The mad detailing distracts your attention from the SV’s very conventional three-box profile and a roofline which, at 1320mm, is only a little lower than a BMW M3’s; the sports and supercars it’s aimed at sit at least 100mm lower still.
You can get in and out easily, and there’s masses of headroom, light and visibility, but the driving environment is a bit saloon-like and can’t match the drama of the exterior.
The windscreen and dash are both very upright, and the excellent Recaro chairs adjust commendably low, but leave you with no view of the long prow. An electric seat-height adjuster raises the chair should you be sitting too low, but it lifts only the rear end of the seat, to tip you towards the dash.
And you may be surprised to find racing harnesses to strap you in place, part-compensation for the absence of any airbags. The dials and dash aren’t exactly 85 grand’s worth to look at either, and the interior build quality is the usual low-volume Brit sports car stuff, despite much of the SV being made in Italy.
There are flashes of perfection in the shutlines between the doorsills and the dash and the exposed carbonfibre panels, and the surface of the body is impressively smooth. But there are terrible lapses, too, not to mention the all-pervading smell of glue. But there’s little point comparing the build quality of cars like the MG and TVR with Porsches; the former could produce several new models each with the interior budget of the new 997.
The MG’s failing is that, unlike a TVR, it doesn’t do anything sufficiently exciting inside. It also suffers from the inheritance of the drop-top Mangusta; the area behind the seats where the roof once went is now a reasonable luggage area, but the worryingly small 56-litre fuel tank and battery leave only a couple of awkward spaces under the bootlid.
The SV’s all-alloy Ford quad-cam V8 is available in two strengths. Both are built by tuner Sean Hyland in Canada; the SV produces 320bhp and 301lb ft and the R, tested here and bored-out to 5.0-litres, makes 385bhp at 6000rpm and 375lb ft of torque at 4750rpm.
Drive is to the rear wheels via a Tremec five-speed gearbox and a Dana limited-slip diff, with switchable Ford traction control, but no stability control. All this in a 1500kg carbonfibre-bodied sports car sounds promising, to say the least.
Claimed performance figures are 5.1sec to 60mph and 175mph flat out. We wouldn’t dispute that acceleration claim, but producing the kind of pace it suggests in normal driving requires high revs and frequent gearchanges. Neither provides much pleasure; over 4500rpm the engine becomes quite coarse and intrusive, and changing gear can be a physical, forceful business.
At lower revs the V8 sounds great; unlike cars which have had their exhaust notes carefully massaged, the noise is honest and always with you. But there just isn’t as much go under 4000rpm as you’d expect from a 5.0-litre V8, and MG admits that below this point there’s little difference between the engines.
Floor your SV-R from 1500rpm in second and it’ll feel no quicker than the SV, and the SV probably won’t feel as quick as you’d hoped.
Given the amount of PR effort MG Rover has invested in the SV’s fire-breathing credentials, you’d expect its slightly disappointing straight-line performance to scupper it. It doesn’t; there’s more to this car than just grunt.