TVR Cerbera

"Raw" is the most suitable word to described TVR's sports cars. Raw makes them light thus fast. Raw makes them affordable. Raw makes them easy to be built by the tiny company which relies on human hands. However, raw also made their cars less competitive than other main stream sports cars.  

Among all raw cars, Cerbera is the least raw one. You cannot find its improvement by simply look or touch it, because in terms of build quality it remains weak. To realise its improvement, you have to turn on the key and push it towards the limit.  

At first, you may think it is even more raw, mostly because of the very loud engine noise ( quite exciting, if not beautiful. ) and the ultra-responsive engine. Then drive it into the bends and some rough roads and you will discover its superiority over Griffith and Chimaera : rigid chassis aids handling, ride is no longer rock-stiff but stability is also improved. Finally, TVR can beat other sports cars in straight line as well as bends !  

Though less raw, Cerbera is more exciting than Griffith and Chimaera, and many other sports cars including Dodge Viper ( the most apparent equivalent in US ). The most thrilling is the new self-built AJP V8 engine. In specifications, it is no more than an old-fashion 2 valves per cylinder ( though SOHC is still advancer than OHV of the Rover V8 ) engine. However, some racing technology makes it to be very powerful and responsive, especially at the top end. 4185c.c. capable of 350hp, anyone must be impressed with its efficiency. It is not a smooth unit, it does vibrate, it does scream, but accompany with its wild manner all these character will become positive - thrilling !  

As Cerbera is as light as 1177kg, one magazine had recorded an astonish acceleration : 4 second flat to do 0-60mph ! I am not sure whether the particular car it tested is a typical one - maybe it is a specially good one. However, another test recorded a top speed of 179mph is also astonishing. ( Too brilliant for a company that has no budget to hire a wind tunnel ) Maybe Cerbera is really that fast.  

Cerbera 4.5

TVR launched an even faster Cerbera in mid-1997. The AJP engine is enlarged to 4.5 litres, power and torque rises to 420hp and 380lbft, respectively - this is an even more high-revving engine ! 
The above report was last updated in 1998. All Rights Reserved.

Cerbera Speed Six

Those who read my Classic Car Archive may remember there was a Bentley called "Speed Six" in the late 20's. Today, six cylinders engines are very common, but not so in 70 years ago. When Bentley introduced its first straight six cylinder engine into its racing car, it named the car "Speed Six".  

To TVR, the name "Speed Six" also means it is powered by a powerful inline six engine, but unlike the Bentley, it has 2 less cylinders than the normal TVRs. The "ordinary" Cerbera has a race-breed, high revving AJP V8. The Cerbera Speed Six has a refined, similarly powerful 24 valves DOHC inline 6.  

Designed by British engine expert Al Melling and further developed by TVR's John Ravenscroft, the new engine is an admirable achievement considering the manpower and money involved. Like Formula One's Brian Hart, Al Melling is famous for making world class engine out of a very small budget. The AJP V8 was one of his famous designs, which proves how far a 2-valves V8 could reach. The Speed Six engine, with 4-valves head, shows how serious a small budget straight six could challenge BMW's and Porsche's in terms of power as well as refinement. The next one, Speed 12, will demonstrate how to beat McLaren F1 and Mercedes CLK-GTR. All these designs are favoured by TVR.  

Saying it as smooth as BMW M3's engine is probably too exaggerated, however, the Speed Six engine is as smooth as other world class six pot engines, such as Porsche 911's boxer. On paper, the 3996c.c. straight six produces350hp and 330 lbft output, exceeds both the M3 (321hp, 258lbft) and 911 (296hp, 258lbft). It equals the 4.2 litres AJP V8's power and marginally eclipses its peak torque by 10lbft.  

If you think it must be faster than the 4.2 AJP V8, you will be wrong. Against the clock, the Cerbera Speed Six reached 60mph in 4.5 seconds and 100mph in 10.2sec, although faster than 911's 4.6 sec / 10.5 sec, still fails to match the 4.2 AJP's 4.0 sec / 9.1sec. This is because the AJP V8 is tuned to be very peaky and responds fiercely to throttle action, while the Speed Six is tuned for linear power delivery and refinement. Superior torque curve makes it very flexible. Longer throttle travel further makes it easier to be controlled. From any view points, Speed Six is far satisfying for road use.  

TVR obviously tries to transform itself  from a typical British specialist car maker ( that is, producing cheap, raw but fast sports car by old technology ) to a German sports car-beater. At first we saw the vast improvement of build quality in Chimaera and Cerbera, then the refined Speed Six engine, and then is the suspensions and steering setup. Springs and dampers are softened. Lower profile and smaller 225/50ZR16 tyres are adopted. The result is better bump absorption although it is still firm compare with the German mass production. The super quick 2.0 turns lock-to-lock steering was revised to 2.4 turns in order to reduce the effort and nervous. Handling remains excellent.  

Of course, to rival the German quality and refinement, TVR still has a long long way to go. However, it need not to do so. Offering awesome performance while asking for modest price is still its main advantage. What its customers want is more comfort and refinement in at least acceptable level (which it failed in the past), not German level. Cerbera Speed Six is a good starting point. It becomes the best TVR currently available, but I believe the fast-growing company will produce even better machines soon. 

The above report was last updated in 1998. All Rights Reserved.


Cerbera Speed Six
Cerbera 4.2 AJP
Cerbera 4.5
Front-engined, Rwd 
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd.
L / W / H / WB : 4280 / 1865 / 1220 / 2566 mm
 Inline-6, dohc, 4v/cyl.
V8, sohc, 2v/cyl.
V8, sohc, 2v/cyl.
 3996 c.c.
4185 c.c.
4475 c.c.
 350 hp
350 hp
420 hp
 330 lbft
320 lbft
380 lbft
All wheels Double Wishbones
All : 225/50ZR16
F: 225/45ZR16
R: 245/45ZR16
F: 235/40ZR17
R: 255/40ZR17
 1163 kg
1177 kg
1178 kg
Top speed
 180 mph (estimated)
180 mph (estimated)
185 mph (claimed)
0-60 mph
 4.5 sec*
4.0 sec*
4.1 sec*
0-100 mph
 10.2 sec*
9.1 sec*
8.9 sec*
* Tested by Autocar

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