TVR Tuscan

Welcome back, Tuscan ! wait a moment ... is this really a new Tuscan ? TVR boss Peter Wheeler said he no longer wants to create another stripped-out racing car in the name of Tuscan. Instead, he’d like the new Tuscan to challenge Porsche directly as a complete product. That means vast improvement to comfort and refinement. The same thing couldn’t be said for any previous TVRs, including the Cerbera Speed Six. You know, TVR cars were always renowned for maximum performance per pound. 

However, despite a lot of effort spent to refining the car (hence a 18 month delay since the debut in the 1998 London motor show), don’t be too serious about what Wheeler called “refinement”. Admittedly, the styling is very well executed, the trimming of cockpit is beautifully made, driving position is more natural, and there is new-found suppleness in ride quality, but what about airbags, ABS, traction control, power seats, electric windows, trip computer, sat-nav and blah blah blah ? All are missing in this “refined” TVR. In contrast, Lamborghini sold just one-tenth the number of cars as TVR last year, but it managed to equipped the Diablo with 4-wheel-drive, ABS, variable valve timing etc. The Blackpool sports car specialist is still far from world class. 

If we’re not misled by Wheeler and never compare it with Porsche, we’ll find the new Tuscan very interesting. Firstly, stop watch proved that it is one of the quickest production cars today. From standstill, it takes just 4.2 seconds to reach 60 mph, and then passes the 100 mark at 9.5 seconds. You know, anything doing 0-100 mph in less than 10 ticks could be classified as supercars, these including Ferrari 360, Lamborghini Diablo, TVR's own Cerbera, Aston Vantage, Porsche 911 Turbo and probably 911 GT3 as well as Dodge Viper GTS. In short, Tuscan is one of the 8 fastest cars producing today, yet it is the cheapest among them. (well, Caterham R500 is excluded because of lacking a proper type-approval) At £40K, it actually competes directly with Boxster S rather than these supercars ! However, floor down the throttle at 5th, the Tuscan will hit 180 mph like its sister car Cerbera. 

Providing such fire-breathing performance is a version of the “Speed Six” engine formerly exclusive to Cerbera. It’s a modern 4.0-litre straight-six, with twin-cam and 24 valves to enable an outstanding specific output of 90 hp per litre, and that’s achieved without the help of any VVT ! All must thanks to engine specialist Al Melling, who also gave birth to other TVR’s recent engines, such as the AJP V8 and the 7-litre V12 used by Cerbera Speed 12.  

In Tuscan, the Speed Six engine is tuned to 360 hp / 310 lbft instead of the Cerbera’s 350 hp / 330 lbft. A new motorbike-style exhaust is exclusive to the Tuscan, which save weight. Talking about weight, the Tuscan tips the scale at 1120 kg without the optional air conditioning, that's 40 less than the Cerbera on which it is based. Basically, all TVRs are similar underneath the different-looking skins: tubular space frame chassis with lattice transmission tunnel acting as backbone. The Tuscan just differs from Cerbera by shortening wheelbase by 205 mm, thanks to the elimination of rear seats. Moreover, it is constructed as a Targa, with roll-over bar running right behind occupants’ heads. The composite roof can be stored horizontally in the boot, just above luggage. The rear window can also be detached and placed vertically just in front of luggage if you want more fresh air. Unlike any previous TVRs, the body is made of honey-comb-style composites instead of glass-fiber and saved 30 kg.  

The composites body panels also enable a highly curvy styling that conventional glass-fiber or steel sheets cannot hope for. Viewing from front, the Tuscan looks very much like Moby Dick the white whale . The wave-like front bonnet is actually made of two pieces - the front one can be opened and give access to oil and water refilling. The rear panel is fixed by bolts and can only be opened to access the engine during servicing. Wheeler seemed to realised this idea earlier than Audi with its A2. 

In terms of styling, the Moby Dick really refreshes our eyes. It’s extremely smooth and pure, yet delivering a strong sense of power. Yes, the power of white whale ! no one will doubt its 180 mph potential.  

The interior is no less special. A speedometer made of brass and aluminium looks cyber yet retro (a paradox? aluminium seems cyber, brass accompany the style of readings looks retro). At night it backlit in green. Inside which is a small LCD provides digital readings for engine rev, oil/water temperature etc. Like a cheap digital watch, you press a button once to change to another mode. The cabin is fully leather clad, in lighter colours than other TVRs. Cheap plastics? no, because TVR can't afford plastic moulding so that it simply use leather instead. Comfort has been improved, with more leg room due to the use of straight six instead of a wide V8. The seats are supportive, pedals and steering wheel are adjustable to compensate the lack of height adjustment for seats. Door sills are lower, doors open wider. However, the transmission tunnel is as wide as before, thanks to the space frame construction inside that. The targa roof and side windows doesn't insulate wind noise properly. No much equipment, just air-con, a simple sound system ....  

Not very simple indeed, because the Speed Six engine is already one of the best sound systems available. It sings very much like a Diablo V12 ! It’s powerful right from idle, with sharp throttle response yet preserving the inherent smoothness of an inline-six should have. Power is fed to a Borg Warner 5-speeder with short and mechanical-feel shift quality. Brakes are strong and firm, despite of the lack of ABS, are more than effective to stop the 1120 kg car. Weighting of most controls are in the heavy side but manageable to real drivers. 

The Tuscan have a good weight distribution of 51:49 front to rear. Nevertheless, there is still some way to match the fluency and competent of a Porsche Boxster S or GT3 in handling. The springs are too soft to provide adequate control over uneven surfaces (TVR deliberately chose a soft spring / firm damping combination for better ride compliance, but the outcome seems not very successful). On some bumpy roads the suspensions may even bottom out, or at least generate bump steer. On the other hand, the steering is obviously too quick - from lock to lock it takes just 1.7 turns ! I’ve never heard something like that before. It could be nervous sometimes and difficult to control fluently, especially in the presence of the suspension flaw. It could be tail-happy under hard throttle (luckily, the pedal travel is long enough to control power precisely) or in wet, lacking the confidence found in Boxster S. TVR really needs more effort to sort out the problems. 

The above report was last updated on 2 June 2000. All Rights Reserved.

Tuscan S

If the standard Tuscan is TVR’s equivalent to 911 Turbo, the Tuscan S should be in GT2 category. It is not only more powerful than the standard car, but also lighter, stops quicker and handles better. Moreover, despite of £10,000 price hike, it still costs less than half of the 911 GT2. It still strictly follows the company’s philosophy - maximum performance from minimum money. 

Think about it: the GT2 arrives 100mph in 8.3 seconds; the British bargain can also break the 9-sec barrier. If you have no idea what this mean, listen, Ferrari 360 Modena and 550M do that in 10 seconds, so the TVR is a full second quicker than any Ferrari currently on sale. 

The extra performance comes from a modified Speed-Six engine. While still displacing at 3996c.c., it receives hotter camshafts, lighter con-rods, sequential fuel injection and - astonishingly - a 12.2:1 compression ratio. The highest ratio I previously heard is 911 GT3’s 11.7:1, so it is amazing how TVR passed emission test. Instead of the standard car’s 360 hp and 310 lbft, the reworked engine pumps out 390 hp and 330 lbft, most of the extra bang emerges at high rev. On the other hand, by using thinner composite body the Tuscan S is 30kg lighter than the standard car which is already very light. 390 horses push 1090 kilograms, you can imagine how fast the S is. To cope with higher speed, TVR adds an odd spoiler to the tail. 

The standard Tuscan is renowned for 2 flaws: one, the steering is too quick and too nervous; two, the rear suspension is too soft. The S cures them by revising the front suspension geometry (but retain the steering rack) and all suspension’s springs and dampers. As a result, steering is less aggressive and less affected by bump, body control is also improved. Accompany with enlarged brakes, the Tuscan is more refined than ever. Of course, this is just relative. Compare with Porsche it is still very raw and need the driver’s respect.  

The above report was last updated on 25 Aug 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Tuscan R (T440R)

Tuscan R (also called T440R) is the most outrageous and also the most mysterious car in TVR’s range. The birth of it was probably triggered by the failure of Cerbera Speed 12 - a 800hp 7-litre V12 race car which resulted in neither victories on tracks nor success in business terms. Instead of giving up, TVR boss Peter Wheeler decided to try to build another supercar using existing technologies in a more feasible way. This time it is built on the Tuscan platform, with wider tracks and 200mm longer wheelbase to improve cornering and high speed stability respectively. Longer wheelbase also enables to fit in a big fuel tank for racing purpose.  

Despite of the larger size, the T440R is clothed with full carbon-fiber (instead of glass-fiber) bodywork, therefore it actually undercuts the Tuscan and Tuscan S. Weighing just 1060kg, that’s almost 400kg lighter than Porsche 911 GT2 ! moreover, the chassis is at least 2-times stiffer than that of the Tuscan, thanks to the carbon-fiber reinforcement at transmission tunnel and aluminum-honeycomb floor. Also don’t forget the standard-fit racing rollcage.  

Unfortunately, the design of T440R reflects the poor taste of Peter Wheeler. While many people love the style of Tuscan, not many can put up with the strange front and rear end of T440R. The organic shape looks almost like a spaceship coming from Mars. However, it is aerodynamic efficient, having a drag coefficient of just 0.32. This is the first TVR underwent wind tunnel testing. Although TVR’s claim of 215mph is unquestionably infeasible, a place in the 200mph Club is still secured. 

TVR also tuned the Speed-Six engine to 440hp, up 50hp from Tuscan S. What has been done to the engine remains to be a mystery. There are even contradictory data shown in the company’s web site - the text said the 440hp engine displaces 4.2 litres but the specification table (also the information the company supplied to car magazines) said the same 3996cc as Tuscan S. Transmission is similarly mysterious - we just know it is a touring-car-style 6-speed sequential, but have no idea where it comes from or how well it performs.  

In fact, the car is really the most mysterious car in TVR’s lineup. Although it appeared in price list for a long time (at £76,000, it is 50% more expensive than Tuscan S), it was never properly tested by car magazines. The only report I got was by Autocar on May 2002, tested a prototype whose engine was still developing 390hp. TVR did not even allow Autocar to drive the prototype, just let them sat at the passenger seat. Since then, it seems the company has forgotten to formally introduce the car to the press. Perhaps Peter Wheeler’s enthusiasm on this car is just fast-fading, just as he used to do with Cerbera Speed 12. Maybe the world’s interest on this car is also fast-fading. 

The above report was last updated on 20 Sep 2003. All Rights Reserved.


Tuscan S
Tuscan R (T440R)
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
L / W / H / WB (mm)
4235 / 1810 / 1200 / 2361
4235 / 1810 / 1200 / 2361
4367 / 1880 / 1210 / 2560
Inline-6, dohc, 4v/cyl.
Inline-6, dohc, 4v/cyl.
Inline-6, dohc, 4v/cyl.
3996 cc
3996 cc
3996 cc
360 hp
390 hp
440 hp
310 lbft
330 lbft
350 lbft
6M semi-auto
Suspension (F/R)
All: double wishbones
All: double wishbones
All: double wishbones
Tyres (F/R)
235/35 ZR18 / 255/35 ZR18
235/40 ZR18 / 245/40 ZR18
1120 kg
1090 kg
1060 kg
Top speed
180 mph (c)
190 mph (c)
200 mph (est)
0-60 mph
4.2 sec*
3.9 sec*
3.7 sec (est)
0-100 mph
8.9 sec*
8.4 sec (est)
Figures tested by: * Autocar

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