Great British Cars That America Missed Out On: MG XPower SV


A Porsche 911-rivaling sports car, from the most unlikeliest of companies.

Ask any gear head to name the first car from MG that pops into their head, and it's more than likely that a dinky little sports car of some description will be uttered. Sure, a hatchback or a sedan may crop up in the responses, but a compact coupe like the MGB or a roadster along the lines of the TF will be the more likely responses. What might not be the most obvious car, though, will be a high-performance, supercar-esque coupe. But, believe it or not, MG actually built one - and it was called the XPower SV.

Fabricated in an era where the MG Rover group was scurrying away at Longbridge, frantically searching for a solution to its financial woes, the XPower SV seems like an incredibly inappropriate and pointless car. Which, of course, it was. Not only did it jar with everything else that MG was making at that time, but the XPower SV ended up being one of the final nails in MG Rover's coffin. Verified production figures are hard to come by, but it's generally accepted that 80 or so SVs were made before MG Rover eventually went belly up in 2005, saddled with a debt of $3 billion.

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By all accounts, then, the MG Xpower SV was a pointless car that, if anything, accelerated the inevitable demise of the mismanaged MG Rover Group. However, by some miracle, the built-on-a-shoestring-budget SV actually ended up being a pretty decent sports car. It certainly wasn't the most sophisticated machine in the world when it came to drivetrains. Power, for instance, came from the same 4.6-liter, 320-hp V8 that propelled the fifth-generation Ford Mustang GT. The exterior and interior furnishing weren't exactly ideal for a car that would cost the best part of $150,000 in today's money, either.

Yes, the bodywork was all carbon fiber, but that's not exactly much comfort when you find out the headlamps come from the Fiat Punto hatchback. What made up for it, though, was that the small team of engineers who crafted the MG had made this coarse sports coupe an incredibly friendly and malleable car to drive quickly. Even on the racier 'SV-R' models that came with a 385-hp 5.0-liter V8 engine, traction is surprisingly good, and the suspension setup, honed on the UK's notoriously rutted roads, made the SV surprisingly stable and composed over rougher surfaces.

Of course, it couldn't hold a candle to the Porsches, Aston Martins, BMWs or even TVRs of the day. But it wasn't that far off, especially considering the circumstances surrounding its inception, and all the road testers who drove it back in the day agreed that, with a bit more honing and development work, MG might have had an ace high-performance sports car on its hands. Thankfully, a small collection of companies and individuals have not only kept the SV's flame burning, but also made headways in unlocking the potential it so clearly had.

Would the XPower SV have saved MG had it been a bit more well-rounded? Most likely not. Are the only people seriously interested in the car dedicated MG fanatics? It's possible. But is the SV an interesting little curio that we wish was given the chance to try its luck in the United States? Absolutely!

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