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Headline:FastSaloons.com MG ZT260 Road TestDate:31/08/2004
Source:FastSaloons.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastSaloons.com MG ZT260 Road Test  

FastSaloons.com
Review


MG ZT260



Our Thoughts
The return of the British
muscle car? a step too far
for the Rover 75? Or the British M5.

Background

The ZT260 was launched last September (2003) and combined the proven power of the Ford Mustang engine with the already successful ZT range. In doing so it not only had to slot in the bigger V8 but also substantially reengineer the car - for a start MG had to moved from front to rear wheel drive.

Since the ZT was launched in July 2001 MG has sold over 20,000 of them.

Exterior Styling



We liked the revised styling. Superb Chromactive Paint job
The ZT260 has already been altered to take on the new corporate face earlier this year. In doing so it lost the mesh front end in favour of a more open look. In photos I wasn't entirely convinced by this move, it seemed to have softened the styling and made the car more mainstream. However, in the flesh, in this particular case delicious flesh, courtesy of the Monogram twilight chromactive paint (a 2200 extra), the car looks pretty damn good. The paint itself was a huge hit during the test drawing lots of admiring glances and compliments from people the car encountered. Comparing the car to the mark 1 ZT styling, the new car definitely looks fresher and it makes the existing styling look a little dated.

Visual distinctions for the V8 / 260 model are reasonably subtle. The side gets a V8 badge, which is neatly placed under the side indicator. The front is identical to the rest of the range. From the rear things get more obvious with the M5-like twin exhausts poking out from their aluminium trimed housing on either side of the car.

The car still carries a mean message and the new styling has not diminished this.


Interior Styling

The car tested was very well specified thanks the SE pack. This gives the car automatic air-conditioning, cruise control; multi-changer CD combined with a harmon/kardon stereo; satellite navigation with TV; electrically adjustable front seats and as you'd expect electric windows, mirrors etc,. The stereo and Cruise control can be controlled by the steering wheel controls.


Matt finish not to our liking. Interior not changed in recent restyle
One thing I was not too keen on was the matt interior trim, it is similar to the interior of the MG TF160 and I think it looks a dated and a little cheap. In comparison the shinier interior we've seen in the other MG ZTs is far better.

In case you forget what is under the bonnet, there is something to remind you of the model you are driving on the dash; a nice V8 badge is located under the analogue clock. The dash has always been pretty good and the 2004 update has not change the layout. At night or when the lights are on, the instrument are lit in pale blue, which is really attractive and pretty easy to read, and certainly looks better to the reds and oranges of other cars.

The car gets Satellite navigation, actual a BMW part. The system is pretty easy to use, but does have some annoying aspects - like the number of dial pressing and twisting needed to just show the map, or the two that are quite close together so sometimes you push or twist the wrong one. The mix of MG and BMW controls doesn't shout out at you, but you can tell the difference.

The driving position is good and the layout of controls seemed well placed for me.


Ride, Handling & Steering



Hard ride, some roll but generally spot on.
The Ride in the 260 is quite hard and as a result imperfections in the road tend to upset the car. In addition bumps are not filtered out much for the passengers either. Large undulations particularly unseat the car when it is travelling at speed. Smaller ones merely make the car not that relaxing to drive. I noticed that travelling down the M40 with my arm on the door that my arm was constantly moving / bouncing.

On the flip side the car handles reasonably well, in fact I felt confident enough to drive around for the duration of the test without traction control switched on. This was both in the wet and dry and when I did switch the system on it seemed pretty relaxed about interfering with what was going on. Only when you provoke the system - either by pushing too much power through the rear tyres or by attacking a corner fast on purpose, did it reign the car (and me) in.

There is quite a lot of body movement and roll, but generally the car feels safe and you can motor-on nicely. In addition the car posses good grip and holds on well round corners.

The steering is reasonable weighted and offer some feedback to the driver. The steering wheel itself is on the large side but the actual rack is about right for a car of this size

Engine, Gearbox and Performance



Ford meets MG. 4.6-litre V8 Mustang engine.
The engine is GLOURIOUS. Aurally it is brilliant. I loved it, for most of the test I dispensed with the stereo and just enjoyed the sound of the Mustang V8. Whether you are at low or high revs there is something to listen to. I really do recommend getting close to or even better in one, just to sample the noise.

Given the noise you really feel you are in an American muscle car, Even the clutch feels a little different - it's bite seemly more abrupt and positive.

Getting to the numbers, the car has a 4600cc V8 producing a quite conservative 256bhp (260 PS/191 KW), this is produced at what these days seems a very low 5,000rpm. Similarly torque comes in at 302lb ft (410 NM) at just 4,000rpm. Usefully 236lb ft of this is available from a scarcely believable 1,000 rpm. As a result, the official figures read as 6.6secs to 60mph, 17.1secs to 100mph and top speed is electronically restricted to 155mph.

The engine is clearly capable of more. It has been used in many cars and this is quite a docile set-up (relatively). MG has had a more extreme version of the ZT on the cards for a long while now and there is still no confirmation or timings on if or when that car will appear.

Looking under the bonnet two things are immediately evident: MG has made no attempt to hide the origin of the engine, there are Ford logos everywhere and even a unit label as Mustang. The general look of the engine bay is more old school. So many times these days, we flip the bonnet on a car we are testing, only to fine a neat bit of plastic with at most a logo or some writing. The Mustang engine looks like it has been slipped in by someone afterwards, there is no attempt to tidy it up with a plastic housing and as a result the engine sits there unapologetically raw and looking great.

The 260 gets a 5-speed manual box through which it exploits all its torque. The gear change is pretty slick, the clutch is the only notable aspect, as mentioned before it is very 'positive' and it takes a few changes to acclimatise to it. Given the set-up of the engine there is no need for a 6-speed and the ratio work pretty well with the engine to give you a very useable power band. In addition there is a firm shove in your back from most speeds.

Here is the result of the Vbox testing:
Acceleration0-100-200-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
MG ZT 260 ((03 - ))
Autocar

(2.6)

(4.0)

(5.3)

(6.7)

(8.9)

(11.0)

(13.7)

(17.1)
MG ZT 260 ((03 - ))
FastSaloons.com

(1.18)

(2.26)

(3.19)

(4.65)

(5.69)

(7.10)

(9.19)

(11.27)

(13.87)

(17.20)
*All FastSaloons.com stats are performed on private roads and repeated several times with the average displayed.

Hard to visualise ? Click Here to see the ZT accelerate.


Practicality


Big boot, but another car with no spare.
The difference between the ZT260 and the Rover 75 or lower MG ZTs in terms of practicality really only comes down to one thing, the Ford bit. Shove a 4.6-ltre V8 in a car and there is going to be some consequences. But aside from that the car is as practical as the more mundane member of it's immediate family.

The boot is large, the car tested was fitted with the Karman Harmann stereo which does intrude a little in the roof of the boot. But as I have found out with the huge subwoofers in my M5's boot - this really doesn't make much difference, after all I should know having 3 small children and all the supporting supplies such things necessitate.

There is no spare wheel. Instead the space is used for the battery, Multi-CD Changer and two cans of tyre repair foam. The Satelite navigation is housed on the right hand side of the boot.

Interior room is good with adequate legroom in the rear even with tall front passengers.

So how much does that 4.6-litre really cost you? Well economy is along the lines of 15.8 / 27.2 / 21.5mpg which is pretty drastic. It puts the MG bang into the sort of territory of the S55 AMG (21.4mpg), the Volkswagen W8s (Passat and Phaeton) and awfully close to the M5, and even closer to the new BMW 760. The car has the same sized tank as the rest of the range and as such the distance between fill-ups is quite small (c. 312 miles).

Emissions wise the MG currently ranks in the top 20 worst performers, with a score of 314g/km. As such there is a large tax penalty for anyone thinking of having the 260 as a company car.


Conclusion

What the ZT260 does give you, is a really feel good car. Feeling sad? Rev the engine and your happy again. The soundtrack makes this car, it really is great and for the money you'd be hard pressed to find any competition.

As an investment the ZT260 is not going to be great. If a BMW M5 and Mercedes E55 AMG can have savage depreciation then you can guarantee that a V8 MG will have jaw dropping first year(s) depreciation. This kind of car is not ever going to be an objective choice - logically there are better places for your money. But subjectively? Who would not want a British Saloon with a big V8?

Price-wise the ZT260 costs 28,297 in standard form or 33,292 for the SE variant. For that extra 5k you get a lot: auto air-conditioning; CD auto changer; Sat Nav; traffic master; electric seats; cruise control; Xenon headlights and more. The car we tested was the SE and had two extra options the chromactive paintwork (2200) and side head impact protection (175). Meaning the car actual cost 35,667.

At this price the car has some serious rivals: the Volvo S60R (34,000), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo FQ-330 (31,999), BMW 530i (33,000), Subaru Impreza WRX Sti (31,995), Mercedes E320 (33,400) and Ford Mondeo ST220 (27,995). All these cars a very good, but there is only one rival that has a V8 and that is the Cadillac Saville 4.6 STS (34,499) which is hardly mainstream. Realistically, the Evo and Sti are smaller and more hardcore cars; the Mercedes and BMW will attract the image-conscious buyers and are arguably the safer option. The Volvo is a great car and will attract Volvo drivers. The Ford is a good car but is only a V6.

So that leaves the ZT that is arguably offering a unique proposition: V8 power at a price where it's rivals can offer at best a six. It combines a practical large car and sporty drive with a soundtrack of something far more exotic. I really liked this car, it has the Q-car appeal I like. Rev the engine in a crowded street and watch the eyes fly round trying to find the source.

Would I buy one? - well it comes down to question of depreciation and whether you could stomach it. Currently it is a little early to see the full affect of this. But you'd have to bear this in mind when buying one. Would you care once you were driving it? No. There's more to life than enjoyment isn't there? Sensible people need not apply.




Neil
Related Links
Full Set of Photos taken during the test

Our ZT260 - acceleration video

News release on MG ZT260

MG Rover UK's website











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