Zenvo TS1 GT 2017 review

It either looks like it’s been lifted straight out of an arcade game or as though Lockheed Martin has had its first crack at a performance car. I can’t decide which. Either way, it’s quite the thing to behold, with its gaping intakes and impossibly low glasshouse, but it’s also cohesive and well-rounded. What’s most impressive about the way the car looks is that you couldn’t attribute it to any other supercar manufacturer; it isn’t at all derivative.

There’s a flattened hexagon design theme on the outside that builds to a mad, six-sided frenzy within the cabin. There are hexagons everywhere you look, from the navigation screen surround to the stitching in the seats, as though hexagons spread like a virus if left untreated. It isn’t unattractive, actually, but Zenvo should have dropped the whole hexagon thing when it got to designing the steering wheel. The milled-from-aluminium switchgear and speaker grilles look the part, meanwhile, and they are at least bespoke to this car, but somehow the cabin just doesn’t feel as exceptional as it should given the asking price. For £1.2 million, I want to be blown away.

With 1163bhp, 811lb ft and a pair of superchargers, perhaps that’s exactly what the engine will do. The 5.8-litre V8 is Zenvo’s own design. Zenvo realised superchargers were easier to cool than exhaust-driven turbochargers. Besides, using a pair of superchargers is completely unique and, I think, a big part of the car’s appeal. The boost will be turned all the way up for production versions, but with the engineers focusing on driveability and low-speed manners for the time being, this engine has been wound down to a miserable 750bhp. Let’s hope we don’t happen upon too many steep inclines.

There are a number of transmission options including, believe it or not, a six-speed manual. There’s also a paddle shift gearbox with conventional synchromesh or, if you want the rawest experience and quickest shifts possible, a dog ring paddle shift transmission. That was the option fitted to the test car and, as we’ll find out, there’s still an awful lot of development work to be done.

The TS1 GT drives its rear wheels via a Torsen limited-slip differential. This car also has optional carbon ceramic brakes from Brembo, with Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber on 19in wheels on the front axle and 20in ones on the rear. With launch control, 62mph is dispatched in 2.8sec. Suspension is by double wishbones all round with passive KW dampers.

Unlike just about every other car that dares reference that word ‘hyper’, the Zenvo is built around a conventional steel and aluminium monocoque rather than a carbonfibre tub. Despite fully carbon bodywork, the TS1 GT is therefore a little on the flabby side, weighing in at 1710kg.

Talking of flab, Zenvo knows very well that most people who can afford to drop £1.2m on a play thing are very often not undernourished. That’s why the door openings are quite large and the cabin fairly spacious. The TS1 GT isn’t a difficult car to get into or out of, and there’s even a useful 135-litre storage compartment beneath the front clamshell. For now, the seats are set a little too high and you don’t sink into them, which means you feel like you’re perched up on a stool. 

Zenvo’s marketing literature describes the car as a hyper-GT; it has been developed, supposedly, to be luxurious and comfortable over long distances. On bumpy Buckinghamshire B-roads close to Super Veloce Racing, the first appointed Zenvo dealer, the TS1 GT felt tight and fidgety, but never unreasonably stiff or crashy.

Ignore the constant fidgeting and secondary patter and you do notice the poise and composure in the chassis, the taut body control and the fluid shrugging off of compressions. The hydraulic steering is very good, too, or it is once you’ve got a little lock on. Around the centre point, it’s quite vague and glassy, but beyond that it becomes very direct, with a natural weighting and rate of response. It allows you to lean on the massive front-end grip right away the way you would in a smaller sports car. The TS1 GT feels well balanced in corners and has massive traction despite the huge power and torque.

Even some 400bhp shy of its ultimate power output, the engine is a total monster. Without any smothering turbochargers, it has immediate throttle response and a rich, bassy soundtrack too. The progressive, linear power delivery is completely addictive, meanwhile, the rate of acceleration building to a panic-inducing rampage as the motor charges towards the 7700rpm redline. Lord only knows what this car will feel like with half as much power again. Terrifying, I would guess.

It’s a wonderful engine, no doubt, but for the time being it’s mated to a less-than-impressive gearbox. On a wide open throttle in the upper reaches of the rev range, the shifts are quick and clean, but everywhere else they’re lurchy and shunty. The ignition cut on half throttle upshifts is so abrupt that pulling the right hand paddle is like quickly jabbing the brake pedal. 

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