Wednesday 24th October 2001
Much overlooked the 4.2 litre Cerbera is still available and better built than ever. At £41K it's a supercar bargain!
With the advent of the Tuscan, the Cerbera has taken a bit of a back seat in the TVR publicity stakes. The Tuscan S might be considered by many to be the top of the TVR range but the Cerbera still has hoards of admirers and satisfies the demand for those seeking something a bit more 'hairy chested' than the pretty boy Tuscan.
The straight six engine may well be the favourite of the powers that be in Blackpool, but there is no substitute for a V8 and TVR's own AJP V8 has a character all of its own. Coupled with a naughty sounding sports exhaust this car has road presence unmatched by anything this side of a 360.
It's squat styling is more restrained than the spaceship-like curves of the Tuscan and the car appears almost subtle in comparison. It's not a car for shy, retiring types though as it receives constant attention. It's easy for us enthusiasts to forget what a rare beast the Cerbera is. With the total production run still numbering only hundreds it's no wonder that passers by peer down the bonnet to check out the name badge.
It may come as a surprise to some that TVR are still making 4.2 litre Cerberas. The 4.2 has achieved an unparalleled infamy amongst aficionados after the first cars had bits dropping off like a leper on a trampoline. It's a reputation that they've struggled to shake off despite later cars being very well sorted and in fact no different in quality to 4.5 litre cars.
With that in mind I took out a 2001 Cerbera 4.2 for a bit of a blast last week. Now I've been in plenty of Cerbies but I really did fall in love with this one. I know what you're thinking. This is a pro-TVR website, you're not expecting me to slag off TVRs. True enough, but credit where credit is due, this car was an absolute gem.
Dropping into the car, I cast my eyes over the lush interior. Full hide trim finished in a light grey make for a pleasantly unclaustraphobic cabin. Coupled with the flatter front rollbar that the latest cars have and the car has a very different feel from darkly trimmed cars. Fitted with the same seats as first appeared in the Tuscan, it feels incredibly luxurious for a sub £50K car. The controls in the Cerbera are unique and make driving the car all the more special.
Fitted with the larger alloys and with the underpinnings now not discernibly different to a 4.5 it's tough to tell the difference between this and its bigger engined brother. Early cars were quite different in character but that's no longer the case. Anecdotal evidence suggests that performance wise it's only above 100mph that there's any difference in acceleration and let's face it these cars are so damn fast it almost doesn't matter.
Snap, Crackle and Pop
Pressing the starter button and the V8 chokes into life, spitting pure evil down the sports exhaust. Oh yes, the sports exhaust. If ever there was a device that so perfectly excites the petrolhead to the complete astonishment of lentil-lovers, it's the sports exhaust. Unfortunately it has the effect on me of making me drive like a complete knob. Driving through towns involves a stop start process of fuelling the hungry V8 followed by backing off to invoke the snap, crackle and pop from the twin exhausts. Passing traffic on the motorway now involves checking to see if they've got their windows open just so I can back off and pop some petrol as I go past. A sports exhaust turns me into the exactly the sort of show-off that I despise!
Burbling out of TMS's dealership I head off up the country roads. The car handles predictably and is a lot more sure-footed and inspiring than the last Cerbera I drove (98 model). It's no Noble M12 in terms of handling but if you're not silly with it, you can push it very hard before dialling in any fear. The throttle travel was a bit long for my liking - I even had to move the seat forwards as I wasn't able to bury the pedal in the carpet. When you do get to nail it though, the surge is awesome. It's a free-revving engine for a V8 and it just rams home the message that this car is powerful in a noisy, V8, macho kind of way. Motoring heaven for hairy blokes.
It's too fast!
The problem with the Cerbera is that it's just too fast. If you can stop listening to the exhaust for a moment and drive with the windows up on a smooth road, it gives the illusion of being quiet and civilised. It's just quiet for a TVR though. You still have to raise your voice to speak to your passenger but that's usually because you're travelling a lot faster than you intended to. it's actually difficult to drive below 110mph! The speedo is graduated at 90 and 110mph, making it challenging to keep below the magical 100mph (all tested on a quick trip to Germany of course). Also, with so much grunt available under your right foot and the ease with which the Cerbera can accelerate - from any speed - makes it very tempting to accelerate out of trouble all the time instead of just slowing down. A blast around countryside also left me wanting as I couldn't get anywhere near the edges of the performance envelope of the car on public roads.
That minor 'problem' aside it left me as enthusiastic as ever about TVR's current range. The great thing about TVR at the moment is they in effect have two flagship models. They appeal to different characters too. I like the Tuscan, it's performance is as mind-blowing as the Cerbera and I love my convertibles, but there's something magical about the Cerbera that appeals to me in a way that I just can't put my finger on. The fact is I want one. I need one. I'd drive it slowly, I promise. Even if it was just popping and banging around town and giving it large up the slip roads of motorways.
I want one!
As for 4.2 or 4.5 it's an irrational decision. The basic price of a 4.2 is currently £41,100 (inc VAT) as opposed to £46,500 for a 4.5. It's a tough choice based pretty much on worries about residual values as I'd challenge you to actually find the difference between the two cars driving them back to back. Putting both these prices in context though - less than £50K for a stunning looking, rare, luxury car with mind blowing performance and oodles of character? The Cerbera is better than ever and still an absolutely incredible purchase.
Thanks to TMS Performance Vehicles for the loan of this car: www.tmstvr.co.uk