The SDI Rover was first introduced in 1976 to replace the by then ageing 3 ½-litre large saloon and the 2000 and 3500 series of medium saloons. It was Rover’s first venture into the hatch back field and proved to be an instant success, winning the Car of the Year award. At first there was only one basic model, the 3500 using the familiar V8 engine developed by Rover from a General Motors design. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, with a Borg-Warner automatic as an option, and there were a number of extras available to supplement the specification of the base car. Since then, there have been many detail alterations to the car and two smaller six-cylinder engines, of 2,300 and 2,600 c.c., were introduced well in time for the fuel conserving eighties, while at the other end of the range, the Vanden Plas model with leather upholstery and every possible extra as standard became the flagship of the Rover range. But it has not been until now that BL have given the whole car a comprehensive revision to maintain its appeal through the eighties.
The Edwardian splendour of the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, saw the introduction to the press of the results of an £8-million re-vamping programme which has resulted in an additional model to the range and a number of significant improvements both to the styling of the cars and to their specification.
The new model brings a return to the familiar designation Rover 2000 which combines with the continuing 2300, 2300S, 2600S. 3500SE and Vanden Plas to provide Rover with a range of six models to field in the “senior executive” area of the market. This sector has been showing a marked trend towards lower engine capacity cars which nonetheless have high levels of comfort and refinement – a combination which the new model has, and which should make it very attractive to the fleet buyer.
Looking for the diminutive 4-cylinder engine under a bonnet more accustomed to sheltering a V8 or a straight-six had as thinking that the 2000 would be a miserably sluggish car to drive. No bit of it. The 1,994 c.c. version of BL’s “O” series engine produces sufficient power to propel the large car at a maximum of something over 100 m.p.h. and the acceleration figure for in 0 to 60 m.p.h. of 12.5 sec quoted by BL is healthy for a 2-litre saloon. With the five-speed gearbox (standard across the range) and a final drive ratio set to give over 23 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top, the base model Rover is remarkably restful to drive, quiet at motorway cruising speeds and surprisingly flexible. It is only in very hilly country or when trying to accelerate hard that the engine shows signs of strain.
At the other end of the scale, the V8 engined Models are effortless to drive and are endowed with superb performance which puts many so called sports cars to shame. In manual form, they are geared for nearly 30 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m., resulting in excellent fuel economy for such a large capacity car.
Exterior styling changes include a deep front Spoiler on the four upper models and a deeper rear window to give much needed improved rear visibility. The headlamps are no longer inset, but are mounted flush with the bonnet edge, and the moulded front bumper is linked to the bonnet by a new front panel and full width moulded grille. Inside, the most obvious change to the instrument panel. Still in the form of an oblong binnacle, mounted above the dash, the instrument panel of the 1982 series Rovers is wider and longer than before and features modern style tachometer and speedometer flanking a warning light panel in front of the driver with fuel level, oil pressure and water temperature gauges in the centre of the car. The heater controls have been much simplified and are mounted on the centre console. The lower binnacle has made it possible to lower the front seats slightly to give improved headroom and redesigned seating has increased leg room, although even a 5 7″ driver wanted the driving seat on the last but one stop. Walnut veneer facings are fitted on the three top models, apparently by customer demand, but to this writer they simply highlight the plastic mouldings of the central console which extends back to divide the front seats. At the back, the rear parcels shelf has been considerably stiffened in its re-designed form and helps to reduce road noise from the rear.
Fully automatic chokes are now fitted across the range, the braking system has been completely revised with larger servo and master cylinder and new pressure limiting valve to prevent rear wheel lock-up and the suspension has been modified to give better handling and ride characteristics.
Unseen improvements come as a result of investment in the production line — for instance, the paintwork of the new cars benefits from the latest advances in paint technology providing, BL say, a highly durable finish, resistant to damage through stone chipping and with excellent anti-corrosion properties.
Economy of ownership is of ever increasing importance, and BL claim that with the 12,000 mile service intervals specified for the new Rovers, made possible by developments in oil technology and improved filtration, and reduced costs of servicing brought about by design improvements, the Rover range enjoys the lowest cost of routine maintenance over 50,000 miles compared with competitors. They also claim better fuel consumption than their competitors,
The revised Rovers costs between £7,450 for the 2000 and £14,787 for the Vanden Plas. P.H.J.W.