Motoring: The Independent Road Test: Retro-rocket with more charm than ability: Roger Bell says those who scorn Rover's MG RV8 - an updated MG B - as a naff anachronism have missed the point: though flawed, it meets a need

ROVER'S new MG sports car is still at least two years away from production. Its born- again B, the RV8, is on sale now as a celebratory indulgence, a harbinger of a better things. In resurrecting the old MG B 30 years after its birth - and 13 after its demise - Rover is not merely keeping alive the name of Britain's best-loved sports car, but is wallowing in nostalgia.

The RV8 is how the venerable B would have evolved had it remained in production. So says Mike O'Hara, commercial manager of Rover Special Products, responsible for several enterprising low-volume Rovers, including the Mini cabriolet. If not exactly modernised, the resuscitated B has been extensively updated and facelifted - a classic without the old-car hardships. Based on the B's original bodyshell, made by British Motor Heritage, the RV8 has been reskinned with new sills, bumpers, headlights, tail and 'Coke-bottle' wings. Without totally losing the original's identity, the car has put on a lot of style and muscle.

Where there was once a modest four-cylinder engine there is now a powerful 3.9-litre V8, sourced from Land Rover. Other significant changes include updated suspension (though that at the rear retains outmoded 'cart' springs), new brakes (still drums at the back, not discs), a five-speed manual gearbox and well-shod alloy wheels.

The last rubber-bumper MG B was at best inept. Rover has made a competent job of the RV8 - a retro-rocket ultimately with more charm than ability - using limited material. Performance is strong, the lusty catalyst- cleaned V8 pulling vigorously. Rover would have amplified the vocal accompaniment with a more expressive exhaust were it not for noise regulations that some smaller manufacturers flout. Cruising with the top down, you cannot hear the discreet burble of the engine above the slipstream that buffets your face.

Although the fettled chassis' limitations are betrayed by a lively ride and 'soft' handling, the RV8 deals with twisty roads - the fun car's playground - tidily and safely, if not with the precision or elan of the similarly priced TVR Chimaera.

Rover scorns comparisons with other, more modern sportsters: it sees the RV8 less as a raw driving machine for boy-racers, more as a recreational pursuit for the mature.

Central to the car's appeal to targeted buyers - wealthy male enthusiasts in their forties and fifties - is its traditional 'Britishness'. Opulence, exclusivity and a fashionable nostalgia for the Sixties and Seventies are key elements, too.

For me, the narrow cockpit is marred by a high seating position - you sit on the car, rather than in it - and puny instruments that most 50-year-olds will need reading glasses to see. Rover says its leather and walnut trim make the RV8 the most sumptuous MG ever, but I rather doubt it - there was even greater timber encrustation in the '38 MG SA saloon I once owned. It is certainly the most comfortable and civilised, however, with an interior ambience that would not disgrace a Jaguar. No MG I have ever driven had a better gear-change, either.

Killjoys who dismiss the RV8 as a naff anachronism miss the point. In a world of boring lookalikes, there is a burgeoning need for entertaining cars of character, even evocative ones that pander to nostalgia.

Flawed though it is by innate shortcomings, the RV8 certainly exudes personality, presence and driver appeal. In taking niche marketing to a new extreme, Rover has set a precedent for other copycat retros. How about a modernised Triumph Stag?


Audi 80 cabriolet, pounds 22,199. Smart four-seater ragtop for civilised alfresco motoring, not raw thrills. Performance of five-cylinder, 2.3- litre engine modest, handling easy and safe. Cabin comfortable, sophisticated hood easy to manipulate.

Caterham 2.0 HPC, pounds 17,625. Successor to the Lotus Seven is a raw, lightweight driving machine that gets the juices flowing and the ears ringing. Mind-blowing acceleration, race-car handling, fantastic brakes. No-frills cockpit strictly for two, so forget the suitcases. For serious enthusiasts only.

Morgan Plus 8, pounds 24,898. Time- warped, raw-boned sports car with same engine and gearbox as RV8. Cracking performance, fun-car handling on smooth roads, but awful ride, primitive headgear, cramped cockpit.

TVR Chimaera, pounds 26,250. Rumbustious tearaway that exposes RV8's shortcomings. Dynamic superiority rooted in accomplished chassis and more powerful version of the same V8 engine. Terrific performance and handling.


MG RV8, pounds 25,440. Engine: 3,936cc V8, 190bhp at 4,750rpm. Five- speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive. Performance: 0-60mph in six seconds, top speed 135mph. Economy: 17-25mpg unleaded.

(Photograph omitted)

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's pic YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

    Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

    Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

    PHP Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: PHP Develope...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star