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MGF gets good press (LONG)

To: (mgs)
Subject: MGF gets good press (LONG)
From: (Todd Mullins)
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 1996 10:58:41 -0600 (CST)
While in Vienna, Austria last week (oh, yes, it was QUITE grand!) I
picked up the latest issue of the excellent British magazine _car_.  The
cover story was a comprehensive handling test of 20 "favourite" sports
and sporty cars.  Quite an interesting read, and thoroughly presented.
Highlights follow:

"Twenty cars, as different as they come, but for one quality.  They all
have terrific handling.  And the way a car handles, how it responds to
your direction-changing commands, is more  than anything else what makes
a car fun or not.  So this is a celebration of 20 of our favourite cars.
But it's also a scientific test.

[ ... ]

Every car in this group has given us huge smiles before.  And they have
done it by supplying the following things:  Grip, Steering, Progression
(tyre slip rates), Controllability (responsiveness at the limit), and
Stability (immunity to surface imperfections)."

The tests were carried out at the Thruxton track, a Hampshire circuit
known for its high speeds, bumpiness, and complete lack of any
"straightforward corners".  Off-camber blind curves and a tight chicane
right off the back straight (which really isn't straight) makes things
exceptionally interesting.  "It's not as much of a 'power circuit' as
you'd imagine, ... and it leaves no hiding place for handling
inadequacies.  Any car that gets you round for four laps on the limit
without making your palms sweat has a lot to commend it.  A car that
makes you want to do it all again is very special."  A road route was
also run, because "many cars feel different at eight-tenths on a bumpy
road from how they do on a smooth track."

Rankings of the twenty cars, with selected comments:

1.  Lotus Elise:  "A different and wholly superior driving experience"
thanks to the "purity of the steering and braking".  "The Elise's
bantamweight mass means that you need [ no power assistance ] - nor do
you need muscle to heave it about."  "The easiest car in which to take
fast corners flat-out."  "On the track, this car is very good.  On the
road, it is brilliant."

2.  Subaru Impreza Turbo (with Prodrive modifications to suspension and
motor; the only non-stock car in the test):  A real "surprise".  "In the
wet, it was invincible; on the road, it was foolproof."  "Terrific grip,
fine poise, go-where-you-point-it accuracy, quirk-free chuckability,
impeccable stability."  "... makes an M3 feel clumsy and a 911

3.  MGF:  "Unerringly stable, despite a cornering attitude you can
adjust on the throttle."  "...there's oversteer, but it's amazingly
gradual for a mid-engined car."  "It's fluid, safe, and much more
manageable in the wet than the Elise.  All it lacks is that car's naked
intimacy and telepathy."  "No mid-engined car inspires more confidence
across all conditions."  Safety Fast!!  (I should note that the MGF and
the Elise have the same powertrain [Rover 1.8 K series] and chassis
layout [mid-engined], which makes for interesting comparisons.)

4.  Honda NSX:  "Mid-engined supercars just aren't normally this benign.
The NSX is such a forgiving car, just like a big MGF."  "... the most
wonderfully-handling mid-engined supercar in the world."

5.  Peugeot 106 GTI:  "It's the only car that approaches the Elise's and
the Caterham's feel of minimal mass, and it's more foolproof than either
of them if you get it wrong."  "... the fastest car on the fastest
corner.  Hard to beat as a runabout funster, and safely spinproof."

6.  Caterham Seven Superlight:  "Not so much transport as an emotional
extravaganza."  "... a Diablo-threatening power-to-weight ratio of
nearly 300bhp per tonne" yields "sensational off-the-line acceleration"
from the 137 bhp 1.6l Rover engine.

7.  Peugeot 306 GTI-6:  "... terrific on the road.  It stays flat, has
traction galore and yet is sublimely adjustable."  "... most clearly
developed for the road rather than the track."

8.  Lamborghini Diablo SV:  "... not nearly as diabolical as its
appearance might suggest."  "... a strangely delicate car."  "Very

9.  Toyota Supra:  "Super-fast, super-scary - that's what we were
expecting.  Instead, the Supra was grippy and good fun."  "It's a big,
muscly coupe, rather than the thinking-man's dainty sports car.  But ...
it controls and tempers its muscle with surprising willingness."

10.  Mercedes E36 AMG:  "... too gross to be nimble, but an impressive
sight on the slide."  "Big car, big power, big fun."

11.  Jaguar XK8:  "... the XK8 hides its bulk well."  "... it tips into
transient oversteer as you turn in."  "... honed by keen drivers who
have aimed for fun on real roads."

12.  Nissan Primera SRi:  "... the best-handling minicab money can buy."
"Grip not Nissan's trump card, but it has balance in spades."  "...
it'll link a series of B-road bends with real ability and a good deal
more satisfaction than a humble family hack has any right to."

13.  Porsche 911:  "Too much like a game of chicken, with high stakes",
yet "the 911 works far better than any professor of physics could ever
predict.  You just need to be a bit brave."

14.  Nissan Skyline GT-R V:  "... one of those brutish high-grip,
non-slip cars that goes where you point it."  "Tackling Thruxton in the
Skyline is a bit like trying to drive fast after being given a general

15.  BMW M3:  "It's not that the M3 is a bad car - they just can't seem
to make it really good."  "... very entertaining, but in absolute
competence it just can't compete."

16.  BMW 528i:  "... impeccably balanced, beautifully composed and
surprisingly agile for one so far removed from anything resembling a
track dicer."

17.  Citroen Xantia Activa:  "... fantastically able down a tricky back
road, but on the track you could use a bit of roll to find the limit."
"Incisive turn-in is a major plus, but a certain sensitivity is

18.  ALFA Romeo GTV:  "Snappiness is a bonus on the road, less helpful
on the track, but what dropped the GTV down the final order was the
impression that its reactions - in particular the steering's strong
self-centring - were a little artificial after the fluidity of the other

19.  BMW 318ti Compact:  "... a lot of fun in a slightly ragged,
reactive way."  "I felt most confident in the Compact, but only because
it's such a slow pudding."

20.  TVR Cerbera:  "The TVR's hair trigger throttle set car and driver
on edge - it made the 911 feel benign."  "Very fast but also very scary,
it proved that outrageous grunt and four fat tyres aren't quite enough
to complete the job."


Todd Mullins    On the lovely Mississippi (USA) Coast

'74 MGB Tourer in pieces

"I could go at any time..."

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