MG ZR Tuning

"The ZR is the hot hatch from MG with a good pedigree!"

The ZR is popular among our members for their car tuning projects, based on the tried and tested Rover 200 chassis it forms the basis of a great little hot hatch with lots of tuning options. This could have been the car that saved the Rover group before it's demise in 2007 but sadly the car came too late and offer little extra other than some pretty classy looks and a great range of engines.

It was one of Britains most popular hatches and the ZR160 headed up the range with a tuned VVC engine and nimble handling.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Most ZR owners seek better handling of their cars as they want it to handle as well as possible. We would suggest going to a maximum drop of 40mm in most sitations. You can if you are not careful risk rubbing on the arches if you go lower than this.

When you drop a car you need a stiffer spring and this can make the ride quality unbearable.

When ZR engine mods are being done you have to be careful to keep the power band as wide as possible, the wrong mods will just raise the power band leaving a torque shy bottom end.

Spending a little money on the engine and handling will transform your car into a very credible performer.

Smaller engines do not usually provide much of a return in terms of power so choose a model with a more powerful engine engine. You could always do an engine swap if you have a small engine to start with. The 1.4 engine doesn't really offer much but the older T series and Tomcat turbo engines fit nicely and offer a simple upgrade route if you need more power.

MG ZR Tuning modifications.

Your aim when tuning should be a nice flat torque curve and a wide power band as we are always mentioning. Whilst a lot of car part makers will claim peak BHP figures what you really need is a dyno plot showing the full torque curve. Fast road cams are generally one of the best power mods you can do to your engine. But you need to select the right profile, for advice on cam selection see our tuning articles for more information. Don't forget to uprate the fuelling when you are increasing the power - it makes the car more thirsty. For fuelling upgrades you will generally need a set of uprated injectors and a higher capacity fuel pump.

MG ZR intake and exhaust modifications.

Let's move on to the engine intake and exhaust and ensure proper flow through the engine. You need to derestrict the airflow into the engine as much as possible and the bottleneck on most engines is the air filter so fitting a cotton panel air filter will address this. Exhaust selection should take into account the flow rate, rather than just the bore size, too small and you have a restriction, too big and the flow rate will dimish the point the engine scavanging suffers.See our article on performance exhausts for details of the issue around large bore exhausts and how to choose the right size for your engine.

Getting the head ported and polished will further help more air into each cylinder. This is definitely a job for a professional with a flow bench. When you start tuning your ZR you may well discover that your OEM clutch starts to complain so get a performance clutch.

The largest power gains for NA (naturally aspirated) engines usually involve the addition of forced induction. Turbos are harder to add than supercharger. With a turbo the boost curve is related exponentially to the engine speed making it hard to map. It is easier to map a supercharger because the boost is proportional to engine speed on a linear curve. To cope with forced induction you will usually need to decrease the compression ratio of the engine. We have seen a turbocharged 1.8 VVC but it proved unreliable so perhaps a supercharger would be the better option. It is worth noting that the Rover MEMS cannot be tuned/remapped so to get a custom map installed you'll need an aftermarket ECU or a chip upgrade.

MG ZR Wheel modifications.

Alloy wheels will help the brakes cool down and are usually lighter than the steel ones. The downside to large alloy wheels on your ZR is that you alter your effective final drive ratio and this will have a detrimental effect on acceleration and performance. Although some people have gone larger we would stick to a 18 inch rim size as the maximum, or 17 for great handling.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss ZR options in more detail with our ZR owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased MG tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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