MF Reader Review:JCW MCS/TVR T350/350Z

Another interesting combo in this week’s second MotoringFile reader review. Mark Hendrie puts his JCW Cooper S against his TVR T350 and Nissan 350zx. I think this effectively trumps my M3 vs the MCS review from a few years back! You can read Mark’s entire review below:

Mini Cooper S Works v TVR T350 v Nissan 350Z (Fairlady)

Whilst it may at first appear odd putting these three cars head to head against each other when you take a closer look it becomes apparent just how much they actually all have in common. For example they all represent good value for money in the performance stakes, they are all very focused drivers cars and they are all impractical in numerous ways.

I will start with the TVR which costs a staggering £40,000 and looks like nothing else on the market. The TVR is without a doubt the most focused car out of this group and packs a massive 350 bhp from its highly tuned straight six engine which will run to 60 mph in 4 seconds. When you see the TVR for the first time it is hard to take in all the bespoke design features which are common to TVR – the car is just so cool to look at from the outside. Sliding into the drivers seat compunds the experience that this is no ordinary car as the dash and seats scream “I am a race car”. Turning on the ignition is the best part however as the engine coughs to a loud rumble – people will hear you coming in this car from three blocks away and it is without doubt the best feature of the TVR. I have to confess that I was absolutely petrified driving this car around the narrow streets of Edinburgh and going into every roundabout you cannot help but remain slightly edgy. You have the overwhelming sense that if you lost this car everything would be over. Despite this if you enjoy turning heads the TVR is the best out of this little group as the looks and noise get peoples necks snapping as you drive past. TVR has recently been purchased by a wealthy Russian millionaire who is determine to improve TVR’s largest flaw which is reliability. The TVR I had was definately much better than the Cerbera my old man owned but we are still not talking Nissan/Mini standards yet. Furthermore insurance, servicing and other running costs were a bit crippiling and detract from the overall appeal of TVR.


The TVR takes us neatly to the Z because I can’t help but feel that the Z is just like a junior TVR as once again everything is heavy to operate inside and the engine noise is immense. I had an aftermarket exhaust put on my Z and whilst it was not quite up to TVR noise levels you still loved to rev the engine! It is harder to find flaws with the Z as it looks great inside and out, is superbly made and drives like a dream. Furthermore the Z costs a good £15,000 less than the TVR and the running costs are also significantly lower. The only thing that dissapointed me in relation to the Z was the seats which seemed to look worn really quickly. Against the TVR I would take the Z as you can get relaxed when you are driving it and that was something that I never felt with the TVR, although the TVR was an experience every time you started it up. In the Z the power is also more easy to use because you are not as scared to put the foot down.

This website has provided many excellent reviews of the JCW so I will not go into to much detail about the car itself other than to note that it is only £18,000 which is a good £22,000 cheaper than the TVR. I loved my JCW as it was just so easy to drive fast with confidence – you can dart through the traffic with ease and take roundabouts at ridiculous speeds which would sent the TVR and Z spinning about the place! Whilst the TVR made me grin when I reved her up the Mini always had me grinning as I wheel spun away from the lights leaving Boxters for dust! The Mini for me just wants to be thrashed and then thrashed some more – I loved it. Furthermore the Mini is just so cheap to run and when I sold her she had hardly depreciated as opposed to my TVR which dropped £6,000 after just 4,000 miles. I suppose what the Mini does lack over the other two is that in Britain they are everywhere whereas in the Z and TVR people are always genuinely surprised to see one blast down the street!

Sum-up: – in the perfect world I would have the TVR for a Sunday and the Mini for the rest of the week. In the real world the Z is a perfect all-rounder as it remains brash and driveable at the same time and at least in the UK remains relatively exclusive. All the cars are excellent and budgets will dictate – should you find yourself with £40,000 to spend be brave and own a TVR for a short while and it is an experience you will never forget.

  • Is the TVR available at all in USA? Not that it would be much use in winter time here 😉

  • What’s the “x” suffix on “350zx”? All-wheel drive? If so, I don’t think that’s available in the US.

  • What’s the “x” suffix on “350zx”? All-wheel drive? If so, I don’t think that’s available in the US.

    It’s also known as a typo.

  • Shamus

    That stands for 350zXTREME! Like Right Guard XTREME, Doritos XTREME, and Falafel XTREME. Sorry…just kidding. Like Gabe said, Typo. The old Nissan was the 300zx and sometimes poeple accidentally refer to the new car as the zx too.

  • I like how there is no stock photo of the TVR to use. (I assume that is actually Mark’s TVR.)

    thanks for the write-up mark. I cannot say I’ve ever seen (or noticed) a TVR around these parts.

  • codemunkee

    less of a comparison review, more of a guy telling us about his three cars??


    Nice write up……Mark.

    I wonder which came 1st the TVR or Viper design? It seems the Viper. As far as I can tell the Viper concept was 1st shown somewhere in 1989 with the first production model out in ’91-’92. The Cerbera 1st showed in 1994 at the London Auto show with production coming in ’94. But I could be wrong as I couldn’t find a production date on the Griffith.

    The TVR has an odd design history. When you look over the models design history you see TR/7, Porsche, 240 Z, the Typhoon has a slight side-view of a Corvette/Viper, the Chimaera sorta looks like a Miata at some angles. The Griffith 200/400 had a slight Ferrari-ish look. It’s sort of a chameleon of a car. I had never heard of one until now.

    Last year I found out about the Donkervoort which when I 1st saw it I thought it was a Super 7. My Dutch son-n-law told me what it was.

    Did you buy another MINI?

    I picked up my MCS last nite after 3 weeks of dealing with the dealer’s BS, a bad SA then switching SA’s and my insurance company. It now has a new engine. No Charge!

    It was like driving the MCS for the 1st time after 3 weeks of A4/1.8 and 1967 Bug.

    WOW, I remember why I bought it now!

  • codemunkee

    New TVRs are not available in the United States. No way they could navigate the safety standards here.


    meant to say 1996 on the Cerbera production date.

  • mark pierce

    The only sight of a TVR in the states is in the film Swordfish where John Travolta drives one.

  • Mike

    i saw one in london last september. talk about a car that turns heads. WOW!

  • nemi

    As an owner of a 2005 MCS and a 350Z I can only say… … I wish I had the third car to run a similiar comparison. 🙂

  • The TVR pictured was mine and I am ashamed to admit that right now I am car less, however, I do have a Mini GP on order and will take delivery from July to September. I am not sure about the status of TVR in America, but I do have a feeling that TVR is perhaps not big enough to start serious importing into the US. Perhaps under its new ownership we will see more of TVR. Apparently when Travolta saw the Tuscan for the Swordfish film he was astounded and actuaslly bought one!

    The TVR and the Viper both share a stack of traits but overall the Viper I reckon is much more polished. I am not sure where they come up with the design for TVR’s but they are certainly different (check out the TVR Sagaris design). I once read about a UK motoring journalist who spent 30 minutes just wondering how to open the door – it is operated by a button under the wing mirror. I suppose a TVR is the British equivalent of the Viper and other American muscle cars. Another really cool thing about buying a TVR is that you can go to the factory and ask for any colour you want and check out how the cars are made at the same time.

    I would like to hear from anyone that knows about the status of TVR in the US and if there are any dealers?

  • Sorry – I have just realised that someone mentioned US safety standards. Clearly this must be the reason for a lack of TVR’s appearance in the States. What I forgot to mention in the review is that TVR’s have no airbags/ABS/traction control etc they are totally prehistoric in the technology stakes. Hopefully new TVR’s will rectify this problem and up their game a little. For example Lotus fitted ABS and other modifications to the Elise so that it could be sold in the US and whilst some commented that it could ruin the purity of the Elise it actually made the car much better and more appealing. The TVR body is glass fibre and I am no expert but I reckon that its crash protection is terrible?

  • beken

    Back in the early 80’s a neighbor of mine had a TVR M series. It was small, but a gorgeous car. Still wished I could get one. I figured when bumper regulations came it, it made the car illegal and adding the bumpers would have made the car ugly. I’m not too keen on the current lineup as far as styling goes and it sounds like the motor over powers the chassis.

    But TVR remains, in my mind, one of the great British car brands.

  • minimotorin

    The TVR was sold in the US up until the 70’s when emission controls forced it from the market. Currently the only way to have one in the US is to import it.

    The TVR came WAAYYY before the Viper. If anything the Viper was a soft copy of it.

    I love TVRs!!! One of my favorite cars in the world!!! The first time I was in London (back in 89) I took pictures of two cars while there, a Mini and a TVR. Maybe that means I’ll own a TVR in my future as well. 🙂

  • Jeff

    There is at least 1 TVR here in the states (imported, I suspect), I’ve seen one here in Conn. Beautiful car. It also reminds me of another car that you CAN buy here that looks similar, in my humble opinion, the Panoz (I think an American car company if I’m not mistaken?). Long hood, sinuous lines, overall another good looking car. Not sure about the performance but if anyone is looking for something close to the TVR, I would think the Panoz would be the closest thing.


    the last thing i would ever do is call the Viper a soft copy of a TVR. The viper is far from soft… and is quite a bit more “hard core” than a tvr. Don’t get me wrong i LOVE TVRs and i would likely trade my MINI and my GTS for one… because i love the styling and how unique it is. Also, the viper is a throw back to that other british car that had a huge motor thrown in it that domminated the track. The SHELBY COBRA. The Shelby Cobra came WAYYYYYYYY before the TVR 🙂 J/K

    The viper pays hommage to the Cobra and the Daytona coupe.
    just a little insight… 🙂

  • jrh

    Original TVR (back in the 1970’s) used the Triumph TR6 six cylinder engine! It cost about two grand more than the TR6 did. I remember sitting in one in a showroom. The center console was high and made it hard to shift comfortably. Wish I had one in my garage too. I hope the new owner of TVR can keep the car alive.

  • Mark_Hendrie

    Update – RIP TVR

    Unfortunately the new Russian owner has not solved TVR’s problems and the company was recently put up for sale and the outcome of the sale is completely odd to say the least where the Russian seller purchased some of the rights to TVR?????

    Essentially TVR does not produce any cars at this point in time and the old Blackpool factory is being demolished to make way for houses!

    This is a great disappointment for the British motor industry and hopefully newer UK car producers like Noble and Farboud can take over in producing decent UK sports cars where TVR left-off.

    Essentially I think TVR’s where too crude for most and the reliability issues meant everyone opted for a Porsche Boxster/M3. The UK Autotrader is currently full of well priced examples as the owners try to flog them as the reliability is poor and there is essentially nobody left to honour warranty claims! If TVR is reasurected lets hope the reliability issue is top of the list. It is unlikely that TVRs will ever be produced in the UK again despite the talanted and experienced engineers the UK has to offer.



    update… TVR is not dead. The russian owner auctioned off TVR and purchased it back. By doing this he shed MILLIONS in debt. He is still the current owner and TVRs will be in the US in the beginning of calander year 08. My local Lotus store has recieved the franchise… My TVR will likely arrive in Feburary.

  • Hi Jim. Photos i received. Thanks

  • Isellem – I hope you are right, however, the current signs are not that good! Fingers crossed!

  • Piv

    Guys the car pictured is not a TVR T350 – it looks like a TVR Tuscan 2. I own a TVR T350 and believe me it is the most head turning, noisy and intoxicating car i have ever seen.

    It handles like a race car, but I can use it every day to blast around the british country side. It make my old porsche feel like a boring, bland german box on wheels.

    I have been converted to TVR for ever!

  • Hmmm its quite suprising that a car comparison has been made with these three vehicles.

    If you are interested in car prices for the New Nissan 350Z the check out

    They basically give you independent info on the latest deals from authorised dealers around the country and can find you some good bargains at the moment, they’ve got an article in the sun

  • I will take the Nissan Z in lieu of the TVR for now. If in the future TVR finds its way into the states, someone pleaase notify my local St. Louis Hyundai Dealer

  • Mark Hendrie

    So it looks like after all this time TVR is officially back with Cosworth and the designer of the original McLaren behind the project! The project is 100% a go and they will be sold in the US!