on terra firma while fully clothed, stone-cold sober, and uninfluenced by recreational pharmaceuticals. There’s more than enough straightline acceleration to drain the blood from your eyeballs, but what really impresses is how well the chassis copes with so much grunt. The basic layout, front and rear, consists of upper and lower control arms with anti-roll bars and coil-over-gas dampers. High-geared steering that’s almost telepathically communicative complements plenty of grip and sharp handling. The Tamora is one of those exquisitely balanced and very responsive mile eaters that require little more than a flexing of the wrists and appropriate amounts of pressure on the loud pedal.

TVR’s customers tend to be real enthusiasts rather than poseurs, so the chassis feels increasingly competent as the pace increases, and the ride, a little stiff and joggly at low speeds, becomes surprisingly smooth and absorbent. Wickedly sharp, buttock-clenching bumps that had obviously claimed many victims—there were deep scars on the road—failed to damage the Tamora’s exhaust system.

The Tamora costs slightly less than Porsche‘s Boxster S in Britain. Both are great fun to drive but appeal to different sections of the sports car market. If the thoroughly modern Boxster can be likened to a rapier, TVR’s contender is closer to a cavalry saber. Boil it right down, and the Tamora is old-fashioned in the most exciting and praiseworthy sense of the term. It’s a delightfully tactile, communicative sports car that’s easy to drive in slow-moving traffic but comes vividly alive when wanted. And it exudes its own unique style, too.

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