It should have been a big event. The launch of a brand new British sports car, hailed by its makers as the world’s fastest and most fuel efficient diesel sports car, deserved an auspicious send-off to celebrate its readiness for ‘global availability’. Instead it was a bit of a disappointing damp squib for Trident, the Norwich-based company on the brink of putting the new Iceni, plus GT and estate versions, on the market.
Plans for the London debut had to be called off at the last minute, scuppered by the Tube strike. Instead the Iceni made a subdued entry onto the motoring scene, which was a pity for an exotic-looking diesel supercar said to have a top speed in excess of 190mph and claimed to be capable of a range of 2,000 miles on a single tankful of biodiesel. That’s some top speed, and some range. It is almost the distance from Norwich to Monte Carlo and back. Can such a feat really be possible? Trident aims to prove it with a marathon drive to coincide with the Monaco Grand Prix, when plenty of potential customers for the car will be in the Principality. “It’s a distance of about 2,100 miles for the return trip,” Trident boss Phil Bevan told Diesel Car. “We believe that with careful driving the car can do it on one tank.”
That would have to be some tank, and it is. Where most diesel cars have a fuel tank capacity of around 50 to 60 litres, the Iceni’s is 122 litres. That is not the only thing that is unusual about this extraordinary car. It has a stainless steel chassis, and a 6.6-litre V8 turbodiesel engine. The power output is 395bhp with 700lb ft of torque, which can be increased to 950lb ft and 424bhp with an optional performance pack. The 0-62 acceleration time is said to be 3.7 seconds, but at 70mph in top gear (sixth speed on the auto transmission), the car runs at just 980rpm. How is that possible? By means of something called torque multiplication technology, which Trident has patented and does entirely elucidate. “A typical diesel runs at 1,800 to 2,500 rpm, but we bring that down to an 800 to 1,600 rev band,” says Bevan. The formula of low revs and high torque is the key to exceptional fuel efficiency, he insists. “We make our own gearbox and our own ECU to capitalise on the torque our engine produces.”
But why a stainless steel chassis? Because it is very strong and durable, says Bevan, who is both the founder of Trident and the car’s designer. Previously working for Ford, he runs the company in partnership with co-designer Daniel Monaghan, and they head a staff of 14 other people, including “an ex Formula One engineer and the second best leather trimmer in the UK”. Why not aluminium? “We think the trend for aluminium is just a trend, and as a material you have to use much more of it to achieve the same strength. Stainless steel is guaranteed for 100 years and is infinitely repairable. You could never have an accident where our chassis would be a write-off. But our chassis isn’t heavy, it’s actually 23 kilos lighter than an Aston DB9 aluminium chassis.”
The Iceni name underlines the Britishness of the car’s design. It was the name of the ancient East Anglian tribe led by Queen Boudica, she whose statue sits opposite the Houses of Parliament, and who carried a trident as a weapon. If those with long memories think they have heard some of this before, it is because the Trident name has been around since 1966 as a cottage industry sports car maker. The men who run it have been working towards this moment for nearly a decade. They bought the company back in 2005, and began planning for the Iceni’s launch eight years ago, with a few concept cars being shown along the way.
So how much will it cost to buy into the high power, long distance mileage that Trident promises an Iceni will deliver? Prices start from around £96,000, and top-of-the-range specification will set you back £126,000. Will it woo buyers away from rival petrol-engined Jaguar F-Types and Aston DB9s? That may well depend on a trip to Monte Carlo and back.