M O D E L S :   MGTF - Limited Edition: 85th Anniversary

As found on the website mgmotor.co.uk

Journalist test drives MG TF 85th Anniversary

Known throughout the world, MG is regarded with warmth and affection - and even a degree of proprietorial concern from the British motorist, who is always keen to perpetuate tradition. But in today’s twenty first century technological whirlwind, tradition has a hard time of it.

I was eager to find out what the new £15,664 TF 85th anniversary model was like on the road and particularly wanted to find good things to say about it. I’m naturally warmly inclined towards the historic marque which, against the odds, has survived - unlike many others - a multitude of vicissitudes, been through many a dark tunnel with the threat of extinction looming, but has emerged, one hopes, still smiling, with the sun gleaming on its fresh paintwork.

I wanted this car to be good, and I suspect you, dear reader, want to be told that the very latest model is the best yet and able to cock a snook at the `wet behind the ears` interlopers in the traditional sportscar market. Current promotional publicity highlights the `fun` factor. How far is this evident? Is `fun` really back?

My mission was to point the car at every variety of road I could entertain during my short - and if I may say, sweet, without giving the game away - acquaintance. Driving down highways, byways, motorways and country lanes, straightways, twistyways, gradients up and gradients down, the sole purpose was to chase down that elusive elemental quality - joy!

I was familiar already, as we all are, with the pleasing yet understated appearance of the model. Without resorting to corny retro gimmicks, the smooth design harkens back to former times, while signalling quite decisively that it has all four rubber boots firmly in the twenty first century. Nothing strains for effect and it is all the more effective for it.

My particular model, resplendent in aubergine, was inviting to the eye from the tip of its neatly tailored hood (Our acquaintance was formed, unfortunately, during an unseasonal downpour) to the firm-footed treads of the purposeful tyres. The eye catches though, through the interstice in the sculptured alloy wheels, a glimpse of scarlet from the hefty disc calipers. The door opens smoothly and the nostrils are assailed by the warm odour of rich leather: this is a solid and reassuring first acquaintance like a firm handshake.

The cabin seems to me to be `spot on` in its all round appeal and I defy anyone to say they wouldn’t feel at home here. The instrumentation, thankfully, is bereft of modern interplanetary nonsense, so you can absorb all you need to know at a glance. Slide in behind the wheel and its like putting on a comfortable, well made, good quality - shall I say - sports jacket.

For the timid, there’s the reassurance of solidity and a host of safety factors: for the sporty-minded there’s the immediate message that this is a `place of business`. This is not a `flash boombox`of a car, but its poised so perfectly on the cusp of fashion as to be welcome absolutely anywhere. And it is to its credit that this smart compact machine is robust and willing enough to tackle anything, within reason, that comes its way.

Start her up and even at standstill the 1.8 mid-sited engine that drives the rear wheels sounds willing, without undue ostentation. As a driver, you find that pedals are well placed and the steering wheel is pleasant to grip. All that remains is to get on with the business of conducting the machine on its way.

Select the first of the five gears - a satisfying experience in that the chunky lever executes its manoeuvres without fuss: allow the light and positive clutch to take up the drive and - guess what: a smirk begins to form on the lips.

Let me say that in my view, fun depends on a number of important boxes being ticked very decisively. No fun is to be had, for instance, where excess performance is achieved at the expense of comfort and reliability. (extensive British re-engineering and re-design has more than laid to rest yesteryears gremlins, so reliability should be top notch.). Equally, anodyne respectability will raise no chuckles.

So - the perfect fun car is one you know is not going to let you down; is not going to be grotesque in appearance; is not going to be as spartan as a night on a bare mountainside and is not going to require the resources of an MP`s expense account at the filling pump. (You`ll get around 36 mpg.) In short it needs to be like an old friend who you can trust, but one with a twinkle in the eye who has a delight or two `up their sleeve` so to speak.

And my goodness, does the new MG tick all the right boxes. One struggles to find even the most minor fault - and believe me - I am fastidious. When the driving is dull, as on the motorway, the creature comforts keep one quite content: it’s pleasant sitting in comfy seats to feel the road unwind below a chassis that is doing its job unfussily and so successfully.

On narrow twisty lanes, response to input is immediate and gratifying: there’s no drama. The car goes where you want it to; is nimble on its Goodyear tyres and feels `the complete package`. Handling is so beautifully poised that traction control would be rendered superfluous. This model, with its slightly lower suspension and Bilstein dampers, is on rails. No longer might you be caught out by exciting `lift off` oversteer. You can exploit the handling to the full with no unexpected surprises and there’s benign behaviour at and beyond the limit of grip.

When driving through heavy rain with standing water on the road the car felt solid and safe - and yet even in those conditions - rewarding to drive. Transform the weather, throw down the suns golden rays, peel back the top, glue down the toupee and it’s another thing entirely: as close as you’ll get to bliss as finding an extra toffee in the corner of the packet.

Other road users regard you with respect, as someone sensible enough to bet on a sure thing, and on one excursion down a narrow lane, I pulled in close to the hedge to let the oncoming Land Rover pass by. The buxom farmer’s wife might have been admiring the car, but I indulged myself in the thought that I was the focus of her interest.

As I pressed on - the years having fallen away - I realised that this is what FUN is all about. Perhaps some might say slightly suspect in politically correct terms, but undeniably bracing. I felt like saying `moo` to a goose!

MG TF motoring can start at the very attractive price of around £13,500 should you choose the `entry level` 135 model (Just £11,500 if you trade in, under the `scrappage scheme) - but forget about `entry level`. This model is an exceptional value package that is the key to the doorway to freedom.

Just as Cecil Kimber gave cars a more sporting character all those years ago, the tradition lives on. The MG motto `Safety Fast` is as true today as it was then: MG still `Makes it Go!`

Syd Taylor, Automotive Journalist, Midlands Group of Motoring Writers

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