It’s often said if you’re going to go out, then you go out with a bang. As a last-minute ditch to bring a rapidly declining MG Rover back in line to its original philosophy, MG Rover decided to get themselves a fully developed front-engined sports car that had already been homologated for the US market. Now as a company that was precariously selling a number of outdated family cars, it could almost be compared to someone deciding to ignore the boring but important bit of a film and fast forward to watch the glorious but doomed ending...
Let's try and make sense of this fascinating story of the MG Xpower SV. To understand the car's background, and how this project took off let us go back to the original car. Dealing with Italian companies was nothing new for MG Rover, having forged a connection with styling schools Pininfarina and Michelloti in the ’60s. There was also an agreement with De Tomaso in the ’70s to produce BL cars under the Innocenti badge in Italy. It’s this connection with De Tomaso that forms the basis of the MG XPower.
The MG Rover management, aware of the costs and development of putting a high-priced sports into production, had snapped up an opportunity to use a ready-built prototype, employ the skills of Peter Stevens to restyle the car and get it ready for sale within three years. Starting life as the De Tomaso prototype called the Biguá, the 4.6 Litre Ford Mustang powered open-top car debuted at the 1996 Geneva Motor show. Guided by Kjell Qvale, who was well known within British motoring circles for having both bought out Jensen in 1970 and importing Subarus as part of the International Motors Limited, Kjell Qvale saw the potential in the Biguá for export in the US. It was renamed the Mustang for production but it struggled to sell and less than 300 found homes.
MG Rover also saw potential in the concept, and subsequently bought out Qvale and his car, with the intention of using the platform for an MG supercar. The idea was to rival the XK-R Jaguar with ambitious plans to produce 10,000 cars a year. Marketed as a racer rather than a cruiser, the restyled car was badged as the XPower SV. Offering blistering performance, with the capability of high states of tuning it was released for sale in 2004 to an interested public.
However by this time MG Rover was in serious trouble, and the question of producing a high-end sports car for a limited market instead of designing a replacement for their ageing series of family cars joined the long list of bizarre but well-intentioned decisions that had coloured in the organisations' history. As stated in the first sentence, the frivolous but imaginative project was clearly a good piece of PR, but at £82,000 for the top-end version, one has to think what planet was the management on? MG Rover folded just a year after the launch of the car, resulting in just 82 being produced. Two original versions were available, both with Ford Mustang engine - the original SV with the 4.2-litre unit, or the later 5.0-litre 32V model.
The owner has owned the SV since 2007, picking the car thanks to his appreciation of the car's performance. The owner has led a very interesting life, being a self-made man with the opportunity to come across the right people at the right time. The owner was a lotus test car driver and had been recruited directly by Colin Chapman himself for the job so understands the driving dynamics and reactions, and the respect that a car like this demands.
This SV has always been owned by drivers who have enjoyed the car, the first owner took it down to Le Mans, and the owner has tried out the car on a track day at Snetterton. Thanks to his experience of handling cars around corners, he managed to surprise many other supercar owners who may not be as well versed to handle their own cars.
This car is from the earlier batch, and has the benefit of being a car that was built and sold straight away - later cars remained unsold and unused for a period. This car is documented as chassis number 115 and one of just 30 of the all carbon-fibre cars. The car has an extensive web presence too, with the previous owner having dedicated a website to the car while it was in his ownership. The owner has considered the idea of using Unitech to increase the horsepower but has left it largely standard since he bought it.
Originally retailing at 65K, with options taking it above 70K, we present you with a very honest and well looked after example of the XPower SV 320.
Not surprisingly for a car that has been generally used sparingly but with respect, it comes with a pile of paperwork. There are plenty of receipts for servicing and parts, with some original dealer checklist forms. The car also comes with several pieces of promotional items including an original hardback dealers brochure and a Digital photographic build record covering the development aspect of the car. The owner has also bought a book that chronicles the MG X’s story. All come with the car.
Finished inside with Bloomberry Red Alcantara/Leather, the interior is not as brash as you might expect. The minus points that need to be picked up is the dreaded engine warning management light - it has been on for a while and despite some fairly extensive investigation the issue has not been discovered - The owner has learned to live with it and there have not been any problems since. The leather interior quality still holds up, and there is no evidence of rips or tears - the central panel switchgear has aged somewhat and the plastic is sticky to touch - but a straightforward issue to resolve. The SV models often varied in specifications, so this one is fairly unique having Automatic Climate Control, combined with the Alpine CD/Tuner/iPod & Infinity Speakers and a Momo steering wheel. It has the useful Dual-action (inertia and fixed) 4-belt, 3-point safety harnesses as well a tracker.
Finished in metallic XPower Grey, the subtle colour betrays the car's age. Some of the Xpowers' hues could be considered untasteful, with pearlescent, kinetic, chromactive and supertallic finishes which can seem to overwhelm the essence of the car somewhat. Fitted with the Aero pack, which is the rear spoiler and alloy finish side air vents. The standard fitment of the deep front spoiler, rear diffuser and signature shark grill gives it a presence like no other road car. Each car that came out of the factory is a bespoke style according to the owner's preference, so no two cars are likely to be the same. One of the most important factors in choosing an SV is the condition of the bodywork, as panels will be virtually impossible to source. Luckily The owner's car has no evidence of repair work or any unsightly damage. Like any low volume specialist car, the car club becomes a vital lifeline and their records and previous history files will help you uncover any issues. The car is far too new to have seen any major refurbishment work, and although it’s a useable car to use daily, one should see this as an occasional use car with potential for investment.
We’ll start with the engine, it simply is a delight to listen to and best described as a burble with pops. The Ford V8 is a tough unit and if you do need to find replacement parts for it, then it is a straightforward process. It has proved along with the five-speed Tremec manual gearbox to be reliable. The car has been regularly serviced and been treated with mechanical sympathy. There are no worrying noises coming from the BTR limited-slip differential and the standard fitment OZ wheels are in good order. The rear tyres have been recently replaced. The owner freely admits that the pads may need renewing, but the ceramic brake discs are intact and haven't been overused. The 105dB track day exhaust is a dealer fitted option and is in excellent condition.
So, if you’ve jumped straight down here without reading the introduction? Then we suggest you go back to the start. Condescending instructions aside, the MG X-Power SV is quite simply unlike anything on the roads. It is fascinating on many counts - the idea of a British owned company developing a niche product is not necessarily unusual, as TVR, Nobel, Lotus, McClaren or even the likes of Ultima and Dax can attest, but what makes the MG X-Power so special is the equal brief shared between usability and track day use. It’s sheer presence when static cannot be underestimated too. Take it to a show, start the engine and it guarantees a crowd. The compact dimensions and frankly brutal appearance is undeniably head-turning. The American power, combined with Italian blood in a British styled body could be the best combination for a perfect sports car. However, be aware that variable build quality and reports of non-engine reliability could be an issue.
So, like many low volume cars, it is not without problems but for the seasoned British sports car enthusiast it will not present any nasty surprises providing the paperwork, maintenance and condition are kept on top of. As mentioned, this car has a well-documented history, and previous owners are genuine petrol-heads who will have no problem in talking to the new owner about the car while it was in their ownership.
MG now has new owners, who are making conventional family cars for undemanding owners but are gradually gaining market share in a very crowded sector. While it’s not impossible for the current owners of MG to look into a spiritual successor to the XPower, it took the reckless dreamers and the men thinking with their hearts rather than their heads to bring this car out, suggesting that the MG XPower SV and SV-R represented the end of an era.
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