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?

COMPARISONS

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.

SPECIFICATIONS

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)

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

    £65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

    Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

    £8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

    £14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable