MG XPower SV: Remembering the Wild, Anglo-Italian Sports Car Powered by an American V8

Partially assembled in Italy, the carbon-fiber-bodied SVT Mustang Cobra V8-powered XPower SV was one of MG's most wild sports cars.
MG XPower SV-R 19 photos
Photo: MG Motor UK Limited
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Throughout its 100-year history, MG has switched more owners than any other established British carmaker.

Nevertheless, the company established itself as one of Britain's premier sports car manufacturers during the fifties, sixties, and seventies with iconic models like the MGA or MGB.

During the nineties, MG was purchased by BMW, which lasted only a few years, as the German automotive giants sold the MG brand and the Rover license to Phoenix Consortium, leading to the establishment of the MG Rover Group.

This entity (which existed for only five years) became the last domestically owned mass-production car manufacturer in the British automotive industry.

MG's new flagship model

MG XPower SV
Photo: MG Motor UK Limited
During its early days, the MG Rover purchased Italian automobile manufacturer Qvale. The acquisition gave the group the necessary assets to develop a state-of-the-art sports car, so plans were drawn up for a new MG flagship.

Unveiled in concept form at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show and based on the existing Qvale Mangusta, the new model codenamed X80 was met with mixed feelings.

Many argued that it lacked enough aggressive lines to make it truly spectacular and give it a shot on the market against more established sports cars.

Eventually, MG designers reached the same conclusion, so they got back to the drawing board.

Designed by the man behind the McLaren F1

MG XPower SV
Photo: MG Motor UK Limited
To help make the new sports car look more aggressive and appealing, MG Rover Group's design head, Peter Stevens, decided to sketch a completely new body.

Stevens, who was part of the design team that created the legendary McLaren F1, drew up a new structure with wider wheel arches, skirts, and bumpers.

Renamed XPower SV, the model now looked like a street-legal race car. It was unveiled to the public once again in 2002, and since it was met with a much more positive reaction, MG decided to kick off production for the 2003 model year.

While the bodywork design was new, the chassis was carried over from the X80 and Qvale Mangusta. Developed in Italy, it featured an independent suspension with double wishbones, coil springs, and anti-roll bars on both ends.

The braking system was engineered by Brembo and comprised of ventilated discs on all wheels with ABS and traction control.

Created by borrowing many components from existing models

MG XPower SV
Photo: Collecting Cars
The racecar-inspired body was manufactured in the UK out of carbon fiber and then shipped to Italy for the first part of the assembly.

While the body was completely new, the MG XPower SV used a surprising number of components from existing models in order to cut production costs.

Examples include the headlights and taillights borrowed from the plebian second-generation Fiat Punto and the Fiat Coupé.

Furthermore, the exterior door handles came from the MG TF, while the outside mirrors, interior window controls, and door handles were sourced from the Rover 75.

Powered by a Ford V8

MG XPower SV
Photo: Collecting Cars
Apart from the components mentioned above, the new MG flagship sports car also borrowed the drivetrain from an existing model.

Like the Qvale Mangusta, the standard SV was powered by the aluminum DOHC four-valve, 4.6-liter Ford Modular V8 found under the hood of the 1999 SVT Mustang Cobra.

Rated at 320 hp and 302 lb-ft (410 Nm) of torque, the V8 enabled the XPower SV to accelerate to 60 mph (97 kph) in 5.3 seconds and reach a top speed of 165 mph (266 kph).

The XPower SV-R

MG XPower SV\-R
Photo: MG Motor UK Limited
As you can see in the Top Gear review below posted on YouTube by Van Inhalin, the XPower SV was far from perfect. However, it was an absolute thrill to drive.

But MG didn't stop there, and in 2004, an even more powerful version called XPower SV-R was introduced.

With a 385-hp, Roush-tuned version of the Modular in its engine bay, the SV-R could sprint from 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) in 4.9 seconds. Naturally, the top speed also improved, reaching 175 mph (282 kph).

Failing to reach its potential

MG XPower SV
Photo: MG Motor UK Limited
Despite being an excellent sports car, the XPower SV's built-quality shortcomings and high production costs prevented it from going head-to-head in terms of sales with the Porsches, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis of the era.

While the company tried to cut production costs by using components from existing models, each car had to travel from Italy to England, making stops at six different facilities in the process.

All that back and forth meant that it took too much time to assemble the cars. Furthermore, transporting each car to the six different plants drove up the production costs exponentially and proved to be one of the many questionable decisions that sealed the MG Rover Group's faith only five years after its establishment.

Depending on the version, the XPower SV had a starting price of either £75,000 or £90,000. That was more than several rivaling models that offered better build quality and, in some cases, more power.

The MG XPower SV today

MG XPower SV
Photo: Collecting Cars
From 2003 to 2005, MG only built around 95 examples, including prototypes, SVs, and SV-Rs.

Most cars sold in the UK were celebrities like Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr. Bean), who paid the huge price tag for the privilege of owning one. Left-hand-drive models were also purchased by European buyers, and at least one was delivered to the US.

Today, a low-mileage MG XPower SV in great shape can be had for around $35,000, while the rarer, more powerful SV-R usually goes for over $45,000.

Considering its initial price, rarity, and reliable powertrain, it's currently a bargain for those looking for a different kind of sports car.

Although it was never as successful or popular as it could have been, the MG XPower SV remains a fascinating Euro-American sports car that deserves to be remembered.

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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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