|Price rises, specification changes, Red Rose
packs, bigger wheels, hard ride, soft ride... There's little doubt that
the Tuscan Speed 6 has stolen the limelight since its launch. Even prior
to launch the excitement of the most radically styled TVR ever, left the
Griffith and Chimaera struggling for a look in. Speculation was that the
launch of the Tuscan would mark the death of the Rover engined cars.
Luckily that hasn't been the case.
The range of cars on offer now from TVR is admirable for a low volume manufacturer. It would be easy to have consigned the moulds for the Chimaera and Griffith to the scrap yard, but for one thing - they are still stunning cars, that have aged little in terms of styling or their capabilities despite first rolling off the production lines back in 1992/3.
Mention the word compromise in the context of sports cars and it's usually accompanied by explanations of shortcomings in one department or another. The Chimaera however, still represents one of the best compromises on the road today.
The entry level Chimaera until last year was the four litre model. It was still the more painful side of �30,000 but it remains one of the best cars TVR have ever built. The four litre engine was the perfect introduction to the world of TVR. Tame enough not to overwhelm the TVR virgin, yet powerful enough to have plenty of fun with. Most importantly of all, it sounds fantastic. Let's hope TVR don't lose sight of the fact that most people fall in love with the sound of those V8's first.
It's no wonder that TVRs are driven fast. Of course the power is there to be enjoyed but as much as anything the aural pleasure to be had from playing that V8 is to blame. Given an open stretch of road the urge to press the pedal into the carpet is irresistible. The low pitched resonating music from the exhausts is so addictive. Passers by goad you to rev the engine and other drivers lower their windows to enjoy the V8 too.
Luggage space is usually the first compromise if you want fun from a fast road car. The capacious boot of the Chimaera shows that this needn't be the case. Even with the single piece roof in the boot, there's plenty of room for luggage and we're not talking about bizzarely shaped custom made bags. Inside the car, there's a variety of places to stash your nik-naks and the large rear shelf for further bags if necessary.
As with most modern TVRs the dashboard is a lesson to the purveyors of plastic that a stylish interior is always possible from simple age old British recipe. Take the full set of simple analogue dials, apply them across a sweeping piece of tree trunk and dress with fine aluminium controls. It hasn't taken a budget of millions to develop a VW style pleasing feel to the controls either. Most of the buttons and controls operate smoothly and feel solid. Best of all it has a heating system that's particularly good in cold weather. This was a car that must have been designed in the winter. Whilst drivers of earlier 'S' models suffer with one cold hand from the inadequete heating systems, the Chimaera driver enjoys a full roasting of hot air, just right for those mad roofless frosty mornings.
It has the usual smatterings of quirkiness with the doors opened by the extra 'gear knob' on the centre tunnel (good for convincing people it's a diff lock for the four wheel drive), no door handles on the outside and electric window buttons that are out of sight. Sadly the cars come with plastic indicator stalks as standard but once these had been replaced with the stainless steel variety the interior is perfect. The height adjustable steering wheel is equally welcome.
TVR is still tarnished with questions over built quality but the Chimaera is showing the benefits of a long production life. A modern Chimaera is a very solid feeling car without the squeeks or rattles that you might expect of a relatively cheap hand built car.
You might think that this comfortable, spacious two seater is just a tourer but the chassis is once again a good compromise. It's no Lotus Elise, but then it wasn't intended to be. The Chimaera has a firm but compliant ride. Many Chimaera owners upgrade from an S and are initially disappointed with the softer ride and the relative lack of feedback compared to the talkative S.
However it's just a different car, talking in softer tones. There's good feedback through the steering but you wouldn't describe it as sharp. The chassis feels rigid and provided you're not silly with your right foot the handling is predictable. Push too hard and it will skip a little before breaking away with rear traction the first victim. It soaks up the bumps well but sparks can fly from the low slung chassis on some of Britains 'B' road specials. It is a car that you can drive very quickly cross country or around a track. You might lose out in bends to the 'corner on rails' brigade, the acceleration possible out of bends provides just as much fun and challenge.
That acceleration is provided by a powerful yet friendly engine. It should come as no surprise that you see so many Chimaeras in London. The four litre V8 is a doddle to drive in traffic. It has a slightly dull and easy feel to it at low revs, not really threatening any trouble until around 3,500rpm. From there it pulls strongly with its mid range is tremendous fun for blasting past unsuspecting tin-tops.
Down sides? The roof can obstruct rear visibility when folded back, even with judicious fiddling and of course the radio reception is poor as in many TVRs. But then who listens to the radio when you've got that eight piece ensemble under the bonnet?
Will the Chimaera stay in production for much longer? New models from TVR and the eventual demise of the Rover V8 will dictate its future. A future we won't try to second guess.