Companies would normally be better served using car makers with an established business sales infrastructure rather than take a risk with a small company producing racetrack-developed, hand-built sportscars.
However, for a driver, the appeal of something other than the default luxury saloon for £50,000 is strong. If a user- chooser really can choose the car they drive, then it has to say something about them.
If, for the price of a Mercedes-Benz S350, you could choose a hand-built sportscar like the TVR Tuscan S, there are many who would be tempted.
However, there a number of issues which would have to be cleared with the health and safety department if the policy specifies the type of safety systems featured in company cars. The Tuscan has no airbags, no anti-lock brakes and no traction control.
Drivers choosing it for business use need to be aware of the risks, but the TVR will appeal to the type of drivers who spend their spare time at track days and know a bit about car control.
The Tuscan S is a combination of brutal performance with subtle attention to detail. Honed in the arena of endurance racing, the Tuscan was introduced in 1997 but the Tuscan S followed later with extra power from its 4.0- litre straight six engine. It has two seats, an enormous boot (there is no spare wheel, just a puncture repair kit) and a removable hard roof panel.
In a time when shared components make switches and visible components familiar between even distantly-related models, the Tuscan's interior with its leather and aluminium finish looks and feels special.
Ventilation controls are on the transmission tunnel, along with electric window controls for driver and passenger, while the speedometer is visible through the steering wheel, along with a digital display containing information about fuel, engine speed, oil pressure and water temperature.
There are some basic rules about TVR driving – keep revs low until the oil has warmed up and when engaging reverse, always slip the lever into fifth gear first to avoid grinding sounds. With 390bhp and a kerb weight of 1,100kg, the Tuscan S has a power-to-weight ratio of 355bhp/tonne – good enough to cover the 0-60mph dash in 3.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 195mph.
The figures are far more intimidating than the car is to drive. You soon get used to the floor-hinged pedals, while the accelerator travel is far greater than most cars I have driven.It means your right foot is the traction control.
Gaining speed in the Tuscan S is a rapid but smooth experience, while the acceleration available will surely build up your neck muscles over time. The kart-like steering makes you feel part of the car. It always feels nimble when pressing on and there is a surprising and reassuring level of grip from the wide tyres, even in the wet.
However, long distance work is the downside, leaving your muscles aching and eyes straining on their stalks after more than a few hours behind the wheel.
Then there's the thunderous noise. A deep rumble which turns into a crisp and thoroughly gratifying bark when you blip the throttle fades when you lift off the gas pedal, leaving the steel and carbon fibre exhaust to spit and bang on the over-run. It's something you will never tire of, even if you end up driving it for three years and 60,000 miles.
TVR Tuscan S
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £48,800
CO2 emissions (g/km): N/A
BIK % of P11D in 2003/04: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 20
Combined mpg: N/A
CAP Monitor residual value: £18,350/38%
Depreciation (50.75 pence per mile x 60,000): £30,450
Maintenance (12.71 pence per mile x 60,000): £7,626
Fuel (15.03 pence per mile x 60,000): £9,018*
Wholelife cost (78.49 pence per mile x 60,000): £47,094*
Typical contract hire rate: £1,000 (est)
* Based on test fuel consumption of 25.4mpg
(All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles)
Three rivals to consider
AS the TVR is an off-the-wall choice we have assembled a range of different cars as alternatives. The Mercedes-Benz S350 is the equivalent priced luxury saloon, while the Jaguar S-type R is the high-performance sports saloon. Meanwhile, an alternative convertible to the TVR is the Lexus SC 430. The S-class offers class-leading safety, while the Jaguar has stunning performance. The Lexus is a refined premium convertible which sells in small numbers in the UK.
THE Tuscan S has its first wobble on service, maintenance and repair costs, mainly because its service regime could not be more different from the other three. With intervals of 6,000 miles the TVR would make 10 visits to the dealer over 60,000 miles, and with wear and tear items such as brakes and wiper blades it adds up to more than £7,500. Variable servicing on the S-class helps keep costs down. The difference between the Tuscan and the XJR is more than £5,000 over 60,000 miles.
NO cars will regularly achieve the manufacturer's combined fuel consumption figure, which is just as well as TVR doesn't publish economy figures. We estimate that a typical Tuscan driver will achieve about 20mpg, although our weather-impaired week and some motorway driving resulted in a test figure of 25.4mpg. On that basis, the TVR is comparable with the others.
* based on 25.4mpg average
A GOOD round for the TVR, thanks to a competitive list price and a healthy CAP Monitor residual value prediction of 38%. Its P11d price advantage over the S-class ensures it nudges ahead despite the Mercedes-Benz's 39% prediction. A poor performance from the Jaguar on 28% means the S-type R is nearly £3,500 more expensive over three years/ 60,000 miles. The Lexus has a residual value prediction of 45%, giving it a clear advantage over the others – £3,000 more than the TVR and £6,000 over the Jaguar.
I WAS genuinely surprised to find the TVR so close to the mainstream cars in this comparison, with the only uncertain factor being fuel costs which also depends on drivers and how they use the car. The fact that I was able to achieve 25.4mpg doesn't mean everyone will, but that figure is fairly easy to match. However, the Tuscan is also strong on depreciation, which helps keep costs down with the SMR bill being the only difficult pill to swallow. * based on 25.4mpg average
Emissions and BIK tax rates
NOT much in it here as all cars have a P11d price of about £50,000 and fall into the maximum benefit-in-kind tax rating of 35%. Although TVR does not publish fuel consumption and emissions figures, its 4.0-litre engine puts it in the highest tax band, working out at £569 per month for a 40% tax-payer. Sensible drivers would use company cash to buy their own Tuscan and avoid the punitive tax rates. The Jaguar offers a small advantage through its lower P11d price.
THE frequent servicing issue and associated costs will doubtless ensure that few people will endure the hassle of using a TVR for anything other than weekend fun driving. However, for attention-hungry user-choosers with a large enough cash allowance, the Tuscan S will certainly help them stand out. There are few cars as rewarding to drive for the price which makes the hairy-chested TVR the first choice here for the committed driver.
At a glance