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MG lays down Ultimate challnge

On the way: The MGF X80 is due for production next year.

MG gets ready to tackle the power players

25 Jun 2001

MG is believed to be readying a high-performance version of the MGF to take on the Honda S2000 and Porsche Boxster.

Likely to be called the MGF Ultimate, the car will sit between current MGF models and a new range-topping V8-powered sports car known for now as X80. It is expected to make its UK debut in mid-2002.

Sources suggest the MGF Ultimate will be powered by a heavily uprated 1.8-litre petrol engine to lend it the punch it needs to tackle the S2000 and Boxster - which put out 176kW and 162kW respectively.

MG is considering either turbocharging or supercharging to push power from the VVC's 107kW to a target of around 170kW - which should enable it to dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in around six seconds.

MG Rover Australia marketing and communications general manager David Watson said he was unaware about the proposed MGF flagship, but said "it would be logical".

The Ultimate's chassis will also undergo radical change to cope with the extra performance.

Insiders say the gas-filled Hydragas suspension from the rest of the range will be ditched in favour of conventional springs and dampers for more precise handling.

Styling will draw heavily on the MGF XPower 500, the one-off MGF concept unveiled at the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race.

Flared wheel arches, a more aggressive face and a rear-mounted spoiler are expected to give the Ultimate a more purposeful stance than lesser-powered MGFs.

Meanwhile, MG Rover last week announced it had entered into an agreement to purchase the assets of the Italian subsidiary of Qvale Automotive Group. The Modena-based company employs 70 people and manufactures the Mangusta sports car.

One of the fruits of the partnership will be MG's proposed X80 flagship, which uses a Qvale chassis mated to a Ford-sourced 4.6-litre V8 engine. The car's styling will be penned by MG Rover's design director Peter Stevens.

The newcomer is scheduled to be launched in Europe next year and could help pave the way for MG's return to the US market.

Both coupe and roadster versions are planned with manual and automatic transmissions, but it is not yet known what the car will be named - X80 is just a codename.

Sales surge

MG Rover Australia marketing and communications general manager David Watson is understandably happy with the twin marques' sales performance so far this year.

MGF roadster sales amounted to 109 cars until the end of May, compared with 81 for the same period last year. This is despite the fact it faces increased opposition from the new Toyota MR2, launched last October, and revitalised MX-5 and BMW Z3, both of which were upgraded around the same time.

The MGF itself benefited from an update last December that included the introduction of a six-speed sequential transmission as an option.

Mr Watson suggested the expanded dealer network - which grew to 13 outlets following the launch of the 75 sedan in March - was also a key factor in the MGF's improved sales performance.

Meanwhile, the 75 sedan quietly notched up 259 sales until the end of May ? an average of just over 80 per month.

Mr Watson said this figure could be bumped up to 100 monthly sales following the launch of the wagon variant - known as the 75 Tourer - which makes its debut at the Sydney motor show in October and goes on sale soon after.

The sporty MG-badged version of the 75 - known as the ZT - is also "looking good for Australia".

"We're still talking about the ZT, and I'm attending the car's European launch next week," Mr Watson said.

"It would be nice to have it here in time for the Melbourne motor show (next March)."

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