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Bold Styling Decisions: TVR Sagaris


The Sagaris was an unusual car, even for TVR, but there was plenty to love about it.

A car doesn't need to be fast or expensive to turn heads. It doesn't even need to be beautiful, and sometimes it will attract more attention when it isn't. All it really needs is to be interesting, and the cars in this series are that sort of interesting which causes them to be loved by some and detested by others. The company which best exemplifies polarizing design decisions is TVR, and the most polarizing of all of their models was the Sagaris.

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TVR always was a brand for crazy people, and although this might not be the most profitable market niche, they were always reliably interesting. TVR avoided features like airbags and ABS, saying that they encouraged overconfidence in drivers, which led to accidents. Studies have been done which actually support this argument, but one still gets the feeling that this is a coincidence, and TVR simply left the safety features off of their cars because fitting safety features to a car doesn't come with a corresponding payout in adrenaline. In lieu of safety equipment, TVR would simply give you an insanely powerful engine and comical handling.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that TVR's were only about driving sideways and occasionally exploding, they were also very loud. In short, they have always made excellent enthusiast cars that were fun purely for the sake of fun. The Sagaris kept much of TVR's traditional insanity going, but with a couple of changes. Most notable of these was the handling. TVR consulted with Noble on the Sagaris's suspension, and the car actually handles supremely well. This might come as a bit of a shock to those familiar with the brand, but the Sagaris was still sufficiently weird that nobody complained that the TVR experience was in any way diluted.

The name comes from an ancient form of armor-piercing battle ax, fittingly a more precise and less crude weapon than other forms of battle ax. Power came from a 4.0-liter straight-six which produced 380 horsepower. The fiberglass body and almost complete lack of anything unnecessary meant that the Sagaris weighed only 2,376lbs. It was, therefore, amazingly fast. 60mph came up in just 3.7 seconds and it could hit a top speed of 180mph. For the sake of comparison, consider the Porsche 911 Carrera. The Sagaris cost about £20,000 (due to the complete disregard for safety, we never officially got the Sagaris in the US) less than the Carrera.

Yet it could sprint from 0-60 mph more than a second faster. True, the Carrera had a more refined (and less confusing) interior, but more speed for less money is difficult to ignore. But that's not to say that the Sagaris was some stripped-out track car. The interior was comfortable, even if it did lack much in the way of extras like a navigation system. On the subject of the styling, there is no getting away from the fact that it is weird even if it's the kind of weird you like. The original idea for the car was to be one that didn't require any aerodynamic or cooling modifications before being taken to the track.

The prototype was therefore covered in vents and louvers to accommodate the proper airflow. But TVR soon learned that there was a reason why this isn't done with more road cars, as debris would end up being flung up onto the windshield. But rather than remove the vents and smooth out the lines of the car, TVR instead chose to simply fill them in. The result is a bunch of styling features which appear to make no sense and serve no purpose. But if you're buying a TVR, you aren't likely to care about such things, as the voices in your head will still insist that you have it.

Oddness aside, the Sagaris was actually a capable track car. One was even entered in the 2011 British GT Cup series, fitted with a more powerful 4.5-liter 420-hp version on the engine, and it took home wins at both Oulton Park and Brands Hatch. But it received even better publicity when it appeared on the BBC's Top Gear, where it logged a lap time faster than all but a handful of hypercars, all of which were much, much more expensive. This was interesting, because cars from TVR were always fast, and many of them were even relatively inexpensive, but their insanity always kept them from being serious competitors to cars like the Carrera.

However, for those who could get over the styling and the almost comedic approach to ergonomics, the Sagaris made a certain amount of sense. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to save it, or TVR, from the scrap heap. But it was an appropriately high note for them to go out on.