An MG Experience in Bangkok, Thailand
Opposite Lock Editor Ros Bastian heads to the MG Experience Centre developed by Thailand in Bangkok.
By Ros Bastian
Reprinted from the May, 2017, edition of The Opposite Lock
If MG Australia want to make their mark on the Australian car market then perhaps they should take a look at what MG Thailand has done in Bangkok, where they have developed a MG Experience centre.
The Thailand MG company invited the team to spend the morning at the ‘MG Experience’ Centre. Because that meant driving new MGs around a track at high speed, Mike Herlihy, who was organising the South East Asia part of the trip, immediately said yes.
So on to our bus at 7:30am. We are getting quite friendly with the bus – it’s a 40 seater for the 15 of us so plenty of room to spread out – however after a 1.5 hour ride from the airport on Sunday, spending most of Monday going around in circles between the port authorities and the bond store (I am convinced we went through one intersection 7 times), 2.5 hours into Bangkok yesterday (and of course, 2.5 hours return) we hopped on for another 2 hours each way ride!
Arriving at the MG Experience centre we were royally welcomed by their team and then we admired the selections of MGs on display. As well as the 3, there was a 5 and 6 plus the SUV, named GS.
The objective of the MG Experience is to allow anyone the opportunity to hop in and drive a MG: what a great idea. Set in a paddock it has 4 sections: the acceleration (up to 100km) and brake test (about 50 mts), the swerve at speed section (drive towards cones at 60 and the instructor tells you when to drive around the obstacle while still accelerating) and the swerve with brake test (drive towards cones at 80km and the instructor tells you when to drive around the obstacle while braking hard) and finally drive through the curves.
We all were able to drive as many different cars as we wished, including the 2 different spec SUV (one 1.5 litre turbo charged and the other 2 litre – John thought the tubo went best).
We spent around two hours driving faster and faster, until we were informed it was now ‘race’ time: each of us to do a timed lap in the 3.
Well, John went first and found the car had great understeer and collected a cone. Bad luck.
Ian Edwards (Sydney) topped the men and Pat (Melbourne) the ladies (indeed faster than most of the men).
While there, we were given a history of the centre, which had started two years ago on a parking lot that was only used on the weekend, hence on Monday the team laid out the 1,200 cones and then collected them in on Friday. Evidence of the way in which cones wander is amazing, all around Bangkok are remnant MG cones!
The current site was set up a year ago and now runs as both a customer experience centre plus a training centre for sales and service staff (one room has a car in it). One of the most amazing aspects of the centre is that anyone can come and test drive any MG around the track. While there they are in the hands of an experienced driver so they not only get to test drive the car on a fun track, they can put the car through all its paces and so get a feel for how well it corners, accelerates, brakes and even how well it corners while braking.
Importantly, if you went into a corner while braking it was imperative to continue to brake to ensure the technology developed to ensure safe cornering while braking continued to operate. The cars, particularly the bigger ones, certainly performed well on this tight track and the tests you put them through did illustrate that what MG claimed about their cars was in fact correct. It also provides people who test drive the cars with some on the spot driver training!
A facility such as this really allows a person to test the car under conditions designed to prove what it is capable of. I am not aware of any such facility in Australia but could well imagine that it could become very popular, especially with younger drivers keen to put a car through its paces before buying.
This was a great day, we all had fun and we all came away relatively impressed with most of the cars we drove. Certainly an impressive facility and one which could be easily replicated in Australia as a very good promotional focus for the new MGs in either Sydney or Melbourne, or both.