Sunday 3rd December 2000


CERBERA 4.5

Ted gets behind the wheel of one of the most potent cars on the road today

Stepping from a 168bhp TVR S into a 420bhp Cerbera is - not surprisingly - a humbling experience. From a small retro-styled car with traditional controls into stunning Cerbera with its uniquely styled dash and controls us just a hint of what a different experience it is to drive.

Into the Hot Seat

  No old-fashioned keys required to gain entry to the car. A quick blip of the keyfob, touch the button under the wing mirror, the glass lowers and the door pops open. Lower yourself into the hot seat and you're confronted with one of the most ergonomically pleasing cockpits available. With wipers, horn and full beam controls mounted on the steering wheel, indicators to your right and gearbox to your left, you rarely need to leave the steering wheel, definitely a good thing given how at one with the car you become.

Lower the seat back to assume the required laid back driving position and you'll be able to both see through the shallow windscreen and get full travel on the accelerator - not that you'll need it. 

  Your left hand falls directly to the pleasingly solid aluminium gearknob whilst the high transmission tunnel supports your arm. Another brief blip of the keyfob, then hit the black button below the steering wheel. The immobiliser bleeps briefly before the 4.5 litre V8 fires into life. It sounds like no other V8. At idle you could accuse it of sounding like a diesel, but this is an engine that should not be wasted idling.

The gearbox has a precise, if solid feel to it as you notch it into first gear. Add a few revs, ease up the clutch and an embarrassing display of revs and clutch ease you forwards. With so much power and such a precise clutch, starting technique can result in rapid departures, embarrassingly jerky departures, unintentional wheel-spinning departures or just plain stalling. Or is it just that a TVR S is too easy to drive...?

No Drama

Hands firmly clasping the sculpted wheel, the first thing impression is that it's far easier to drive than expected. With the power coming in gradually from low revs it's easy to amble around the streets without any drama. No drama of course except for the popping of the exhaust and the head-turning styling of the car. Cerberas aren't an uncommon sight in the south of England but you wouldn't guess that from the admiring glances they still receive.

Heading out across the South Downs, the true character of the car reveals itself. A dry 'A' road, a smattering of traffic and 420 horsepower - here we go. First opportunity to 'make rapid progress ' arrives. Ease back on the power, dropping back from the car in front, nudging the nose across the road for a clear view. Three cars, a clear road ahead and its time to go. A quick flash on the steering wheel mounted light switch, ease the drilled pedal towards the floor and things start to happen very quickly.

  From about 3000rpm those lazy horses under the bonnet wake up and project the car up the road. Power doesn't hit hard like a turbo, it just whooshes in as the revs climb quickly. Before you know it a gear change is required, up to third and the car is travelling far faster than strictly necessary. Within seconds of weighing up the overtaking space, the scenery is flashing past you at incredible speed. The rate at which you can reach silly speeds is quite phenomenal. Concentration is required to use the appropriate amount of power, rather than just putting your foot to the floor.

King of the Road

It doesn't take long living with the Cerbera before you begin to feel like you own the road. The ability to scythe your way past traffic soon becomes second nature. Other road users obviously think that you think you own the road too. As they bumble along oblivious to their surroundings, the sight of a stunning sportscar suddenly landing in front of them seems to uniformly result in the flashing of lights. Few people have an appreciation for how easily and safely you can arrive in that position.

And that's the frustrating thing about the Cerbera. Without the luxury of living truly in the wild open countryside, the opportunities to drive it on the limit are few and far between. Or am I just convincing myself of that, as I slip back into the worn seat of my S, fumbling with the sloppy gearchange and driving up the road at 10/10ths...