MG ZT-T 260

The British Bulldog is alive and kicking! MG Rover's V8-powered ZT models are finally with us, and Auto Express has been granted exclusive access to an early pre-production car. From the outside, the quadruple exhaust pipes and discreet ZT-T 260 and V8 badges give the game away. They tell you that, underneath the svelte exterior, the car is an entirely different animal to the Rover 75-based, front-wheel-drive ZT.

Britain is biting back - and here's proof. The ZT-T 260 is competitively priced and has a much more macho character than most of its German rivals. With RWD and a big V8, it's a muscle car for the 21st century. We can't wait to see if the final production version fulfils its early promise.

The British Bulldog is alive and kicking! MG Rover's V8-powered ZT models are finally with us, and Auto Express has been granted exclusive access to an early pre-production car. From the outside, the quadruple exhaust pipes and discreet ZT-T 260 and V8 badges give the game away. They tell you that, underneath the svelte exterior, the car is an entirely different animal to the Rover 75-based, front-wheel-drive ZT.

Could it prove a real rival to BMW's M3 at last? A whole new drivetrain powers the rear wheels, while under the bonnet a 4.6-litre Ford Mustang V8 has been shoehorned in. The result is the meatiest MG production car ever. Although sports car purists might be disappointed the firm's fastest model to date isn't an open-top roadster, those flying the flag for Britain's cash-strapped but determined motor industry can be proud. Make no mistake, the 260 is no big-engined hotch-potch.

To cope with the new drivetrain configuration, MG has rerouted the exhausts and modified the transmission tunnel, bulkhead and floorpans to fit the propshaft. The rear axle has been mated to an all-new multi-link rear suspension, while the bodyshell has been stiffened.

The Mustang engine is typical of a big US V8. Its bhp to cylinder capacity ratio isn't huge when you consider the Japanese have been squeezing over 300bhp out of four-pots for some time. But to analyse the engine in terms of its power alone is missing the point. Fire the car up and it greets you with a lusty rumble reminiscent of the glorious Rover V8s of the past, burbling away happily at idle and barking angrily when the throttle is opened. With 410Nm of torque, the unit delivers a punch right through the rev range. It rewards you with superb acceleration, sprinting from 0-60mph in 6.3 seconds, yet the character and grace of the car on which the ZT-T is based is retained. It's certainly more laid-back in feel than an M3.

Initially, only a five-speed manual box will be offered, linked to a limited-slip differential, which distributes torque evenly between both axles. Our early production car had a cable-operated clutch, but MG Rover pointed out the the production models will have a lighter hydraulic clutch, plus different gear ratios for more positive and precise shifts when they arrive next month. Yet even now, the ZT-T seems a winner.

From the driver's seat, it's easy to feel its natural chassis balance and immense grip. The cabin itself is as subtle as the rest of the motor. Apart from a roof-mounted DVD player and dashboard Teletext TV options, our car looked like a standard ZT-T. The wider transmission tunnel has little effect on space, although the ashtray has been sacrificed to accommodate a larger gearbox housing and a small V8 badge sits in the centre of the facia.

Discreet on the outside, luxurious inside, but equipped with a heart of thunder, MG's latest offering has been a long time coming. But it looks as though it's been well worth the wait.

Most Popular

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp

Range-topping version of the Tesla Model S officially unveiled, with a sprint time of 0-60mph in less than two seconds
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle
Volkswagen T7 Multivan - front
Volkswagen Caravelle

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle

The Volkswagen T7 Multivan MPV switches to the MQB platform and adds plug-in hybrid technology
10 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain
Lexus NX - front action
Lexus NX SUV

New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain

The new Lexus NX 350h features a standard hybrid set-up, while the NX 450h+ gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 40 miles of pure electric powe…
12 Jun 2021
LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini
LEC MINI Electric
MINI

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini

The conversion sees the Mini’s A-Series engine replaced with a dinky electric motor and a 20kWh battery for a range of 70 miles in the city
10 Jun 2021
Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features
Audi S5
Audi

Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features

Almost every car in Audi’s line-up has received a tweak, with major updates including Amazon Alexa integration and a Sonos stereo
11 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'
Honda opinion
Opinion

'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'

Mike Rutherford is worried about Honda's future, despite its recent motorsport success
6 Jun 2021
Mustang Mach-E: your next company car?
A red Ford Mustang Mach-E parked
Advertisement Feature

Mustang Mach-E: your next company car?

Thinking of getting a new company car? Here’s why you should consider putting the Mustang Mach-E on your shortlist
11 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review
Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition - front
Volkswagen T-Cross

New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review

The small Volkswagen T-Cross SUV turns on the style in new Black Edition trim
11 Jun 2021