The MG ZS is a sportsfamily car that was built by MG Rover from 2001 until 2005. The ZS is essentially a tuned version of the Rover 45 (which was launched in 1999). The 45 in turn is a facelifted version of the Rover 400 which was launched in hatchback form in 1995 and saloon form in 1996.
The model was rapidly created from the Rover 45 after BMW sold off Rover in April 2000. Development of the model was greatly accelerated by the fact that Rover had already created 400 Series prototypes of the car using V6 engines and sporting suspension setups. In fact, MG Rover developed MG versions of all three Rover cars on sale at the time.
The Rover 45 donor car did not have a reputation for being a driver's car, but in fact it was the most suitable car in the Rover range for transformation into an MG, its Honda heritage providing double wishbone front suspension and fully independent multi link rear suspension.
As a Rover, the 45 was optimised for comfort rather than handling — however, as an MG the opposite was the case. The ZS 180, offering 175 bhp (130 kW; 177 PS) from the 2.5 L V6 engine and acceleration to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, received favourable reviews in the press, with particular praise for its steering, handling and suspension.
Setting the ZS apart from most rivals was the V6 configuration, when most of its rivals were using turbocharged engines.
Variants and updates
Facelift MG ZS 180 (sedan)
A successor to the Rover 45/MG ZS (known internally as RD/X60) was under development in the beginning of the 2000s. This was to have been based on a shortened Rover 75 floorplan, and was to appear in saloon, hatchback and 'tourer' (estate) bodystyles. Chassis development was being undertaken by Tom Walkinshaw Racing, and ceased when TWR collapsed.
The non appearance of RD/X60 meant that the ZS was facelifted, and continued in production until the demise of MG Rover. In the first few months of 2004, the ZS was facelifted with the rest of the MG Rover range and introduced new clear one piece headlights, new bumpers and a flush tailgate/bootlid, with the number plate relocated to the rear bumper.
New wheel designs and colours also featured. The retro design cues adopted when the 400 became the 45 were mostly dropped. For the first time, the Rover 45 and MG ZS became noticeably different looking cars, with all ZS models available with a bodykit derived from the MG XPower SV as standard on the 180 and optional on other models.
The cars from the 2004 model year also received a revised interior with new seat materials and a new dash design incorporating climate control on the 180 (optional on others). The MG ZS ceased production in April 2005, on the collapse of MG Rover (See John Towers: Rover), and the rights to make the car were soon repossessed by Honda, who owned the rights to the original design from 1995.
MG ZS 180, with no cost option smaller standard size boot lid spoiler
The MG ZS 180 was the flagship car of the ZS range. It was available as a five door hatch or a four door saloon. The 180 included a number of changes over the standard ZS, as well as incorporating all of the features of the ZS+ models, the ZS 180 was equipped with a lightweight all alloy 2.5 litre Rover KV6 Engine, with quad cams and twenty four valves.
The 180 features uprated front and rear brakes, with 282mm front discs (up from 262mm) and 260mm rear discs (up from 240mm) as well as ABS and EBD, lowered sports suspension with uprated springs and dampers, uprated bushes fitted to front upper and rear trailing arms, 17" sports alloy wheels with 205/45 r17 tyres.
Externally, the 180 can be identified with deep front bumper, with front bib spoiler and fog lamps and sculptured side sills. A large rear spoiler could be substituted for a standard size as a no cost option.
2003 MG ZS 180 cabin, with optional Trophy blue trim
2003 MG ZS 180 (boot lid badges)
The 180 was facelifted in 2004, along with the rest of the range, and gained a bodykit inspired by the MG Xpower SV.
The kit incorporated wheel arch extensions with front wing vents, bumper spats and side skirts. The large 'Extreme' rear spoiler became optional, with a subtle lip boot spoiler fitted as standard. Complementing the new bodykit were the new 17" 'eleven spokes' alloy wheels. Both the wheels and bodykit were available as cost options on the rest of the range.
The MG ZS 180's 2.5 litre (2497 cc) V6 engine produces 177 PS (130 kW; 175 bhp) at 6500 rpm and 240 N⋅m (177 lb⋅ft) at 4000 rpm, giving a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.3 seconds, and a top speed of 139 mph (224 km/h), with a combined fuel economy reading of 29 mpg.
The ZS has been raced in the British Touring Car Championship from 2001 to 2008. The West Surrey Racing (WSR) team enjoyed 'works' status for several years and initially ran cars with a two litre version of the Rover KV6 engine, later switching to four cylinder K series derived two litre engines (the largest production K series engine was 1.8 litres).
Ex WSR V6 cars have appeared in other hands, and a 'junior team' was run in during 2002.
"Drive a ZS180 back to back with a Golf V5, probably the sportiest of the line, and the Rover (based car) stomps all over the Volkswagen, its steering, chassis and engine beating the German into submission over the sort of lumpen road surfaces that make up the British B road"
"Of all the cars transformed by Rover's engineers, this motor is perhaps the most remarkable, as it turned the originally rather dowdy 45 into a fire breathing super saloon"
"When young lads start lusting after what's basically a rebodied and reengineered Rover 45, it's obviously something special. It is no exaggeration to claim that the MG ZS 180 was the biggest surprise of the lot when the new range was launched in summer 2001."
"At first glance it might appear to be a simple case of badge engineering, but the transformation from ageing Rover 45 to exciting MG ZS is a lot more than simply swapping metal monikers. Beneath the wire-meshed MG nose and bespoilered tail lies a lot of skilful engineering by Longbridge’s finest."
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