This is MG Rover’s cut-price answer to BMW’s M5: the much-delayed, rear-wheel-drive MG ZT 260 V8. Boasting 256bhp and 302lb ft of torque from its Ford 4.6-litre V8, the 260 will hit 60mph from rest in just 6.2sec, is limited to 155mph and costs a bargain £27,995.
The spiritual successor to the Rover SD1 Vitesse has a tantalising spec sheet, but we cannot help but be underwhelmed somewhat by the styling, which differs from the front-drive ZT 190 only in its quad tailpipes and subtle V8 badging.
‘You’ll hear a 260 before you see it,’ said an MG Rover spokesman, ‘but the discreet execution was intentional. When the X-Power arrives, we will begin to show some muscle.’
The more menacing £40,000 X-Power ZT 385 is due to make its debut at the 2004 Geneva show.
In the 260, the ubiquitous Ford V8 is used in only light tune, but it’s still enough to send the ZT 260 to 100mph in 16.3sec. Despite the car being aggressively priced, a combined economy figure of 21.5mpg and 314g/km of CO2 means it won’t be cheap to run.
New front and rear floors accommodate the Tremec five-speed manual gearbox, beefed-up front suspension and all-new multi-link rear suspension, along with big, ventilated discs all round: 325mm up front and AP-Racing 332mm rears.
Though traction control won’t arrive until shortly after launch, the 260 has a standard limited- slip differential, anti-lock brakes, air-con and a CD player. Buyers wanting extra luxury can opt for the £4755 SE pack, which includes sat-nav, leather, TV and parking sensors.
Both V8-powered MGs will be available in ZT-T estate versions for a £1000 premium. The order books for the 260 open this week for mid-October delivery, and MG Rover expects to sell 1000 cars in the first year.