First Drives

29 April 2013

Hammond drives the icons: TVR Sagaris

TVR is dead, but its howling, roaring, speedy children survive. Long live the Sagaris!

Richard Hammond
Car image

It looks like a rainy-day doodle in a schoolbook, it takes 20 minutes to get into it because the door button is hidden under the mirror, and, when you finally do enter, the interior smells like a glue-sniffer's pocket; yup, it's definitely a TVR.

The Sagaris was one of the last cars the company made as it writhed and wrestled through its death throes before it finally slithered under last year, taking down with it a million jokes about reliability, names and Blackpool. Tricky, then, to recommendit, this car made by a now defunct company called Trevor. Tricky, maybe, but certainly not crazy. For one thing, look at it... just look. It's fabulous.

Those swoops and curves and dips; that's not a sensible, optimised, wind-tunnel committee design-decision; that was designed from the start to look cool. I love a double-bubble roof as much as - well actually, more than - the next guy, but the Sagaris goes one better: it's got a single bubble over the driver's side. And I love asymmetry; it reeks of intent, a ruthless commitment to form following function. Presumably it's there to accommodate the driver's crash helmet on a track day, and neck brace on the way home.

Except it's not likely to be necessary. Assuming the canoe-factory fumes don't overcome you, this thing is built to party and is most certainly not some slap-happy rendering of a fantasy drawing in glorious GRP.

With all-round independent suspension, double wishbones and coil-over Bilstein dampers, this is a serious weapon. The engine is the same homegrown TVR unit used in the Tuscan S, a 4.0-litre straight-six producing 406bhp. In a car weighing just 1,078kg, that can only add up to one thing: it's bloody quick. I mean really, really quick. Zero to 100kph is done and dusted in 3.9 seconds; top speed is 297kph. And you never, ever feel like you're doing all these things in something built in the evenings in a shed. TVR worked hard to make the Sagaris feel right, to make it taut and communicative, to give it the balance, traction and stiffness it needed on a track, but to blend that with pliancy and neutrality so you could take your comic-book beauty on the road without flinching at trees.

It's a proper GT, with striking looks and a noisy presence that makes you feel like a movie star tracking up the gravel drive to your hotel in France, but, boy, can it cut it on the track too. The controls, the interface between you, it and the track itself are tight, precise and clear. And, all the while, there's that straight-six, howling its song for you. We all love a V8's bellow, but there's something about a straight-six...

This was, in so many ways, the best of the breed. Sure, TVR had its issues: it was a small-volume English carmaker, and it was lucky to last as long as it did. But I, for one, miss it. I miss its crazy designs, its angry, shouty engines, its hidden switches and, by the end of my time with this car, I found myself growing nostalgic even for the resin-reek of the interior.

Photography: Justin Leighton

Tags: richard hammond, tvr, hammond drives the icons, sagaris

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