An exclusive brand that’s been synonymous with the world’s most powerful performance cars, both on the track and on the road, for some sixty years. Few marques conjure up the same sense of theatre and passion among their fans and followers, or fear among the uninitiated.
Step inside a carefully hand-crafted TVR and drive it, however, and one knows immediately the real truth: that there is much more to these British-bred beasts than first meets the eye, that they are paradoxical and that the truth goes far deeper than the cars’ antecedent notoriety perhaps implies.
Today, TVR’s prodigious power and performance is married to a new, real-world sophistication. But none of TVR’s character, flair or soulfulness has been compromised in making the cars more pragmatic; in fact, it is precisely because of the latest models’ profound capabilities and luxuriousness that the experience is enriched even more than ever before.
Combined with tantalising designs and an erstwhile driving sensation is a more distinguished refinement, both to the drive set-up and to the finish. The remarkable result is that every journey is an adventure that’s both cognitive and visceral. An adventure that awakens every sense, and even seems to evoke new ones.
TVR. Passion. Pride. Performance.
The TVR Cerbera began life in the early summer of 1993 as a styling exercise by TVR’s team of designers, who were very quickly given the go-ahead to start building full scale models. They sculpted the car out of full-size blocks of foam rather than being constrained by the two dimensions of a paper sketch or the dehumanising aspects of design by computer.
A handsome Grand Tourer began to take shape and it was easy to see that the car would be a winner so a running prototype was prepared for the 1993 London Motor Show. Unencumbered by endless committees, TVR was able to complete the prototype in record time and the Cerbera was unveiled at the show. It was greeted with tremendous acclaim. Orders flooded in, a further 276 of them at the 1994 Birmingham Motor Show alone.
Since then, almost every aspect of the car has been improved. Originally, the Cerbera was designed to be powered by the TVR Power Rover based engines but it was decided that TVR’s own engine, the Speed Eight, would be a more suitable power plant. The Cerbera was the first roadgoing TVR to feature the Speed Eight engine.
This engine is quite remarkable in design in that it owes more to the current trend in racing engines than to anything that has ever been seen before in a road car. In other words, instead of basing a race engine on an existing road engine, TVR have developed an engine for the Cerbera out of a race engine. The result is that the Speed Eight has many features in it which would be more commonly found on an F1 engine. Examples of these are its extremely sophisticated water circulation system, its lubrication system which delivers oil at high pressure to the engine and at low pressure to the crankshaft and a block so rigid that it can be used as a stressed member. An all alloy engine with its eight cylinders arranged in a 75 degree Vee, the Speed Eight engine has more torque in its various specifications than any other normally aspirated petrol engine of equivalent size and weight.
At 121 kg, the engine is indeed lighter than the V8 F1 and F3000 engines with which it shares so many features. Many Speed Eight engine components are of extremely high quality such as the pistons and connecting rods which are forged and the camshafts which are rifle bored and are made of solid billet EN40B steel. The net result is that the Speed Eight has performed extremely well in the most gruelling test known to engineers: to give forty of them to TVR Tuscan racing drivers to try to blow up every weekend for the past five seasons.
Although sharing styling cues with the Chimaera, the Cerbera is a completely new car with new brakes, chassis, suspension and a different construction method. Introduced in response to overwhelming customer demand for a 2+2, the Cerbera has seen TVR return to a market sector that it has not inhabited since 1985. With the Cerbera’s interior, TVR have discarded conventional thinking and have created a dashboard binnacle in which all the instruments are right in front of the driver. The clock and the fuel gauge, visible through the steering wheel, and a fresh air vent are situated under the steering column and are adjustable for reach and rake with it. Mounted on the steering wheel are controls for the main beam, windscreen washers and wipers as well as the horn.
The Cerbera is more than a normal 2+2 in that, in terms of the configuration of its seating arrangement, it would be better described as a 3+1. The front passenger seat is able to slide forward further than normal, thereby freeing a substantial amount of extra legroom for the passenger sitting directly behind. Attention has been paid to the ease of access to the rear seats which in too many 2+2s is unnecessarily difficult. Therefore, the Cerbera’s doors are long enough to make getting into the back seats much easier.
Cerbera is pronounced Sir - burr - uh and is derived from the mythological beast, Cerberus, who was the brother of the Chimaera. In addition, in Italian, una cerbera is a frightening, fierce woman.
The Cerbera actually comes with three different engines. The Cerbera Speed Six was the first car to be fitted with TVR??s own straight six and has softer suspension and higher profile tyres to give a more comfortable ride and less road noise in line with its grand touring design. Very much in the tradition of British sports cars of the sixties but with modern abilities, the Cerbera Speed Six is a coupe with a very British, very sporting nature.
The Cerbera 4.2 remains in production for those customers who prefer a V8 and the Cerbera 4.5 gives a range topping 420 bhp and 380 ft.lbs. of torque. Getting to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, 100 in 8.1 and 150 in 17.9, the Cerbera 4.5 is one of the fastest road cars in existence. With larger brakes, modified suspension and larger wheels and tyres, the Cerbera 4.5 offers the handling and braking to match its performance, stopping from 100 mph in only 3.8 seconds. The 4.5 Cerbera also includes a Hydratrak speed sensitive differential as standard.
For the 2000 model year, lights, A pillars, roofline and seats were changed and lightweight bonnet, doors and bootlid were introduced on the Cerbera 4.5 .
More than any other TVR before it, the Cerbera cemented the Blackpool companys place in the big league of performance car manufacturers. With crushing power, sleek good looks and an affordable price tag the Cerbera was a proper 2+2 sports coupe. It also offered a range of engines developed entirely in-house. TVR had either the technical acumen or financial muscle to manage this, and with three different TVR-designed engines now residing under the elegant bonnets of the Cerbera range, some quite considerable amounts of humble pie have been eaten.
The reliability is one issue that has dogged the Cerbera.What can the general public expect from a used model, when some high-profile cars have spectacularly failed.
With its underslung instruments and wild swooping dashboard the interior never fails to delight, and gives rise to certain Cerbera rituals.The ignition is cuted pressing the red button under the steering weel and the engine stops instantly, like a racing car.
The steering wheel holds push button controls for lights, washers wipers and horn, and its surprisingly intuitive Once youve worked out which switch does what. The back seats are best reserved as additional luggage space, but there is a surprisingly generous amount of stowage space around the fascia.
Itll boost your credibility enormously if you know the procedure for getting out of one, before you take a test drive in the Cerbera. Theres no internal door handle, you see. The Griffith used a little lever on the transmission tunnel and the Chimaera had a rotating aluminium pastille next to the gearlever, but the Cerbera has something different. On the doors side pocket is a tiny button which youll need to press to make the door spring open.
The Cerbera is started by pressing a black button below the fuel gauge, and than you have to wait for the electronic diagnostics to do their stuff and then listen to the engine spring into life. Both the AJP8 engines and the Speed Six respond to the throttle in an alarmingly direct way.
The cars engine feel as if is hardwired to your foot. Theres no flab or mush in the throttle pedal, press it and the revs rise, take your foot off and they die back. Instantly.
The soundtrack its a magnificently hard-edged sound, quite different to the burbling Rover V8 cars of the past, but equally evocative.People buy Cerberas for the soundtrack and the car doesnt disappoint.
A used TVR is very tricky to be priced. Many cover only very small mileages, and to a certain extent they are custom built, so its difficult to compare like with like. This is part of the reason why you wont find used values in any of the recognised price guides. They start to depreciate far more quickly when they are out of warranty due to a number of niggling problems.
The TVR Cerbera is a spectacularly unreliable car, and there are many things that can and do go wrong with Cerberas.
There are many features to be improved on the car and here are some; better ventilation, rear suspension that was less jittery, a handbrake that worked, brighter air conditioning LEDs, less wind noise, a better stereo, intermittent windscreen wipers, fewer electrical problems with doors and security, a clutch footrest, non vibrating rear view mirrors, better rear ground clearance and less brake squeal.
Common faults include misaligned gearchange linkages, warped rear suspension wishbones, snapped steering-wheel control ribbon cables, deteriorating rear anti-roll bar mounts, leaking radiator cores, seizing door hinges, ineffective crankshaft seals, and shearing clutch release arms. Itll also be worth checking the alternator, water pump and remote boot opening system.
Two warranties were available for the Cerbera, 5 Star and 5 Star Gold.Look for used cars which had the superior 5 Star Gold warranty. TVR hate reports which stress the cars unreliability, but if they want us to eulogise over the cars styling and performance, they have to put up with the other side of the coin as well.
The security system comes in for constant flak, with the plipper having a very poor range with anything other than tip-top batteries and there have been several stories of owners being locked into their immobilised Cerbera.
Trying to establish definitive parts prices for Cerberas is tricky, due in no small part to the fact that the vehicle has undergone a series of tiny ad-hoc improvements and changes throughout its lifetime. Without a quotable chassis number many parts prices will fluctuate hugely, so you better check your local dealer for details.
The power steering offers minimal assistance, the clutch is heavy and the gearchange requires a hefty shove, so everything about the Cebera is firm and purposeful.
The power delivery of all Cerbera engines may come as a surprise if youd been reading reports of the cars explosive performance. Theres no peakiness, none of the drama of a turbocharged installation, just a massive wall of torque.
Trying to catch the rapid rise and fall of the engine with the gearbox is an art that requires some practice. All the ingredients fall into place when you get the TVR up to speed through a series of bends.
The wheels feeds back all the road surface information you could ever need through those huge Bridgestone tyres, and the steering itself is so quick, youll only need a gentle roll of the wrists to send the Cerberas nose darting towards the next apex. Get a bit brave and youll find the front-end grip more than a match for the back.
The brakes have little trouble in retarding the lightweight TVR.There are impressive four-pot AP-Racing callipers with ventilated discs. Steering and stopping are no problem, but how much go does a Cerbera muster? Rest to sixty in 4.0 seconds and a top speed of 180mph from the 4.2-litre car should satisfy that compunction.
The Speed Six figures are broadly comparable, but the added muscle of the 4.5-litre V8 lets it race up to 100mph in just 8.8 seconds.
Despite the cars numerous faults, its still so much cheaper than anything else with an equivalent level of performance that perhaps this can be excusedYou need to be brave to drive one and even braver to sign on the dotted line for a used TVR Cerbera.
All the facts and figures
The TVR Cerbera is a car with a dual role: on the one hand it’s an extremely competent 2+2 grand tourer that can be used on any journey, through towns or across countries; on the other hand, it boasts the break-neck performance for which it’s both famous and feared.
Since the Cerbera broke cover in 1994, it has become an iconic British sports car, its suave shape standing the test of time to become a true classic. One would never guess the ferocious power that lurks beneath the Cerbera’s gentlemanly exterior.
Underneath its elegant fixed-head coupe styling, it has a built-in roll cage that combines with high-impact absorbing composite bodywork to form an extremely safe car. TVR’s own 4.5 litre AJPV8 rockets the lightweight Cerbera from naught to 60 mph in under four seconds, and is one of the most revered sports car engines. Its rigid chassis and carefully balanced geometry give the car surprising poise considering its monstrous power.
Production of the Cerbera was discontinued officially in 2004. But this Cerbera, the last that will ever be made, was commissioned and specified personally by TVR’s owner and chairman, Nikolai Smolenski, bringing the car out of retirement for one last time in TVR’s true tradition of producing one-off ’specials’, and paying homage to this beautiful but brutish bygone British sports car.
Model: TVR Cerbera 4.5 LW right-hand drive
Bodywork: Pepper white special paint
Trim: Prussian blue full hide leather trim with contrasting stitching throughout. Stone leather to gaiters, central console armrest, inner steering wheel, rear speaker surround and inner doors
Mechanical: adjustable pedal box, central locking with remote operation, electronic alarm system with engine immobiliser, remote window closing
Exterior: 18 inch seven spoke anthracite alloy wheels, electric boot and door releases, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, heated rear window, variable intermittence windscreen wipers
Interior: air conditioning, analogue instrumentation, colour-coded boot carpet, dashoboard and door panel storage pockets, electric door releases, electric windows, emergency tyre inflation kit, front central console with storage, full hide trim, leather trimmed steering wheel, lamonta headlining, machined aluminium trim finish, manually adjustable lumbar supports, manually adjustable steering column (reach and rake), polished aluminium gear lever and handbrake, stainless steel kick plates
In-car entertainment: AM/FM radio and CD player with removable front
- Displacement: 4,475 cc
- Hand-built proprietary eight-cylinder 75 degree with flat-plane crank aluminium alloy engine with two valves per cylinder and wet sump lubrication
- Single overhead camshafts with direct cams actuating direct acting followers
- Forged aluminium pistons and forged steel con rods
- Individual port throttles on tuned inlet tracts with multipoint fuel injection
- Fully mapped fuel injection system with adaptive Lamdba control
- Double close-coupled three-way catalytic converters
- Maximum power at 7,500 rpm (estimated): 420 bhp
- Maximum torque at 5,000 - 5,500 rpm (estimated): 380 lb ft
- Maximum speed (estimated): 160+ mph
- 0 to 60 mph (estimated): 3.9 seconds
- 0 to 100 mph (estimated): 8.3 seconds
- Front-mid engine, rear wheel drive
- Transmission: five-speed manual with hydraulically operated clutch and limited slip differential
- Steering: electro-hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion, two turns lock-to-lock
- Brakes, wheels and tyres
- Front brakes: power-assisted ventilated 322 mm disc brakes with four piston alloy callipers
- Rear brakes: power-assisted ventilated 306 mm disc brakes with two piston alloy callipers
- Wheels: 18 inch seven spoke aluminium alloy wheels
- Front tyres: 225/35 ZR18
- Rear tyres: 255/35 ZR18
- Chassis, suspension and body
- Chassis: powder-coated tubular EN36 steel backbone chassis with integral roll cage
- Suspension: all-round independent double wishbones with coils over gas hydraulic dampers assisted by anti-roll bars
- Body structure: hand-laid composite GRP with integrated steel side impact protection bars
- Weights, dimensions and capacities
- Kerb weight: 1,100 kg
- Length overall: 4,280 mm
- Width overall including mirrors: 1,865 mm
- Height overall: 1,220 mm
- Ground clearance: 130 mm
- Front track: 1,464 mm
- Rear track: 1,470 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,566 mm
- Fuel tank capacity: approximately 65 litres of 95 or 98 octane unleaded fuel