By James Wong
Time and again we hear complains about people being unreasonably defensive about their cars when they aren’t actually all that good.
This time, 400 miles into my road trip in Wales, I can say hand on heart that the SW20 is not an excellent drivers’ car.
There are a couple of things that I’ve confirmed through some seriously good B-roads, one is that the steering rack is too slow, two is the car could do with lower gearing for gears 1,2 and 3, and three that the ride is just a tad too stiff.
About the first point, I felt it the moment I drove it home. It became really apparent today when the car just had a lazier front end than I first anticipated. Turn in was hazy, if that’s a way to describe it, not darty and quick like what I would prefer. On the other hand, this was good for motorway cruising.
Two, the tall gearing was apparent especially when going on uphill hairpins. 2nd gear was weak, with the engine throbbing around 2,000rpm or less, way off the mark of its powerband, and even first gear didn’t allow the car enough grunt to break traction at the rear. At first I thought it’s just the lack of a LSD; now I know it’s both a lack of low-end power and a very tall gearing. Only after the corner does the car actually start to have its power kick in. This is slightly frustrating. It is mediated if the car had a good cruising ratio too, but 5th gear is too short for a 80mph cruise. A longer top gear is needed.
Three, I didn’t actually feel this was a problem even in London’s pockmarked roads. But coming here and getting on those B-roads – especially with the countless times I went in and out of the car – I realised that the car just rides a little too stiffly, being to jiggly around some surfaces and causing me to slow down more than to push on. I have to say though that the car has a great suspension travel, even at deep depressions it doesn’t bottom out, instead compressing nicely and allowing the car to sink in and steady itself again.
All in all, I’ve confirmed what the reviews have said in the 90s. This is more a GT than a true drivers’ car. That said, the sound of the engine at the back (and it’s a great one), the poise and balance (of which the car has plenty) and the way it flows down the road – makes it a great car to drive. It just lacks the last detail of grit that separates it from greatness.