GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

MGF

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purple_mgf.jpg


STATS
Years Represented: 1997-1999
Class: Roadster
Type: 2-door convertible
 
Country of Origin: England 
Host: GT2 & GT4
 
Price: $36,710 (GT2, 1.8 i VVC)
         $26,526
(GT4, used MGF)
 
 
Length: 154.1" // Width: 64.5" // Height: 49.6"
Wheelbase: 93.5"
Overhang: @5'1"
Track: 55.1" [F] 55.5" [R]
Ground Clearance: 5.5"
Weight: 2,339-2,358 pounds (depends on year/game) 
Tires: 215/40ZR-16
Brakes: vented discs / solid discs (F&R)
Suspension: double wishbone / HGS / anti-roll bars
Layout: Rear-Mid Engine / Rear Drive
 
Engine: 1.8 liter DOHC Inline 4

Aspiration: Natural
Bore x Stroke: 3.15x3.52"
Valves per Cyl: 4 // Compression: 10.5:1


`````````````````````GT2- 1.8i VVC````````````````````GT4-'97 MGF
Tested HP: 147 @ 8,000 rpms                142 @ 7,000
Tstd Torque: 128 @ 4,500 rpms             128 @ 4,500


Lbs. per HP: 16.6                                        16.61
HP per Liter: 81.6                                        79.0
Credits per HP: $249.73                             $186.80

Idle speed:                                                1,000
Redline:         7,750                                    7,000
RPM Limit:     8,000                                    7,500
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Differential: open

```````````````````````GT2--'99`````````````````GT4--'97```````````
0-60 mph: 8.2 seconds                 8.416 seconds
0-100 mph: 23.5 seconds            21.566 seconds
 

400 M: 16.404 @ 85 mph           16.551 @ 88
1 KM: 
30.142 @ 111 mph          29.651 @ 115

Test Track: 1:55.608
 
Top Speed at Redline (GT2)
1st: 38 mph
2nd: 66 mph
3rd: 94 mph
4th: 122 @ 8,000 rpm
5th: 149.64 mph @ 7,200 rpms

Top Speed at Redline (GT4--'97 MGF)
1st: 35 mph
2nd: 61 mph 
3rd: 86 mph
4th: 110 mph
5th: 149.38 @ 7,100 rpm
 

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---------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY--------------------------

I don't know what it is, but for some reason I've never been very excited about the MGF. Why? Just said I don't know. It's a good-looking, sporty roadster...a junior to the all-mighty British TVRs and Lotuses. I think if more MGs were in the game...more of their past lineup...I would have gotten into the F sooner. Lotus has tons of autos in GT2 and GT4; '60s & '70s sprites as well as modern sports cars, so MG seems really lame with just this one vehicle. I would love to see an original MG Midget compete alongside an old Lotus. And who can't forget the famous MGB?
 
 
For many post-WWII years (up until the '70s), British sports cars were regarded highly as racers. So what happened? Why aren't there more MGs in our games? MG was owned by BMW during the time GT2 was being developed. Was it BMW's decision, or was PD just not able to incorporate earlier cars due to time issues? It doesn't make sense at all, does it?
 
One of the main reasons I'm writing about this one even though I rarely race the F is that it's one of those cars which is hardly ever mentioned on websites or bulletin boards. The MGF sleeps but isn't much of a ‘sleeper’! Those who discover it? Chances are they'll never set any personal records in one, unless they're somewhat new to the game. No one's gonna go “oh my God this is an amazing car, and it's been sitting here right in front of me ALL THIS TIME!!!” 
 
The MGF is interesting, though. So here we go...
 
The F (when it started production) represented the grand return of MG sports cars to the automotive market. And now, class, it's time for our history lesson. MG stands for Morris Garages, which has been in business since just after World War I. In the '20s, this company grew so much it had to move to Abingdon after three growth spurts at their old plant; and here in Abingdon it remained till 1980, believe it or not. By 1929, Morris Garages was simply renamed “The MG Car Company”. All my life, I had no idea what MG stands for, did you? Well, now we both know.
 
MG had been identified with racing early on, and got a reputation for its sports cars, although MG also produced other automotive varieties other than 2-seaters. In 1935, founder William Morris sold MG to Morris Motors (confused?) and probably had a nice, early retirement. Many consumers were not pleased because MG's lineup of cars was apparently streamlined a bit when this happened. This is according to what I've read, and is despite the fact that if these dissatisfied consumers lived 40 or so years prior, every last one of them would have been riding a horse cart instead of a gasoline-powered automobile. Kinda like nowadays if you think of it. A few years ago, none of us would have ever dreamt of being able to walk anywhere with our own phones for instance, yet now here we are, complaining if we can't get the same 'app' our friends have. Remember way back when we would simply use a phone to call other people, not download web content or surf Facebook!?????

...Uh...I just went off topic. Okay, where was I?
 
Okay. So nevertheless, it was during this long era when MG was owned by Morris (and Morris later owned by British Leyland) that MG's reputation really took off, starting in the mid '50s when the MGA set the tone. By the early '60s the A was selling strong but a bit outdated, so now we move to the letter B. The MGB is the company's most famous by far.

B stands for lots of things, but in this case, we can substitute ‘Better’ most of all. It sold over five times as many cars as the MGA, and had a much longer production run (1962-1980). Part of this was due to better production techniques, and partially these better sales were due to MG's expansion to America and other foreign markets. But one can't also ignore the car itself.
 
Everything about the B was improved: its bodyshell was now of a unitary construction, which lowered weight as well as made it a stronger car. The engine increased in size to 1789 cc, while the tranny, clutch, and fuel economy were improved or met when compared to the MGA. Best of all, Americans loved it, and this is impressive since it is exactly this time period that the Corvette became prolific. If it weren't for us, the MGB would not have had such a long life. I mean, who else was buying them in droves outside of Britain?
 
Throughout the '60s into the '70s, there were several additional body styles including the GT Coupe (introduced in 1965), the Mark II, and the MG Midget. The MGC made it's debut in late 1966, but didn't last long. It was based on the B, but was intended to replace the Austin-Healey 3000. But why? Why would MG be concerned with what was happening over at Austin-Healey? 
 
Starting in 1968, British Leyland owned Morris and Austin-Healey along with about 40 other companies that had previously been competitors; which means British Leyland pretty much had the final say on any MG products. The C had a larger, OHV 6-cylinder engine that was almost 3 liters in size and produced 150 hp, but it never became as popular as the B. It wasn't a bad car, but sports enthusiasts and car magazine reviewers weren't fooled: by the time the MGC was developed, the engineers at MG's factory in Abingdon weren't allowed to mess with the car much before British Leyland trounced in. The new engine was about 25 kg too heavy, which made the C nose-heavy. The better-balanced handling of the B was therefore destroyed; which is unfortuante since this better handling is what made the MGB so popular amongst race drivers and sports car lovers in the first place!
 
Even though MGC production increased from just a few hundred cars in 1967 to 9,099 roadsters and 9,102 GTs in 1969, the MGC was dropped. In the '70s, various problems plagued the remaining B including: poor management from British Leyland, worker's union strikes, as well as American restrictions on smog and safety. The B's engine wasn't strong to begin with, right? So now they're being forced to tack on all these devices, killing some of its livelihood. New rules also stated that the MGB's bumper had to meet those of other cars, which meant the entire car had to be raised. This killed some of its awesomely tight handling. MG started installing anti-sway bars to counteract body-sway, something which had been largely absent in earlier rides, but true MGB fans were not impressed.
 
We can consider the era from 1980 till the early '90s to be MG's Dark Ages. British Leyland fell apart and became the Austin Rover Group in 1982. They began to rely heavily on Honda to provide parts for their cars.
 
I'm not sure if there ever was an MGD or MGE (maybe these were concept cars?) but now it's 1992. Rover Group owns Morris (Austin was dropped), and they did a smart thing by allowing some guy (forget his name) to develop the MGF, the first all-new MG model created since 1962.
 
This is a 100% British car. The MGF came out before BMW owned Rover, and one of the best things about the F is that it has its own heritage. No Japanese engines or parts are involved. Nothing wrong with Japanese cars, but it's nice to have some variety, some exclusivity. The MGF is packed with new technology, and has styling that sends a nod towards classic MGs, but blends it with the modern Geneva Car Show model featured at, uh.. Geneva in the early '90s. In the game, we can easily compare the F to the Toyota MR2, which is also a modern, small, mid-engine car.

There are three MGFs in GT2 and GT4. GT2 features the '99 MGF 1.8i VVC, and GT4 has  used and newer versions. Currently, I've got testing and stats for GT2's car, as well as the used '97 in GT4.
 
The MGF weighs-in at a very manageable 2,447 pounds, which gets knocked down to 2,323 with a Stage 2 reduction in GT2. You can buy a racing kit for the body, too, and it'll weigh just over 2,100 lbs. Real-life F cars have alot packed into a little bit of space, so the radiator, battery, ABS system, and spare tire are all up front, which helps balance weight a bit.
 
There are a lot of cool colors for the MGF in our games. Who can't resist a “Volcanic Orange” paint job? ;)
 

 

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------------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN------------------

The brand-new (for 1992), totally British 1.8 liter 4-cylinder is based on Rover's K-series engine. It features ultra lightweight pistons, a high-revving tachometer, and various plastic parts to help reduce weight. There were at least a couple different versions of this powerplant: one with VVC and one without it.

The car in GT2 and the used '97 of GT4 are both VVC-powered, but PD incorrectly labeled the GT4 car as a non-VVC. There isn't much difference in power or acceleration between these two cars (see results in the STATS section up above) but the GT2 MGF does feature a higher redline. One problem with the '97 car in GT4 is that its redline begins at 7,000 rpm, which is also where peak power is. Its RPM limit is set at 7,500, which means bad things, of course.   

There is a difference between Rover's VVC and Honda's VTEC systems. VVC starts with two cam-lift periods. Between these two periods there's an infinite amount of time the valves can stay open, but actual valve lift remains constant. The VVC engine has 25% more power, 5% more torque, and gets about the same mileage as the regular MGF engine, which only has 118 hp.
 
Some real-life testers of the 1.8i tell us that this car will smoke its tires right up to 60 mph or so, but this never happens in the game, nor is this typical of mid-engine cars with such lowish power. In the game we won't see any of this occur even with top power. Oh, the power...

Acceleration isn't as physically satisfying as we'd like when the MGF is stock, even when letting the clutch in at higher RPMs, so extra power might be demanded early on. Sadly, the F only produces 244 hp at the most in GT2, and Stage 3 tuning costs 65 grand. :( Yeah, we'll leave this one to those who can afford it! It's a shame...its main mid-engine competition (the MR2) can accept a bit more; the '86 MR2 1600 of GT2 can get to 279!

GT4 versions get more power, thankfully, represented by three NA tuning kits, but also three turbos. The '97 MGF that's the focus of this review can accept over 300 hp. This sounds great, but (unfortunately) it can't really handle this sort of power unless the driver is also somewhat skilled, and the car itself has some good tuning behind it. But installing even that first turbo upgrade creates some obvious improvements in acceleration simply because there's a lot of traction here. No power goes to waste, assuming the car is being driven in a relatively straight line. However, once the MGF in this game is in a turn, all this begins to change, but we'll get to that in a moment.

Aurally, the K-series is not a particularly distinctive-sounding engine; it's rather generic matter of fact. No snarls, no belches. Below 4,000 rpms, it also tends to struggle outside of 1st gear. Gearing feels medium-tallish...just tall enough to keep full-custom trannies from becoming a necessary option, but also just tall enough to require some drivers to need closer gears to obtain the best performance.

Still, the MGF does have its place. Total power output and acceleration may be lame, there may be a laundry list of problems, but the K-series 1.8 can still win an acceptable share of races.
 

 

------------------CHASSIS / HANDLING----------------------
 
 
England is famous for lots of things: amazing architecture, bad food, ridiculous TV shows with low budgets, and sports cars that spend plenty of time in the shop getting fixed. “It runs well when it's actually running” is the maxim. The handling of these cars (MGs, TVRs, Triumphs, Lotuses, etc.) has traditionally been something fun, if not always trustworthy. So that's good. How does the MGF rate in comparison?
 
Short story short: you won't need much help with the way this car handles in GT2, mostly since the power upgrades are so sad. On the other hand, the GT4 MGF is prone to some more serious problems, even while low-powered, but (again) this lack of power means experienced drivers will be able to control it on sport tires most of the time.
 
In real-life, the F is equipped with hydrolastic gas spheres (similar to what's under a Rover Mini) instead of traditional coil springs or torsion bars. Let's discuss from game to game now.


GT2

You can buy a racing suspension at any time, but you shouldn't ever NEED one for sim races...it's just overkill in my opinion. Even off-road, the MGF can't participate much in this game. It'll simply be overpowered by others in most events. I've never needed racing slicks to keep my F in line...sports or even normal tires will be sufficient. But that's good, isn't it? For sure, we can simply say that this is one of the better-handling mid-engine sports cars in GT2. Too bad there's not more power available.
 
There are plenty of races to keep us busy in GT2, thanks to those horsepower-restricted events. You might need to tweak your car not to understeer, actually. It seems the weight in back helps the MGF avoid drastic oversteer unless you make it happen. Again, this is not so in GT4. 

I've found that with extra rear camber and braking force, the F becomes a mean little drifting machine, but it never steps up to Lotus Elise or MR2 country. It remains too well-behaved for any driver with some gaming experience, leaving most of us thirsty for a challenge.


GT4
One might assume there will be more handling issues in this game, and that assumption would be correct. I have had marginal success trying to find real-life driving impressions for the F here on the 'net. Typically, reviewers will describe the it as being fun and sporty, but with a vague steering feel and other minor issues. Nothing much about a car that's got any major probs from the average driver. I'd love to find a review written by somebody who actually drove this car HARD, but so far it has eluded me.

During the time that the MGF was new, it had the greatest torsional stiffness rating of any roadster from its time, putting Mazda's Miata in 2nd place. Since roadsters haven't got a hard top, they often suffer the most from chassis and body twisting under hard cornering, you see. Yet despite the MGF's top rating, it's a very flimsy-feeling car in the game, not up-to-par when compared with the Mazda. Often feels uncoordinated, as if its tripping over its own shoelaces, even on sports tires!

Depending on the website, MGFs are described as having either a mid-engine/rear-drive setup or a rear/mid-engine/rear-drive. I'm inclined to believe the latter, as this would put the car's engine solidly between the rear axles rather than in front of them. This (plus the car's rear tires, which Carfolio.com states are rather narrow 205/50vr-15s) would explain why the rear has a tendency to swing about.

Not that it isn't also fun and challenging, but after awhile getting slightly sideways over and over again while trying to keep ahead of other drivers might begin to try your patience. When you're at your umpteenth time trying to get a good launch out of a curve, you push the gas pedal, and the rear-end responds with this sort of mooshy feeling while not gaining any speed, you'll see what I mean. This behavior can, of course, be solved somewhat with a limited-slip differential, but note that such parts aren't needed (and can actually hurt) a Mazda MX-5 or a Lotus Elise.

Braking is below-average. The MGF in this game needs a bit of extra room while braking, and has problems with trail-braking into turns. Brake too late or not enough, and there will be a bit of understeer on-entry. Brake properly (but steer-in too heavily) and the car will lose a bit of traction from the rear and get a tad sideways. With this one, it's best to brake in a straight line as much as possible (unless we're approaching a slower corner), and then use minimal steering input, especially when coming down from high speeds. Like an MR2, the MGF can be ready to tango when we don't feel like dancing at all.

And there's the oversteer, heaven help us. It varies from fun to frustrating, sometimes at the same corner during the same race. Even on sport tires, there are constant reminders that the car is just moments away from serious trouble, as those rear Bridgestones constantly squeal and whine. Then there's the constant additional brake-taps, steering and countersteering work, and throttle taming to remind us this car is not truely for modern racing.

Granted, all of this can be used to some advantage in the hands of a pro. It's possible to get mid-corner, let the tail swing a bit with lift-off, and get a tighter steering angle when exiting the turn. But the bottom line is this car can be more of an enemy than a friend when we really need it to work with us.

Though the MGF is not of the same ilk as a Lotus Elise (one's a real exotic sports car bred thru racing heritage, the other is more of a "sporty" car for Benetton/Izod-wearing street drivers) it's notable that the Elise suffers from many of the same issues as the F. The difference is the Elise often can get out of its own foibles; wheras the MGF only suffers from them. The Lotus Elise's pretzel-like cornering behavior can be used to an advantage; wheras the MGF often feels clumsy and doesn't offer much help while we're struggling.

One can watch all this by entering an MGF in the Beginner's League MR Challenge and comparing the MGF to others during the replay. All those steering twitches and brake-nubs will be much more obvious in the F than if the same driver were to use an Opel Speedster or NSX. Only thru some tuning efforts (and with a skilled Gran Turismo 4 driver at the wheel) will the F start to feel remotely in the Elise's category, or the Speedster's category, and then we're just talking in a superficial way. Like it's now pretending to be a race car! During the MGF's career, the driver will experience moments of fun and joy, but also moments of pure angst.

That's a good way to put it, actually. :) Not a top-rate performance automobile, but certainly not a boring one to drive, either. Many older British sports cars were actually tricky to drive, despite their reputation as cornering autos. The MGF, with its also hapless handling, merely carries on this tradition.  

PROS

1). Decent price.

2). Handsome looks. A bit on the preppy side, perhaps.
 
3). Good handling with minimal suspension upgrades (in GT2, anyways). The MGF is naturally a balanced auto in this game.
 
4). A good car to race within its horsepower range (GT2 again) for intermediate drivers.

5). Great traction, assuming the car is not performing one of its mini-slides. Oftentimes, 1st gear can be used to full effect out of hairpins and other slow areas.
 
6). Light weight. Racing bodywork available in GT2.
 
7). Lots of colors available. Important for a car that's being made in a dreary English environment, I suppose.
 
8). Another mid-engine car to toy with. One that most folks don't seem to try.

9). Fuel-efficient (GT4).

10). GT4: 3 stages of NA and turbo tuning available. 

11). GT4 also features both new and used versions of this model: '99 MGF and '03 MG TF160. 

12). Fun to watch during replays (GT4 mostly) as MGFs tend to slip and slide around.


CONS

1). Bland acceleration when near-stock, despite this, the MGF isn't as much of a Beginner's MR auto like one might think.
 
2). Tepid power-upgrades in GT2. 3 levels of NA tuning don't add much power overall, despite the high price of that final Stage 3 upgrade. What a shame. The MGF could really use some turbos in this game.
 
3). GT2: Slick tires, sophisticated suspension & LSD parts are available (of course) but are pretty much a waste of credits assuming you're not doing time trials or game-sharking because power is so meager. In GT4 on the other hand, you will typically need all this stuff to combat horrid handling situations.
 
4). Um...where is the MGA, the MGB, the MG Midget? Why is the MGF's heritage not represented in either GT game it appears in? I mean, how hard is it to find an old B? They're still popular and very obvious in the world of automotive sports. *climbs off soap box*`
 
5). Understeery in GT2. Oversteery (and not always in a good way) in GT4.

6). Difficult braking action (GT4).

7). Difficult steering action, too. Too vague at some times, too direct at others.  

8). Stock gearing feels too tallish for some situations.

9). Generic sounding engine / exhaust.

10). GT2 or GT4: redline starts too early, peak power sits either on- or past-redline, depending on game.


 

Published: January 13, 2004

Edited for GT4 content: October 15, 2010
 

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