MG TF is all about capturing that elusive magic intimacy with the road. A free-spirited car, individual and distinctive. It sums up your attitude to life. MG TF is a mid-engined, rear wheel drive two-seater. Pure in design and intent, it offers free-revving engines with up to 160 hp, precision handling and real ride quality. Put the top down; whoop, holler and revel in the feeling of freedom. The serious fun starts here.
The MG F was a mid-engined roadster launched in 1995. MG had stopped producing sports cars in 1980 when British Leyland closed their Abingdon plant near Oxford, although the famous badge had been used on badge-engineered hatchbacks and saloons between 1982 and 1991. In 1992, the company had restarted production of the classic MG B as the limited-edition RV8, and positive reaction (and the success of new-parent BMW’s Z3) led the company to develop this new model. It was renamed using the historic TF name in 2003, but future production plans are in limbo following the collapse of the MG Rover Group in 2005.
In 2002 the MGF received a facelift and was renamed MG TF. The most significant mechanical changes were the abandonment of Hydragas suspension in favour of conventional coil springs, the new design of the air-induction system that along with new camshafts produces more power than in MGF engines, and the torsional stiffness of the body increased by 20%. Various cosmetic tweaks include a revised grille, redesigned front headlights, bumpers, side air-intake grills, rear boot, etc. The MG TF was the first car of its class to be awarded a leading 4-star safety performance from EURONCAP.
Launched into world markets from February 2002 with an array of new improvements, the TF is led by its design, feature specification and driver enjoyment. In the UK market, the MGF has been the best selling car in the roadster sector for the last six years and the TF has been evolved to continue this tradition.
The MG styling team, led by the company’s Product Design Director, Peter Stevens, have substantially developed the exterior style and aerodynamic packaging - the two key influencing factors on purchase decision.
The TF carries a sharper, more aggressive and purposeful look, which was honed in both studio and wind tunnel. The improved aerodynamic characteristics play an integral part in the chassis development and maximise the benefits of the new suspension and steering changes.
The TF has a new front bumper, shaped to reduce front-end lift, with a framed lower air intake and the provision for "Fogstar" fog lamps. All-new high-efficiency projector headlamps complete the frontal appearance.
At the rear, an integrated effective lip spoiler incorporating a high-mounted stop lamp flows from the rear deck. The TF is lower with a greater dynamic appearance, assisted by its dart-like sill features and crisply-shaped air intakes.
A crucial aspect of the TF’s engineering development was the requirement for a new suspension design. A completely new coil spring suspension and multi-link rear axle replaces the MGF’s inter-connected Hydragas system to produce a more responsive and involving set-up, re-engineered to produce a completely enjoyable driving experience. An optional Sports Handling Pack permits greater levels of driver involvement and further improved handling performance.
The MG TF is a new generation of the MGF, that recognises the "real world" affordability and practicality required of a fully-functioning everyday sports car. The modified front and rear subframes are solid-mounted and the new suspension features a 10mm lower stance. This benefits appearance, stability and handling with its lower centre of gravity.
The body structure has been stiffened in crucial areas to produce a 20% more rigid shell, producing an improvement in windscreen header vibration. Steering is now more responsive, with a completely new tune for the speed-sensitive Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS), with a 10% faster geared rack with revised characteristics to give a more progressive steering feel throughout the car’s speed range. On ABS equipped cars, braking distances have been shortened by 10%.
A four-model range provides customers with a spectrum of performance, style, affordability and specification. Designated by numbers closely linked to their power output, the range includes the 1.6-litre TF 115, the well-appointed 1.8-litre TF 135, the TF 120 Stepspeed with multi-function CVT sports auto and the range-topping TF 160 with the legendary Variable Valve Control K Series engine.
The TF range spans a 118mph/190km/h to 137mph/220km/h speed range capability, with improvements to performance, economy and CO2.
New paint colours - XPower Grey and Le Mans Green - are available on MG TF, with Trophy Blue and Trophy Yellow now extended to the entire range. TF also introduces three new optional hood colours - in blue, grey and green and new trim fabrics - Sebring and Daytona. Three new interior colours to complement Ash - Tan, Grenadine and Smokestone - are available with matching tonneau covers for when the hood is folded. New alloy wheels include an 11-spoke 16" design and the option of an ultra-lightweight.
Rob Oldaker, MG Rover Group’s Product Development director, explained: "The mid-engined MGF has been a great success and the new TF builds on these strengths to create a car which fully embodies MG�s passion for producing a fun and driver-rewarding road car experience. I truly believe the new MG TF can produce even more exhilaration than its competitors."
The MG TF sports car is available in four model specifications - TF 115, TF 120 Stepspeed, TF 135 and TF 160, representing a significant change to enhance the appeal of the UK’s best-selling British roadster.
The simple substitution of high-rate, compact coil springs for the Hydragas units, with unchanged suspension linkages, had been evaluated experimentally some time ago, but this would not have delivered the class-leading standards of handling and driver involvement central to the latest generation of MGs. The challenge of incorporating the latest technology in suspension geometry, coil springs and gas-filled dampers within the MGF architecture was taken up.
Advanced computer design studies were carried out to optimise the suspension geometry and elasto-kinematic characteristics. Simulator vehicles confirmed the potential of the new system. One thorough Main Board test-driving session with a simulator was all it needed for motorsport enthusiast and MG Rover’s Product Development Director, Rob Oldaker, to receive the green light for the new suspension concept to be fully engineered to production status.
The rear suspension trailing arm pivots from a forward extension of the subframe, forking at the rear to attach, via firm bushes, above and below the hub carrier. This provides longitudinal wheel location and reacts torque purely in the vertical plane. A maximum-length link runs from the rear base of the hub carrier to a pivot on the centre rear of the subframe, thus completing what is effectively a very wide-based lower wishbone with a large swing radius.
The other links comprise the upper suspension arm and a lower steer-control link mounted forward of the hub carrier. A new rear anti roll bar, with modifications to suit the new configuration, is operated by a short swinging link connected to the hub end of each trailing arm. This new suspension combines optimum camber control with much greater resistance to unwanted steer effects. It is the key to the MG TF’s more responsive and throttle-adjustable handling, plus its improved steering ‘centre-feel’. Customers wanting an even more sporting edge to their TF 120, TF 135 or TF 160 can specify the Sports Pack 1, which has suspension lowered by a further 10mm (i.e. 20mm lower than MGF).
Both front and rear subframes were modified, with raised and angled turrets for the top mountings of the coil over damper units. By moving the lower operating pivots for the spring units further outboard on the upper suspension arms, more conventional leverage ratios and spring rates could be employed compared with the previous system. The change also meant that the damper forces were contained within the stiff subframes instead of being fed into the bodyshell.
The subframes themselves are now solidly-mounted to the bodyshell, as on the performance Trophy model, contributing to enhanced structural
stiffness and precision of control. Another advantage of the new suspension is that it allows a 10mm lower ride height to operate, to the benefit of appearance, stability and handling. A lower centre of gravity also reduces pitch under acceleration and braking.
At the front, the wishbone suspension configuration otherwise remains similar to MGF, but with reduced camber and parallel tracking in place of toe-out, plus revised pivot bushes and a stiffer anti-roll bar, up from 19mm to 20mm diameter, to complement the improved steering system. Tyre life is improved with this revised geometry.
It is in the rear suspension (especially important on a mid-engined car), that the most fundamental changes have been made. A completely new multi-link axle has been engineered to provide precise control of rear wheel geometry in all conditions to offer exceptionally involving and responsive control.
The MG TF has a range of four powertrain choices with even higher all-round standards of performance and throttle response. At the top of the range, the TF 160 has a regular production version of the Trophy’s high-output 1.8 VVC engine, developing the same peak power of 160Ps (158bhp, 118kW) at an eager 6900rpm. This replaces the former 145Ps (143bhp, 107kW) 1.8 VVC engine, and gains its extra power from enhanced breathing.
There is a new low-loss intake system with a larger throttle body, improved porting profiles and a low back-pressure, dual mode exhaust system. The freer-flowing exhaust features thin-wall catalyst technology and an electronically-controlled pneumatic valve that optimises exhaust flow according to operating conditions. This retains low-speed refinement while enhancing performance and characteristic sports car sounds at higher speeds.
The efficiency of the new TF 160 unit is demonstrated by the way it combines increased performance (top speed up from 130mph/209km/h to 137mph/220km/h) with reduced CO2 rating (down from 189 to 179g/km).
For the new core model in the range, the TF 135, (replacing the 1.8i), a more powerful version of the normal 1.8 litre engine has been developed. This uses TF 160-style induction and exhaust systems plus high lift cams, bringing a power increase from 120Ps (118bhp, 88kW) to 136Ps (134bhp, 100 kW). In addition, the engine ECU has been re-mapped to optimise throttle response, and the VVC / TF 160 gear ratios have been adopted for improved in-gear performance. Against the clock, the TF 135 is now creditably close to the former VVC model, with a top speed of 127mph.
In the new TF range, the unique-in-class choice of a EmCVT sports auto cum six-speed ‘manual’ transmission, with steering-wheel shift controls, continues in the form of the TF 120 Stepspeed. This retains the 120Ps (118bhp, 88kW) engine, and the flexibility of either ‘normal’ or ‘sport’ fully automatic drive, plus a sequential-change six-speed mode, controlled either by twin up/down toggles on the steering wheel or via the centre floor lever.
The entry-level 1.6-litre version of the MGF has proved popular since its launch in early 2001, making up around one in eight of all MGFs sold, and this now has its equivalent in the new TF 115 model. The sweet, short stroke 1.6-litre unit produces a power output of 116Ps (114 bhp, 85kW), with a top speed up from 116mph/187km/h to 118mph, while also having a class-leading low CO2 rating at 169gm/km.
All the manual transmission models benefit from an improved gearshift linkage, with a short-throw lever and revised gear linkage geometry to reduce friction in the shift system for enhanced gear selection.