Lowering myself into the cabin, it was all a familiar sight to me, having been in and photographed more Tuscans than I've had hot pies (well almost). Despite that it suddenly dawned on me how ignorant I was of the nuances of actually driving the car! First hurdle having got in it and made myself comfortable was how to start the damn thing!? I'd 'bleeped' it some minutes before so missed my time slot to fire it up, so I just needed to find the slot for the immobiliser key. After a few minutes examining the steering column I stumbled across it hidden to the left of the column above the parcel shelf. Mobilised, key in, fired up… lovely! Another few minutes trying to fathom just how the window winders work (twist a bit, wait, window goes up a bit) and I was ready to hit the road. With the engine still burbling away, I strapped myself in.
The Speed 6 engine fitted to the Tuscan isn't the type of six you'll find in a BMW. Whilst they may share much in terms of configuration, they share little in terms of character. The Tuscan fires into life with a resonating howl warning all around that this car is no pussy. Blipping the throttle gives a subtle hint of what is to come when in full song. Get in a modern BMW and you'll marvel at what a finely balanced, smooth and pleasing tone those Bavarians have managed to tune from their creation. Get in a Tuscan and you'll marvel at how those chaps in Blackpool can inject such obvious evil into an exhaust note.
Manoeuvring out onto the road, the car feels big. The combination of the view over the long curvaceous bonnet coupled with the chunky gearbox gives a false impression of size. Coupled with the stares from everyone around you gives the car feels enormous.
Trundling around suburbia in first and second gear is easy enough, but this really isn't a car comfortable stuck with townies on their way to work. It begs for to be opened up. The engine is high revving and even just hitting a motorway slip road the car begs for a dose of right foot. Never mind the 0-60 in four seconds, easing your foot down on the long pedal and the Tuscan whooshes towards the horizon, gobbling up long slip roads in seconds. Slot a gear change in as well and you find yourself on the motorway travelling at 30mph faster than everyone else.
The nice thing about the Tuscan is that the power is delivered smoothly - granted with even more haste from around 5,000rpm - but it's not explosive or overwhelming like the Cerbera's V8. Just hang on to the thin wheel with both hands and decide when to ease up.
A quick blast up the motorway confirms that the car has a 'useful turn of speed' and can provide endless amusement. Tailgaters can be left standing with acceleration to highly illegal speeds possible in a matter of seconds. It's no surprise that these cars can do in excess of 180mph.
Having stowed the roof in the boot it soon became apparent that leaving the rear screen in wasn't such a smart idea for motorway travel. There's severe and distinctly uncomfortable buffeting at high speed, necessitating the stowing of the screen too. Slotting that into the boot highlights the advantages of the roof arrangement. You need to be careful not to chip the painted roof, but once sat across the top of the boot opening it highlights just how much room is left underneath. Keep your essentials in the car and it's a good arrangement for touring.
It's an interesting compromise between the sometimes claustrophobic interior of the Cerbera and the full roof off situation available in the Tamora and older cars. It's not quite the full wind in the hair experience yet you do of course get the added benefit of the roll over protection.
Take the roof off though and the major flaw in the Tuscan's interior becomes apparent. The controls and instrumentation are just too quirky. TVR have always innovated (and please don't stop) resulting in some uniquely stylish creations culminating in the excellent interior of the Cerbera.
The motives were good - a stylish, compact, multi-function LCD display, sweeping speedo etc, but the execution leaves much to be desired. The brass speedo has far too many graduations and as a result takes a fraction too long to read (perhaps something you get used to). Coupled with the LCD display that looks like something out of a 1980's calculator you're left feeling that style has overtaken function. The LCD has useful information that saves on multiple analogue dials but the small figures are only visible safely when stationary and an LCD and brass display aren't a great combination in bright sunlight. The saving grace is that the key information is to hand in the shape of three stage change up lights sitting atop the binnacle. At last a manufacturer who truly acknowledges that engines should be worked hard!
As for the twiddlers for opening the windows, they're just not intuitive. I'd settle for manual winders!
With the sun gleaming brightly and only a vague idea of what speeds I was doing I headed off the motorway and onto the B roads - time to see what the chassis could really take. Whilst based on Cerbera chassis, the Tuscan was designed for a more forgiving ride. Although launched with high profile tyres to achieve this, style did of course have the upper hand with many owners of the first cars specifying large wheels and skinny tyres (as fitted to this car). Despite this, the ride was not a nightmare of tramlining and bumpy cats eyes as I expected.
Hacking through the woods on a bumpy B road, it soon became apparent how competent the car is. It's an impressive ride. It is of course firm, but soaks up some terrible road surfaces with great aplomb. Care is still needed as nasty shocks can resonate through the whole chassis but on the whole it's surprising what speeds the car is capable off on imperfect surfaces. The fast steering rack is much appreciated here with only minute adjustments required to keep the car steady rather than sawing at the wheel. That's not to say it inspired completely though. Braking hard raises questions about where the rear end might go so caution is needed, particularly in the wet.
The Story Ends
Parking the Tuscan is not the end of the story of course. In fact for many owners it's just the start!. Most of TVR's cars attract attention when idle but none so like the Tuscan. Despite this black car's evil looks, the admiration it drew in its brief visit was startling. This is not a car for shy retiring types. In the brief time we had the car it was peered at, poked and generally admired by schoolboys, bikers, race mechanics and even two little old ladies who were most engaged by it.
The Tuscan's stunning looks have attracted a new breed of owner to the marque, there's little doubt about that. What's pleasing is that despite the car now having the 'King's Road Factor' it is still an incredibly competent driver's car. They say that racing improves the breed and there's little doubt that TVR's race track experiences have been responsible for this car being a generation more advanced than the Chimaera and Griffith. TVR have also succeeded in making a very different car to the very macho Cerbera.
On paper they have similar performance characteristics. Drive them though and you'll appreciate how TVR are appealing to two very different audiences. Try before you buy - but you will buy!
Car courtesy of TMS Performance Vehicles