Car reviews - MG - ZT - 260 V8 sedan
Styling, chassis, interior, engine’s enthusiasm if not outright go
Room for improvement
Quality question marks, price-versus-performance equation
27 Jul 2004
By BRUCE NEWTON
FORGET about the comparisons with local V8 iron and the ZT260 stands stronger in your estimation. In isolation, it is a solid, impressive and fun car.
The urge is there without being overwhelming, it handles more than competently and rides firmly without killing your back and behind.
Sure, it joggles along somewhat on choppy roads, but there’s nothing too problematic in that.
It is the sort of car that you could comfortably drive for hours in a relaxed manner, yet also press on with some purpose when the spirit and opportunity takes you.
There's oodles of grip with the traction control engaged and lots of communication back from the chassis when it’s off. In true rear-wheel drive tradition, it can be given a bootfull and break traction for a bit of a thrill.
But there’s no panic, no surprises and a lot of composure.
The engine is pretty keen and pretty responsive despite the 1680kg kerb weight, it’s just that you have to get right up in the rev range to start appreciating the sound it makes.
But there are accessory exhausts offered if you want to up the decibels, or if you don’t want to bother with that rest easy in the knowledge that it sounds better from the outside.
The clutch and gearbox are a surprisingly useable combination. Neither is too heavy or notchy - just about right and far better in set-up than most local metal we’ve sampled. Third gear is a wonderful, wide and flexible ratio.
The gearbox is actually used by Ford and FPV, but for these purposes MG Rover has developed an all-new gear selection system and bespoke hydraulic clutch.
There’s a little clunking and groaning back through the driveline but it’s nothing dramatic or imposing. For fans of these sorts of cars it’s actually a level of tactility and earthiness they probably appreciate.
Inside, there are new wider bolsters for the front seats that make the going easier for wider drivers and the seatbacks have been scalloped to allow more rear seating room. Certainly, most people won’t have too many concerns riding in the back.
The driver’s comfort is also aided by re-positioned pedals – although it’s still tight down there in a manual car - and a meaty, leather-clad steering wheel with rake and reach adjustability.
The rest of the interior is styled very neatly. Presented in a combination of dark shades including gunmetal, it has a uniformity, functionality and sportiness that works very cohesively. There’s even a fold-out cupholder in the dash that challenges the Saab 9-5 for design complexity.
But for all that we like about this car, we were disappointed by the quality of build. It seemed a little loose and underdone for a new car.
That was particularly the case when at high speed an annoying squeal emerged from behind the dashboard, possibly related to a malfunctioning speed limit warning buzzer. Whatever it was, it was disconcerting and annoying.
This is a pity, because for the most part the ZT260 is very much the opposite of that. Good, solid engineering in a decent looking package which is enjoyable to drive.
Yes, only a few will be sold but the people who buy them should be happy. Just as long as they don’t mind Holdens and Fords smoking them at the lights.
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