Austin Rover group (ARG) launched two limited production and considerably more rapid model derivatives of the MG Metro and the Rover SDI V8 saloons immediately prior to the Motor Show. Then there was no opportunity to drive the near £15,000 Rover Vitesse with its Lucas-Bosch electronic fuel injection, a remark which also applied to the AiResearch turbocharged Metro of £5,650 value. Although both are placed on Special Order status, meaning that you have to order a specific car and wait up to six weeks, ARG are particularly keen to publicise their attractive sporting newcomers to further their motor racing aims. Thus we were offered a drive of the 130 m.p.h. Rover and its claimed 112 m.p.h. Metro “mate” recently.
The Rover Vitesse is an uninspiring name, recalling the occasionally wayward Triumph Vitesse of very independent rear suspension notoriety, but ARG had no choice as the preferred Rover Rapide title caused objections from Newport Pagnell.
The Rover is impressive for its size and the comfort of its smart light grey trim within, an interior marred only by the ungainly normal production Rover steering wheel. Externally the GKN copies of BBS Mahle wheels are convincing, the low set Rover jutting forth a tail spoiler big enough to act as a table for four at outdoor functions.
In action the Vitesse loped readily to 100 m.p.h. and some 1,000 r.p.m. in fifth with alacrity worthy of the 7 sec. claim for sprinting from rest to 60 m.p.h. The engine sounds crisp and the fuel-air mixture is delivered with a clean precision that can only win justified admiration. Summarised this car would be amongst our first choices for the high mileage driver who enjoys his comfort and relishes the thought of a mid-range British saloon capable of startling performance, reasonable economy (22 m.p.g. displayed after a mixture of motorways and small towns, and outstanding handling.
MG Turbo Metro
The 93 b.h.p. tiny terror is designed to fit into the market between the established standard for the class (the £6,700 Golf GTI 1.8) and the sub-£5,000 MG Metro and Fiat 1300 GT. In this role its top speed of just over 105 m.p.h. indicated and vivid acceleration are acceptable, because the handling and braking are superlative in a class that is very hotly contested by manufacturers eager to pep up image and lost profits.
We must confess our first MG Turbo lacked mid-range punch, but rowing along a second example so that the Hi-Fi style electronic boost gauge lit up all its sectors from 5,200 to the limit of 6,900 r.p.m. was a pleasure. Acceleration to 90 m.p.h. (just under 25 sec. from rest say ARG) is fast enough to entertain, while the thrifty potential owners will approve heartily of the Metrosurance rates and DTP approved m.p.g. figures of 34.1 urban and 50.3 m.p.g. at a constant 56 m.p.h.
Nice to see a BL division on the offensive once more with two cars of sporting merits. — J.W.