Andy Hollingdale samples the MantarayFollowing my recent MaxTrack day at Cadwell Park (The most fun I have had with my leg on!), my 4.5 Chimaera needed a little TLC in the tyres and brakes department. Booking the TVR in to Peninsula Automotive in Cullompton, Mark Strange (Sales Manager) suggested that I borrowed their 4.6 Marcos Mantaray demonstrator for a couple of days to see how it compared to the Chimaera. Never one to turn down an offer of driving a quick car I graciously accepted.
The Mantaray replaces the Mantara with a basic shape that dates back over 30 years. This latest incarnation is the prettiest so far. The lines and bulges have been softened a little, its still very much a Marcos but it doesn't have the "pumped up on steroids" look of the Mantis. The overall shape is more elegant and stylish (Marcos purists may disagree). The old sloping boot has been replaced with a more usable space equal in size to the Chimaera's but without having to store the roof panel or the space saver spare wheel, which lives under the bonnet. Next to the Chimaera the Mantaray looks lower and slimmer. On paper the dimensions are virtually identical
|Chimaera 450||Mantaray 4.6|
The cockpit is snug and the seats so supportive you know you are not going to roll around too much when in corners. It takes a while to get the driving position just right as the seats don't adjust. The small steering wheel has loads of adjustment and the whole pedal box moves back and forward via an electric motor. The whole thing works well and with a bit of experimentation I was able to get the perfect driving position.
The interior is equipped with a generous supply of wood, leather and thick carpet. The dash styling is more traditional than TVR with the switches a mixture of polished alloy with a brief visit to the Ford parts bin. Everything works well and comes to hand easily.
The hood is a good fit and simple to remove with just two clips and six poppers. There is a little more wind noise when the hood is up compared to the TVR but it is a full rag top. With the hood neatly packed away under a cover and with the side windows up I was nicely cocooned. The heater when needed was excellent and would be very welcome for those early morning roof down blasts across Bodmin Moor.
Once started the V8 engine burbles away as only a V8 can. Although it's basically the same engine, the Mantaray sounds very different to the TVR, deeper and with more bass. On tickover its might be compared to a soft Scottish female voice whispering in your ear, but hit the loud pedal and she turns into Rab C Nesbit on full rant!
On the road the ride is firm but not uncomfortable. You feel in contact with the road surface and very secure. There are no squeaks or rattles from the cabin and everything feels very well put together. The tiny steering wheel and perfectly balanced power steering make fast sharp corners a real pleasure and it the back steps out a little it can be caught with ease.
There is a bumpy undulating (private) road near where I live that I can get up to 90mph in the Chimaera before the road surface causes the TVR to feel a little unstable. The Mantaray over the same stretch of road felt secure at nearly 100 mph.
The brakes where a little disconcerting at first as they are not servo assisted but once you learn to push harder they work well. The front brakes are AP 4 pot ventilated discs similar in size to a 4.2 Cerbera and although a servo can be fitted the possibility of locking the front brakes would be increased. A couple of heavy braking sessions from high speed on a quiet road gave me confidence in how much pressure to apply.
The engine and gearbox are almost identical to the Chimaera and I couldn't tell a difference in performance. Both pull well in any gear and I love the close tight T5 gearbox. Travelling along twisty A roads and swapping between 3rd and 4th gear the merest hint of a straight allows an overtaking opportunity and lines of traffic are dismissed in an instant. Push on further and the Marcos is comfortable and composed at high speed.
I covered 500 miles over two days and averaged 20mpg which is the same as I get in the Chimaera. In my opinion the Mantaray is as good as the Chimaera in most ways and slightly better as far as build quality and handling go. The old chestnut I keep hearing that Marcos are 10 years behind TVR no longer bears close examination. At a whisker under £40K I think the Mantaray 4.6 would appeal to the Chimaera owner who is happy with the performance but wants something a little rarer with a fraction more driver involvement.