MG EXE181 concept looks to brand's need for speed today and in the past

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MG turns 100 years old, and what a long, strange trip it's been for the brand that started as a promotional project for Morris Garages in Oxford, England. Now a property of Chinese state-owned automaker SAIC, the latest incarnation of MG has been putting cars on dealer lots since 2007 and doing a fine job of it; the brand sold nearly 850,000 cars last year, 88% of them exported to international markets. For its Eastern home show, MG took a page from its past in showing the EXE181 concept. A pure-electric single-seater, it's the rebirth of the 1957 and 1959 MG EXE181 that broke land speed records at our own Bonneville Salt Flats. It was nicknamed the Roaring Raindrop and powered by a supercharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder MGA engine making 290 horsepower. Stirling Moss drove the 1957 effort to a top speed of 245.64 miles per hour, with fellow F1 driver Phil Hill outdoing that two years later by going 254.91 mph after the engine had been turned up to 300 hp.

MG hasn't said much about the current car, seemingly using it more as a bombshell conversation starter than a symbol of what's to come. Among the little we do know, the claimed coefficient of drag is 0.181. Since the concept features headlights and taillights, we'll compare it to EV road cars, finding the MG's cd better than the 2013-2015 Volkswagen XL1 electric car and its 0.189 Cd, and the 1996-1999 GM EV1 that evaded air with a 0.19 Cd. As testament to how far production cars have come, the Xiaomi SU7 has a 0.195 Cd and the Lucid Air a 0.197.

The EXE181's tailfin that can rise to act as an air brake and the dual parachutes, however, lead us to believe no DMV in the world will send a set of plates for this car.

We don't know what powers the EXE181, but however many motors there are, they must produce something well over 1,500 horsepower combined since MG quotes a 0-62 mph time of 1.9 seconds.

A potential driver trying to test these stats would sit in a body-hugging seat with a four-point harness, with little to look at in the cockpit save for the screen inside the yoke-style steering wheel.

Since MG feels it remains a British brand as well — MG's Advanced Studio London drew up the EXE181 — reports say that MG will take the EXE181 to this summer's Goodwood Festival of Speed as part of the automaker's 100th birthday celebrations. The festival will also include the debut of the new MG Cyberster battery-electric roadster.


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