THE P6 Rover 2000 was one of the outstanding exhibits at Earls Court last year, and we were able to publish a full road-test report on it at the time. The test, however, was conducted rather hurriedly on a pre-production model, and we have since been able to cover an additional 870 miles in another car. What follows is a recapitulation, or rather, an extension of the test report.
The 2000 continues the breakaway from Rover tradition that commenced with the 3-litre; no longer do these fine cars necessarily associate themselves with elderly drivers in panama hats. While former refinement, quality and luxury appointments remain, this is a faster car than earlier Rover models.
Before driving away from the factory I posed a few questions. “Why,” I asked, remembering that the T3 was 4.w.d. and the T4 turbine Rover is front-drive, “wasn’t f.w.d. used for the P6?” “Because this project began before that of the T4,” disposed of that query. I was interested to learn that the special pistons which incorporate the combustion chamber were to have been made in the factory but, in fact, are a Brico product, their manufacture presenting no difficulty to this specialist firm and reducing machining operations in the Rover plant. They are only 10% heavier than normal pistons. The body, I was told, was flow-tested in a wind tunnel; its detachable panels facilitate assembly, apart from obvious advantages to dealers and users in the event of accident-damage. Stainless steel is made good use of for window frames and exterior trim and upholstery is in real hide, of which I approve strongly. Every engine is run-in for three hours on gas, some 30 test-beds being available, and each Rover 2000 has a 20-mile run on the Company’s test-track.
Before taking away a 2000 I was given a ride in the 1956 Rover T3 gas-turbine rear-engined glass-fibre coupé, from which the production car’s De Dion back-end stems. The T3 is interesting because it successfully used 4.w.d., with a differential at each end and a free-wheel between them, before Ferguson emphasised the possibilities of all-wheel-drive. The T3 is used experimentally and was sans heat exchanger on this occasion, and consequently noisy from without. Inside, the noise level was tolerable, and I was intrigued to see the tachometer go to 61,000 r.p.m. and indicate 36,500 r.p.m. even when the turbine was merely idling! There was sufficient power for 100 m.p.h. to be exceeded along the brief straight of the test circuit, and the temperature gauge read a formidable 600˚ C.
The more sophisticated T4 idles at 40,000 r.p.m., runs up to 64,500 r.p.m., and shows a temperature of 250˚ C. Rover burn paraffin in these cars on the road, by special dispensation, tax being collected later. All this was very interesting but I was disappointed that I was not allowed to drive the T3 myself; it has 2-pedal control and appears quite docile. Chrysler show more faith in their gas-turbine car, for this I have driven, and were it not for Rover’s fine performance at Le Mans I would say they lack confidence in this field. Incidentally, there is no connection, I was told, between Rover and Rolls-Royce, a misconception which probably arose when the two Companies did some joint advertising in the U.S.A. and because both are active in the gas-turbine field.
Turning to the Rover 2000, I would like to add a few points to the road-test report in the matter of interior appointments, etc. Those big pockets that confront driver and passenger are lockable and the driver’s is divided into four, one compartment being for cups or bottles. The bonnet-release is within this pocket. The back-compartment interior lamp is operated by opening the back doors or from a facia turn-switch; opening either front door provides useful illumination for stepping into the car, while tiny switches enable these lamps to be kept alight for map-reading, etc. The rear extractor-windows have sensible toggles that enable them to be opened without pressing on the glass and which hold them open positively. A folding arm-rest can be used to divide the separate back seats. The warning lights take the form of different-coloured lettering, viz. OIL, IGN., BEAM, and BRAKE, the latter also indicating low brake-fluid level, and there is rheostat dimming of the instrument lighting, although its control is rather limited. This lighting can be extinguished entirely. I dislike the “vanishing”-type rear-view mirror, which can give a dangerous distortion of distance, but the indicators above the sidelamps, to show they are alight, are appreciated. Other points such as these were covered in the test-report, so it only remains to say that daylight full-beam lamps flashing is obtainable merely by pulling the I.h. lamps-dipping stalk inwards, just as pulling towards you the r.h. winkers’ stalk sounds the horn. The winkers self-cancel rather too readily. The boot is illuminated when the lid is lifted, there is a servicing-chart on the o/s. front wheel arch, for consultation after the bonnet-lid has been propped up, and the fuel filler-cap has a neat quick-action press-release. Flaps on the cold-air intakes on the facia enable a full blast of air to be directed on the face, the whole heating and ventilation system being well-contrived.
The P6 is about as lavishly equipped as the old Rovers, and there are some nice engineering items, such as a plug instead of a tap for the radiator, wired to the car, and a neat throttle linkage, devoid of cables, and mounted so that engine movement does not affect it – unfortunately, although the action looks progressive, this is not conveyed to the accelerator, which has little range between open and shut, so that you drive mainly foot on floor. The roof-line and rear quarters of the Rover 2000, its very upright driving position, the low floor, the bonnet structure, and especially the interior of its boot (except for the intruding spare wheel) are strongly reminiscent of a famous French motor car, and the Rover’s manner of going, “long-legged” but calling for a lot of gear-changing to encourage an engine which is underpowered and noisy when accelerating, endorses this impression. The outstanding aspect of the Solihull Sitroen is its impeccable ride, exceedingly comfortable over bad roads, even at high speed, and imparting a sense of luxury gliding, although the suspension can be heard coping with surface irregularities. It is this luxury of ride, rather than in refinement of the mechanicals, that the car excels.
Performance is good, but on normal roads 90 is the usual maximum and a long run is needed to attain “the ton.” Acceleratively, the P6 cannot live with the 1.6-litre Alfa Romeo Giulia T1, or, for that matter, with a 1 1/2-litre Ford Cortina GT up to 70 m.p.h.
It handles very well for such a comfortable, family-size car, however, the cornering tendency being pronounced understeer that changes, predictably, to weight-transfer oversteer, which the steering is too low geared to make entirely pleasant. In this respect, pre-driving enthusiasm turned to slight disappointment, not mitigated by the very short, beautifully-contrived and placed remote gear-lever which did not live up to expectations, the gearchange on this production box being very heavy and notchy and altogether pretty horrid. The clutch, too, is fairly heavy and rather insensitive. The gears emit a low Roverish whine. The Dunlop servo-assisted disc brakes, inboard at the rear, are superb, but pulled to the o/s. under heavy application.
Some of the enjoyment of trying the car was marred when an electrical fault, which rendered the reserve fuel supply inoperative, also put paid to windscreen washing. A full tank of petrol sufficed for 283 miles and, checked under fast-driving conditions, consumption was 23.5 m.p.g. Sump level had fallen by approximately 1/2-a-pint in 870 miles. The engine idled roughly and tended to run on after the ignition was cut. Visibility to the n/s. is poor, as on a DS19, the steering is light, has quick castor-return, and transmits some mild kick-back, but isn’t the equal of the power steering on the DS19, and I noticed that some paint had eluded those 120,000-volts of the electro-static spray and failed to adhere to the edge of the driver’s door. The seats are generally very good, with front squabs adjustable under frictional control right down to near horizontal. This controversial Rover is at its best cruising quietly at 80 m.p.h., but could do with more power for motorway cruising and accelerating through the traffic. The 5-bearing o.h.c. engine transmits high-frequency vibrations through the body structure.
Nevertheless, how Rover contrive to sell this scientifically-contrived family saloon, combining traditional dignity and luxury with a fine performance, for less than £1,300 passeth understanding. – W. B.