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MG ZT 2005 Review

They love the idea of a homegrown muscle car with a genuine, thumping V8 engine and old-fashioned rear-wheel drive.

It helps, too, that the ZT looks tough with its pumped-up body bits that highlight its automotive steroid program.

And its engine has been snitched from the Ford Mustang program in the United States, complete with a galloping pony on top of the intake manifold and a power output of 260 horsepower. That's 191 kilowatts for Australia.

If it sounds like a familiar story, that's because it is. Ford and Holden have been doing similar work here for generations, even if it is relatively novel in the UK.

The 260 sits at the top of a ZT sports sedan range that includes a V6 and a supercharged V6.

They were all developed from the Rover 75, which still runs as an impressive prestige sedan.

The ZT family is doing well in Europe, but has had much less of an impact in Australia. Only eight cars have sold so far this year – against a price that goes as high as $89,990 for the flagship – and a relatively paltry 27 sold last year. That's partly because the ZT must face all sorts of homegrown V8 heroes – particularly the V8s from Holden Special Vehicles and Ford Performance Vehicles.

It's also because the MG brand is still battling to make an impact in a prestige category where it is a tiny contender against the Benz-BMW-Audi heavyweights, and everyone else, from Lexus and Audi to Volvo and Saab. Australians are also spoiled for choice and value at $90,000. The newcomer – even with its V8 muscle – is up against all sorts of classy rivals.

So the ZT is battling on several fronts, and also because it looks like a "bitsa".

It has a bit of BMW in the basic body design (the Rover 75 donor car was designed under BMW ownership), a bit of MG history in the badge, a bit of British know-how in the classy suspension and dynamic work, and a bit of America in the engine bay.

There is no doubting the quality of the car's basic body, and it is equipped for all sorts of battlegrounds. The cabin has leather, CD sound and plenty of electric assists. There are airbags, anti-skid brakes with traction control and meaty alloys.

The ZT V8 has a pair of giant exhausts under its tail to tell people – if they haven't already heard – that it has a V8 heart.

The engine is a 4.6-litre V8 with a variable inlet system, hitched to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox and turning the rear wheels.

There are ventilated discs at each corner, fully independent suspension and 225x45 tyres.

To put the price into perspective, the ZT starts at $60,990 for the 2.5-litre V6 &#!50; and even the basic Rover 75 is $49,990.

ON THE ROAD
NICE car, shame about the engine. And the price.

That's the story of the ZT 260. It doesn't go nearly well enough to compete with the class leaders and it is too costly to have much impact.

That's sad. Because its chassis is excellent, it is comfortable, well equipped, a nice drive.

The ZT copes brilliantly with bumpy and twisty roads. The suspension is a tribute to the MG engineers and the car brakes well with great steering feel.

But the engine, in a class where it will run up against HSV and FPV hotrods with far more muscle, just does not deliver.

It has only 191kW, not nearly enough when HSV is talking about 300 and FPV has a hi-tech, quad-cam V8 kilometres ahead of the old Mustang clunker in the MG.

It makes all the right noises – grumpy exhaust note and nice V8 rock at idle – but you never feel it is keen for the job.

It is a relative heavyweight at 1680kg for a medium-sized four-seater. At least it is reasonable at the pumps on premium unleaded.

But we are underwhelmed by the bodywork, which makes the car look a bitsa, not a fully integrated factory package. It hasn't the elegance we expect for $90,000.

There is still a lot to like – excellent seats, Xenon lamps, a big boot and parking radar – and the sound system is good.

Then we drove it again, and were rewarded by a car that does exactly what it's told through the toughest corners.

THE BOTTOM LINE 13/20
THE MG ZT is probably pretty special in Britain, but can't face up to the Falcon XR8 or Commodore SS at home.

Pricing Guides

$6,820
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$4,510
Highest Price
$9,130

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
180 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $4,510 – 6,710 2005 MG ZT 2005 180 Pricing and Specs
190 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $4,620 – 6,820 2005 MG ZT 2005 190 Pricing and Specs
220S 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $5,610 – 7,920 2005 MG ZT 2005 220S Pricing and Specs
260 4.6L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $6,490 – 9,130 2005 MG ZT 2005 260 Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$5,610

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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