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First drive: Supercharger adds to MG appeal

Expansion: MG Rover Australia is set to expand the MG ZT model range with the addition of the supercharged ZT220S.

Local ingenuity adds diversity to the MG ZT sports sedan range

3 Aug 2004

WHILE the rumbling rear-wheel drive MG ZT260 is rightfully the kingpin act, the British sports specialist has actually updated its entire ZT range, and it goes on sale in Australia in September.

Put the V8 to one side and what you get is a logical – if minor – refresh, a rationalisation of the local range by importer MG Rover Australia and the introduction of a unique model with plenty of Down Under ingenuity.

But back to basics first. The ZT is fundamentally a hot version of the Rover 75, until now offered here only as a normally aspirated 2.5-litre V6, albeit in two different specification levels and with the choice of sedan and estate bodyshapes.

But MGRA has now deleted the “+” equipment level, while the ZT-T estate model has also gone the way of the dodo.

It’s not all simplification of course. Apart from the V8 (on which you can find a separate story within the ‘New Models’ section of GoAuto), MGRA has also introduced a supercharged version of ZT, labeled the ZT220S.

This is a local project, done in co-operation with West Australian-based Australian Automotive Components through its Sprintex brand. There’s a 20 per cent power and torque boost over the standard model.

In raw figures that means a power output of 165kW at 6400rpm and a peak torque rating of 288Nm at 4100rpm from the Rover Group 2.5-litre V6.

The base ZT190 produces 140kW at 6500rpm and 245Nm at 4000rpm. The auto version, the ZT180, produces 133kW at 6500rpm and 240Nm at 4000rpm. Both manual and auto versions of the 220 have identical ratings.

An interesting thing about “S” is that while it is under consideration by headquarters in the UK, there’s a lot of work to be done before the factory will sign off on it. But MGRA is confident enough in the quality of its product to stand by it with a full warranty.

There’s been some styling tweaks performed by esteemed stylist Peter Stevens and his crew

Certainly, it’s not like the factory hasn’t looked at force induction itself in the past, lashing up a twin turbo V6 as an experiment a couple of years ago. The supercharger though, shapes as a simpler solution for this style of engine.

Pricing is up across the board for ZT. The ZT190 manual rises $3000 to $59,990 and the ZT180 automatic $4000 to $60,990. For the Sprintex tuning kit add $9900. The manual only ZT260 is $89,990.

But there’s been a boost to standard equipment to make up for that, now including leather seats, CD stacker, MP3 compatible sound system, power-adjust front seats, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning and trip computer.

There’s also been some styling tweaks performed by esteemed stylist Peter Stevens and his crew.

Changes include a face inspired by the SV supercar, incorporating a more prominent MG family radiator grille, updated alloy wheel designs, halogen projector units and a revised lip spoiler on the boot.

Inside there are new seat bolsters, new instrumentation and backlighting, a revised dashboard and console texture finish, and improved rear legroom with reprofiled seat cushions and squabs.

Mechanically, the factory’s focus has been on the chassis, easing the suspension settings a little to offer more travel in an effort to take the edge off the ride firmness.

MG ZT pricing
MG ZT190 $59,990
MG ZT180 (a) $60,000
MG ZT220S $69,890
MG ZT220S (a) $70,890
MG ZT260 $89,990


WITH only a brief period in the ZT220S, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions, particularly as the car available on the launch program was the old model, with the firmer suspension setting.

But on the relatively smooth roads the car was sampled in the Hunter Valley, it hardly proved to be an issue. Yes, the car rode firm, but it was not uncomfortable. In fact the raw edge would appeal to some people.

The same can be said about the supercharger for that matter.

The standard ZT KV6 is an earnest if slightly hoarse trier which impresses for its honesty, but not a huge amount more. It’s not a real sports engine in the way, say, a Honda V-Tec engine is.

But add the supercharger and there’s a whole new character and urgency injected. It’s a logical stepping stone in terms of both price and performance between ZT190 and ZT260.

It’s not overwhelming, but it is quick. Capable of whistling (and I do mean whistle. It’s a noise that’s constantly with you) up to reasonable speeds very quickly. For traffic cut and thrust and overtaking ability it’s a big leap ahead of the normally-aspirated car.

For the record, MGRA claims the ZT220S manual will reach 100km/h from a standing start in approximately 7.1 seconds. Feels like it too.

This is a quality front-wheel drive chassis so the extra power and torque don’t seem to have too many impacts on the drive experience. There isn’t much evidence of torque steer or wheelspin, although it can be provoked.

Like we said, a hard car to fully assess in 20 minutes, but certainly one that shows promise.

GoAuto can help you buy a new ZT

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