IF IT’S BETTER TO BURN OUT THAN to fade away, then Neil Young would have appreciated MG Raver’s efforts to sustain itself before finally running out of cash back in 2005. In the preceding years the ailing brand dug enough pennies from the cracks of a Longbridge sofa to turn a bunch of geriatric saloons and hatchbacks into a surprisingly appealing range of sporting models, culminating with the barmy Mustang-engined, rear-drive ZT and the ugly but rapid SV coupe.
The brand’s reintroduction to the UK in 2011 as MG Motor, under Chinese owner SAIC, has proven less successful. China’s roads are full of new-age MGs, but outside its home country you’d be forgiven for forgetting the brand exists – fewer than 3000 MG 6 hatches and saloons hit the UK’s roads between 2011 and the model’s disappearance in 2016, and while the MG 3 supermini and GS crossover are better efforts, neither is a common sight.
It’s unlikely that a new MG-badged GT would be a big seller either, but at the Shanghai motor show in April that’s exactly what the company unveiled. Known as the MG E-Motion, the concept is the brand’s first true performance car since the SV and is set to hit the road in production form in 2020. And unlike the SV, MG is promising a low price: bosses suggest a figure of under £30,000 ($53,000). It’s hard to say which of the car’s many facets is more remarkable: that the E-Motion is a seriously good-looking object, that the attractive price tag will somehow allow the masses access to a fully electric sports car, or that it’s happening at all.
The styling is certainly sleek, with hints of Mustang in profile and a dash of Mazda to the front end. The concept sits on SAIC’s new modular electric-vehicle platform, and a range of 500 kilometres is mooted – along with a 0-100km/h acceleration time of ‘under four seconds’. As for whether it will happen -and whether it will come to the UK if it does – we’ll have to wait to find out. Either way, it’s more appealing than Jaguar’s latest effort. Despite our hopes that downsizing is falling out of fashion, the British company still has a few rounds left in the clip – four, specifically – launching a four-cylinder F-type at the recent New York motor show. The car’s 2-litre Ingenium-branded unit produces 300hp and, predictably, Jaguar promises lower emissions and better fuel economy – though we’ll believe that when we experience it.
With an eight-speed auto it gets to 100km/h in 5.5sec, which is only three tenths behind the howling, 340hp V6 auto… But still you just wouldn’t, would you? Also featuring a downsized engine, although one that’s slightly more acceptable given it’s a 415hp 3.5-litre V6 with twin turbochargers, is the Lexus LS F Sport. Lexus has finally ditched V8s with its latest S-class rival, but the appeal still grows in sporty F Sport trim, with subtle tweaks to the styling and Lexus Dynamic Handling four-wheel steering, already used to impressive effect on the smaller GS F and F Sport. No such downsizing for the folks at Dodge, who blitzed the Big Apple with the 840hp, 6.2-litre supercharged V8 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. It’s designed for drag racing but, remarkably, it’s still fully road-legal. Expect every model to engulf itself in a fug of rubber particles from its Nitto NT05R drag tyres – before hitting 100km/h in 2.4sec and clearing the quarter-mile in 9.65sec. Maybe life under Trump won’t all be bad.
The Shanghai show was a little more sensible than New York, though it did have the new BMW M4 CS, which sits between the 450hp M4 Competition Package and the sold-out 500hp GTS. The CS is capable of lapping the Nurburgringin 7min 38sec, which is 22sec quicker than the regular 430hp M4 can manage. The use of carbonfibre for the bonnet, roof, front splitter, rear diffuser and driveshaft snips 35kg from the kerb weight (now 1505kg), while the twin-turbo in-line six gets 460hp and is mated exclusively to a DCT ’box. The 0-100km/h dash takes 3.9sec (0.2sec quicker than a regular DCT M4) and the top speed is capped at 280km/h. Firmer suspension keeps the body in check and there’s also a set of new (and gorgeous) alloy wheels.
The rest of the show was something of an SUV-fest, with a series of lofty concepts from the Volkswagen Group. VW itself previewed the ID Crozz, the third model in its burgeoning electric concept lineup, while Audi and Skoda fielded electric, coupe-style SUV concepts in the shape of the e-tron Sportbaek and the Vision E respectively. Meanwhile, Geely subsidiary Lynk & Co launched its production 01 – an infotainment-packed crossover based on the upcoming Volvo XC40. It’ll be sold worldwide, features a lifetime warranty and will be sold online only. Your smartphone will be its key – allowing you to lend your car to others via an app.
Mercedes-Benz broke the high-rise trend with its Concept A Sedan, a sleek styling exercise previewing an upcoming A-class-based saloon. It’s a little shorter and taller than the existing CLA but also a little wider, and probably won’t serve as a CLA replacement – Mercedes sees a niche in the range for a proper compact saloon, rather than a four-door coupe. It looks great – design boss Gorden Wagener is keen to cut unnecessary creases from future models, and the Concept A is much more cohesive as a result. While the Concept A is likely to hit the road in some form or other, Renault continues to stretch reality with the RS 2027 Vision, one possible future direction for F1.
Pictures don’t do it justice – on the floor in Shanghai (and it really is almost on the floor) the 2027 Vision was stunning, the highest point on the car sitting barely above the tyres. It also features a fighter-jet-style canopy, one of several cockpit safety measures that may well appear in F1 in the coming years. The concept is actually all-wheel drive, pairing a mid-mounted turbocharged V6 with a pair of electric motors for 1360hp – or one megawatt of power. It only weighs 600kg too.
Back to the road and the present day, and Lotus has launched a limited-run Exige called the Cup 380, weighing a breezy 1057kg and costing a hefty £83,000 ($146,000). More affordable but still offering a high fun factor is BBR’s latest take on the Mazda MX-5. The Stage 1 turbocharged package costs £4995 ($8805) fitted, and lifts power to 251hp at 7150rpm and 319Nm torque. It should provide a lively drive; a five-second 0-100km/h time is the claim.