Whatever happened to the MG XPower SV?
MG Rover died a sad death in 2005, after years of underinvestment, a lack of creativity and a dreary line-up of ageing models.
But for one fleeting moment, MG took a bravery pill and attempted a move into the supercar market with a monstrous V8 powered machine entitled the XPower SV.
The two seater coupé was based on the Qvale Mangusta, the rights of which were purchased by MG in 2003, and featured styling from Peter Stevens, one of the designers responsible for the exterior of the McLaren F1 as well as the Lotus Esprit, Elan and Jaguar XJR15.
Unusually for an MG, the SV wasn’t built in Birmingham, but was mostly assembled in Modena - home to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati – and then finished at Longbridge. Unlike most machines produced in the Midlands, this was a carbon fibre-clad colossus that had plenty of wow factor.
Effectively an MG TF on steroids, the aggressively-styled SV could accelerate to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, slow by today’s standards, and max out at 165 mph. An uprated SV-R variant benefited from an extra 65 horsepower, taking it from 320 to 385hp, and generating an extra 10 mph.
While not tear your face off fast, it was still an impressive machine that sounded fabulous, courtesy of its Ford Mustang-derived engine, and handled like a dream too. It even impressed staunch MG Rover critic Jeremy Clarkson during his road test for Top Gear.
The chassis was the work of Enrique Scalabroni, a former F1 engineer with Dallara, Williams and Ferrari, adding further to the car’s pedigree.
So what went wrong? Well for starters, the asking price of £65k was a little on the steep side back in the mid-2000s, especially compared with Porsches and similar machines. And when charging that sort of money, consumers perhaps expected a few more bespoke items, rather than headlights from a Fiat Punto, and a comparatively tatty interior.
Each car also had to pass through six different companies to achieve completion, an annoying complication when the MG Rover parent company was on its knees financially. This also led to quality control and reliability issues, sadly a trait perhaps unfairly associated with later Rover models.
Only 82 cars were ever produced, and while one of these was snapped up by Rowan Atkinson, MG Rover hit the wall a few months later. Many of the cars were unfinished, with only nine of the higher grade SV-R machines built.
Seen as an opportunity to break into the USA market, only one car made its way to the ‘States, with most models finding homes in Europe and Asia.
Post-collapse, several unbuilt models found their ways into private hands and were completed using a pool of spare parts, some utilising pre-production prototypes and show cars.
An attempt to restart production came in 2008, when William Riley purchased SV-related assets from the MG Rover administrators and created the MG Sports and Racing Europe moniker. But the use of the MG branding incurred the wrath of the Nanjing Automobile Group Corporation, who had snapped up the brand name and other assets, and Riley’s company folded without a single car being built.
Three unassembled cars were bought by Eclectic Cars Limited in 2013, and were the last cars to be completed. One was a left-hand drive specimen that was instantly snapped by a German buyer, while two others were put up for sale with a price tag of £60,000.
Despite their scarcity, models of the SV still appear in the classifieds. A 2007-registered machine was sold for just under £34,000 at auction last year, while two models are currently available on Auto Trader; a standard 4.6 litre SV with 12,000 miles on the clock for £40,000, and the higher-spec SV-R for £70,000.
Richard Randle is a motorsport PR professional working with the UK’s top racing circuits and the UK’s premier single-seater category, the BRDC British F3 Championship.