2003 Jensen S-V8

Phil Llewellin
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0204 Jensen Sv8 01

Lake Vyrnwy, Wales-- American power and Italian looks made the British-built Jensen Interceptor a happening sports car in the '60s and '70s. Dormant as a manufacturer since 1976, Jensen Motors is inching back into business with the S-V8 roadster. The shape might not delight everyone, but the two-seater turns heads and prompts excited questions.

Key elements include aluminum body panels and a control-arm suspension at all four corners. Unlike its Chrysler-powered ancestors, the S-V8 gets its grunt from the hand-built DOHC 4.6-liter V-8 from Ford's Special Vehicle Team, producing 320 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. With a smooth-shifting five-speed manual gearbox, the 2922-pound Jensen's potential for smoking tires and pumping adrenaline is immediately apparent. Our time blasting around Wales gave credence to Jensen's claims of 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds and a top speed in excess of 160 mph.

Neat instruments and supportive seats create a positive impression that's reinforced by the user-friendly clutch, superb steering, and the brawny V-8's inspirational music. The car offers a good compromise between comfort and agility, although seriously sporty drivers will wish for stiffer suspension settings.

The S-V8 boasts good packaging behind the spacious, comfortable cockpit, too. The soft top stows beneath a flush-fitting panel, the trunk is big enough for a weekend's worth of luggage for two, and the twenty-gallon fuel tank provides an adequate cruising range.

The revitalized Jensen Motors is now faced with the challenge of finding buyers for some 600 S-V8s a year (none of them in the United States). In Britain, the car costs more than such rivals as the Porsche Boxster S, which shows how much tougher things have gotten for small-scale players since Jensen last cruised down the freeway of love.

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