When a kid draws a race car, it usually comes with angles, huge tailpipes, and a wing so large you could serve Thanksgiving dinner for your extended family on it. In a kid’s dream it has awesome power and can go super fast while turning heads and spitting flames. So clearly Zenvo, Denmark’s only car manufacturer, is staffed by big kids, because that pretty much describes its 1177bhp TSR-S hypercar.
For those not familiar with Zenvo, it’s been around since 2007, building only a few cars per year. Engine, gearbox, and aero development are all done in house by Troels Vollertsen and his team of speed-happy chums. None of Zenvo’s cars produce less than 1000 horsepower, and none of them will blend in with a crowd.
The TSR-S is the ultimate roadgoing Zenvo, a trackrat-with-license-plates job that’ll make a smug city slicker in a GT3 RS feel like an underachiever. Its design is an evolution of the ST1, the company’s first car. Zenvo has taken the initial shape and molded it into something more extreme. Its splitter is huge, its side scoops force air towards its home grown 5.8-liter twin supercharged V-8, and the spoiler is, well… also huge. It’s active as well, but not in the way you think it is. It’s ‘centripetal’, which means it not only acts as an air brake but that it’ll tilt itself to supposedly throw more downforce to the inside wheel during hard cornering, though that's something we've called into question before.
Its engine, designed by Vollertsen and co. in-house, is a 5.8-liter carbon-clad work of art. In fact, the whole engine bay is a treat to look at, especially if you’re really into carbon fiber. With two superchargers bolted on it produces 1177 bhp and 840 lb ft. Lots of power is great, but if the car it’s attached to weighs as much as a small village, it’s wasted. The Zenvo, being mostly carbon fiber (made in house), isn’t too much of a chunkster at 3296 lbs in its ‘ultimate’ spec. Firing its power to the rear wheels, it’ll do 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds and double that speed four seconds later. Its top speed is limited to 202mph.
In keeping with the carbon theme, it’s running a set of carbon ceramic brakes to make sure you can stop when you run out of tarmac.
While the outside is busy with detail, the inside is less pointy. There’s lots of carbon to marvel at, and plenty of shapes, but it’s fairly uncluttered. The switchgear is kept to a minimum; a modest touchscreen rests above a fearsome transmission tunnel featuring a couple of switches that blend in to the overall aesthetic, a gear selector, and a big hole for the Thor’s-hammer-shaped key. What isn’t covered in carbon is covered in Alcantara.
Key in, foot on brake, prod ‘go’ button… BOOM. If the thing’s look didn’t get you attention, the people on the top floor of whichever of your hotels you’re using for the summer will spill their martinis when it starts up. The two massive pipes jutting out back should have been a clue, but it’s really something. After the initial bark, it settles to a loud hum that vibrates through the cabin. A massage function of sorts.
Zenvo is particularly proud of its gearbox. Rather than taking the approach of making a smooth gearbox fast, Zenvo decided to have a crack at making a fast gearbox smooth. The TSR-S gets seven speeds with helical-cut dog gears; a race car ‘box, basically. Going from neutral to first takes a second until ‘clonk’ and you’re away. Then you need to silence the voice in the back of your head that expects that much power to make the car react like a stuck pig at the slightest provocation. It’s placid at low speed, as easy to drive as your dad’s truck. Ok, don’t floor it, but there’s no need to fret about making a Zenvo-shaped hole in the wall.
In the city you notice two things above all else: Rear visibility, despite a camera firing a live feed to the rear view mirror, is dreadful; and hooooo boy, is it wide. If you live somewhere narrow you’ll spend a lot of time clenching. Other than that, it cruises ‘round pleasantly. The steering is light enough to make town a breeze, the gearbox works smoothly enough in ‘road,’ and the ride… Well, it’s a track-biased hypercar, so don’t expect a Rolls-smooth ride over bumps.
Town’s boring, though. The open road’s where it’s at. Switch the ‘box to ‘Race’ and nail the gas for all the fun. It rips up the rev range, superchargers surging you harder and harder up to the redline. When it comes time to pull the paddle, the pipes emit a loud crack, the car lunges forward, and on you go. When pressing on you’ll find the numbers on the speedo grow very, very quickly, set to a soundtrack of two superchargers helping a massive motor convert petrol to utter joy. The acceleration takes the breath from you and then some, but not with the same gut punch as a turbocharged car; here it feels lighter, as though you’re being pushed rather than shoved down the road. The ‘box isn’t necessarily smooth in ‘race’, but it is quick to shift.
When it comes to power, you’re not left with 1177 horses and a prayer. You’re given three modes: everything off (for the brave), minimal (700bhp max), or IQ. IQ is the mode to keep it in. The car will read the conditions, measure how slippery things feel under the rear wheels, and limit the grunt available to keep you safe. This has the wonderful side effect of allowing you to hammer it pretty much everywhere, so long as actual physics allows.
Cornering is as flat as they come. The wheel is pleasingly heavy, beautifully communicative. The ride is set up for speed rather than comfort, so on back roads it can be rough. On track, though… this thing will be something else. Thankfully its carbon brakes will stop you dead if you lean on them, though they can be a bit sharp in town. This thing is a staggering piece of engineering, one made not by robots or with input from a huge committee of people but by a group of committed petrolheads in Denmark. That’s cool.
You’re more likely to use a TSR-S to first do a lap of the ‘Ring in the morning, then one of Spa in the afternoon, than to look glamorous on the Riviera. But what’s the point in having all that power just parked up anyway? Zenvo makes special cars, and is soon to make more, with a second coming soon to dealers in Europe and North America. Judging by the TSR-S, that can only be a good thing.
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