Fleet News

MG ZT260

Review

In fact, many will have made up their minds even before that. You either want a big-bore, chuggy V8 churning out huge emissions and huge torque, situated in a rather hairy-chested car, or you don't.

For drivers who don't, they can stop reading and look through their BMW or Audi brochures instead. For those who like the idea of something more anachronistic, read on.

The ZT 260 is such a man's car, it should come with leather smelling of Brut. And it's great.

I liked the less macho ZTs anyway. They take all the best bits of the 75 – build quality, snugness, integrity – and add a more contemporary edge.

But shoehorn a 4.6-litre V8 into its engine bay and the car takes on a very different character. It feels and sounds like a muscle car and to start with, the whole experience seems a little out of place.

Turn the key and there is a short period while the starter motor gets to grip with the hulking V8 that lies dormant. Then it bursts into life with an angry roar, rocking the car on its springs as the pistons start to plunge and rise, before settling into a rolling, popping idle. If you love cars, it can't fail to excite you.

MG has reworked the drivetrain of the ZT to propel the 260bhp through the back wheels, collaborating with American motorsport firm Roush. That's because the V8 is the Ford power unit used in the Mustang, and some experience from the USA was needed. The collaboration has worked well.

Although the springs and dampers have been revised to cope with the new drivetrain set-up and the extra power, MG has managed to hit the sweet spot when it comes to ride and handling. This car needs to control its own body roll, to cope with cornering and the huge wave of torque when accelerating, but MG has managed to do this without turning it into a boneshaker. It rides as well as you could possibly expect.

The revised layout, new engine and new, manual, five-speed gearbox means there is a lot less space in the driver's footwell, and the gearbox certainly feels rather old fashioned, vague and slow, but drivers shouldn't really need it.

That's because the V8 produces 302lb-ft of torque. That's more than a TVR T350, which has 290lb-ft and it's monstrous. However, while a performance car like the TVR has 350bhp, the ZT's 256bhp might not seem much, especially with hot hatches threatening that figure nowadays.

But the bhp figure is misleading. This car's performance is all about low-down torque, rather than high-end power. It needs to be because it is a very heavy car and it is torque that's needed when there is weight to shift.

It is essentially a lazy engine – at 60mph, it is doing 1,600rpm, but when provoked the V8 gathers up its pistons and bursts forward, the engine dipping and rising in noise throughout the rev range until it hits 6,500rpm.

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With that big MG bonnet stretched out in front of you, snuggled deep down in the dark cabin and excellent seats, the ZT 260 and its V8 feel old-fashioned in many ways. That's a plus in my view, though, harking back to the days when cars had their own inimitable characters.

I haven't mentioned cost or tax yet, and there's a reason. The idiosyncratic nature of this car means that very few are going to be bought on economic grounds.

You can get a decently specced BMW 530i for the price, and most drivers would find that hard to resist. The benefit-in-kind tax charge is well and truly beached in the 35% area for the MG, but that still won't deter enthusiasts.

The ZT 260 reflects everything that a great British car should be – characterful, evocative and distinctive.

Model: ZT 260 SE
Engine (cc): 4,601
Max power (bhp/rpm): 256/5,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 302/4,000
Max speed (mph): 155 (limited)
0-62mph (sec): 6.2
Fuel consumption (mpg): 21.5
CO2 emissions (g/km): 314
Transmission: 5-sp manual
Fuel tank capacity (l): 66
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR): £33,490

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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