Rover 2200 TC - Triumph 2000
Itīs hard to think of two cars which are more symbolic of the
British middle classes, seventies-style, than the Rover and Triumph 2000s. Both
were long established models with a respected pedigree; both offered comfortable
accomodation for parents and their two-point-two kids, both had adequate, if not
exceptional, performance - and of course, both were thoroughly British.
By 1974 - the year that our two test cars were manufactured - the
twin-carb version of the Rover 2000 had evolved into its final form, the 2200
TC. The Mark II version of the Triumph 2000 was still largely unchanged
mechanically from its original 1964 soecification, despite its facelift of a few
years earlier; it would soon be revamped to enjoy a last-minute fling as the
2000 TC (a confusing title, since the 2000 always featured two carburettors).
British Leylandīs marketing policy in the early seventies meant
that the two cars were never officially competitors, despite being pitched at
the same sort of executive-car level, and the Rover carried a much higher price
tag - Ģ2.682 in 1974, where a Triumph 2000 could be had for Ģ2.349. Continental
rivals in the same price range included the Audi 100, BMW 2002, and Peugeot 504
- good cars all, and arguably better in many respects than their dated British
Judging by figures alone, the Rover should walk all over the
Triumph. On the road, however, itīs a bit more complex than that. The Rover is
faster - 11.5 seconds to the benchmark 60 mph, while the Triumph takes 14 - but
itīs the way in which the Triumph does it that impresses. Its straight six
engine was already pretty long in the tooth when the car was new, being a
development of the old Standard Vanguard design. It doesnīt put out a whole lot
of power - about 90 bhp, against the 115 bhp that the Rover unit produces - but
those two extra cylinders make all the difference. You might have to push the
throttle to the floorboards to get any kind of performance, but the smoothness
with which this urge is delivered encourages you to drive the car hard, and
By contrast, even at this late stage in the evolution of the
Rover engine, itīs still a relatively unrefined unit - you find yourself
changing up at around 4.000 rpm when the red lineīs still a good 2.000 rpm or so
further on. Thereīs no tachometer in the Triumph, but you feel more confident in
winding the car up to somewhere near its practical limit.
Itīs the same story when comparing top speeds. The Rover wins by
a big theoretical margin - about 108 mph against the Triumph 98 - but that
thrashy big four means thereīs not much inclination to reach the carīs maximum.
Fortunately, because the Rover is high-geared, the lack of an overdrive or fifth
gear is not too noticeable.
On the Triumph, overdrive is a great help in allowing relaxed
cruising, and it means that htis less powerful car can hold its own with the
Rover in the motorway, being quiet and stable at 90 mph. Overdrive can be used
in third and fourth, and having six forward ratios available means fairly rapid
progress is possible.
In truth, neither car is a sports car, and it would be
unreasonable to expect too much in the way of performance, bearing in mind that
the sort of buyer at which they were originally targetted.
Since both cars are family four-seaters, itīs not surprising that
they both handle in an utterly conventional and undramatic way. Initial
understeer rending toward ultimate oversteer is the order of the day, and in
both cases the back end will eventually break away - but you have to be trying
pretty hard to make that happen.
One of the first things you notice with the Rover is the amount
of bodyroll during cornering, although the level of grip is remarkably high. The
Roverīs sophisticated de Dion rear suspension set-up means that the wheels are
always kept parallel to each other, giving a slight advantage in hard cornering
over the independent system used on the Triumph.
The Triumph feels much more stable in this situation, but is no
more sure-footed, and itīs easy to provoke tail slides when hammering round a
roundabout in second or third. Although the Triumph rolls a lot less than the
2200 TC on corners, life is not quite as comfortable for its driver and
passengers, who tend to slide around on the flattish seats. The Roverīs bucket
seats front and rear mean that the car is strictly a four-seater, but they do
allow passengers to retain their dignity when the driver is pressing on.
Where the Rover does lose out, however, is in high-speed
stability. The unusual design of the front suspension, with big coil springs
mounted horizontally and feeding load into the front bulkhead, seems to
encourage a susceptibility to crosswinds that makes overhauling juggernauts on
motorways and dual carriageways a nerv-wracking business.
By modern standards the clutch, brakes and steering are heavy on
both cars, though the Triumph requires more all-round effort. The steering wheel
on this car is smaller than the Roverīs bus-like item, which means that you
really do have to put some effort into pointing the car where you want it to go,
ever if it does offer greater precision. In fact, bearing in mind that the carīs
lower power output relative to the Rover, if you want to get anywhere quickly in
the Triumph you need to seize it by the scruff of the neck and drive with
determination. This is fun if youīre in the mood, but wearing if all you want to
do is get home as soon as possible after a long day.
Anyone who wanted greater capabilities would have been better
advised to save up and go for a Triumph 2.5 PI - at Ģ2.675, seven pounds cheaper
than the Rover 2200 TC in 1974 - or the considerably more expensive Rover 3500
Neither car will give much away to the other as far as everyday
practicality is concerned. Theyīre both civilised machines with comfortable and
well-up-pointed interiors, though each has its own distinct character.
Thereīs a more enveloping feel to the Rover: the bucket seats,
the high curving instrument binnacle in front of the driver, and the relatively
shallow windscreen all contribute to this effect, once described by an American
tester as an experience similar to putting on an old and familiar sports jacket.
In the Triumph you seem to sit higher, looking out over a broad expanse of the
bonnet, without that feeling of intimacy that the Rover engenders.
The Rover has marginally better instruments - probably the best
youīll find on any car of this era - while thr Triumph wins instant passenger
approval through its use of solid wood door cappings and dashboard.
Being British and mass-produced over a long length of time,
youīre not going to many have problems running either car on a day-to-day-basis.
Both are well-catered for by the specialists and their respective ownersī clubs,
and itīs still possible to find donor cars in your local scrapyard - although
that situationīs beginning to change, now that the cars have been out of
production for more than 10 years.
The Rover has the huge advantage of easily-removable body panels
which unbolt from the base unit and mean that any major repair work can be
carried out away from the car without immobilising it. That makes life a lot
easier if youīre undertaking a running restoration on a car which you also rely
on the daily transport.
The Triumphīs mechanics are slightly easier for the DIY owner to
work on, and the design of all the major components is straightforward. In
contrast, the Rover has a number of idiosyncracies - to set the tappets, for
example, you have to remove the camshaft; and the rear discs are mounted
inboard, hard up by the differential, which leads to a lot of grazed knuckles
and foul language when calipers or pads need attention. Having access to a pit
is a big advantage when living with the Rover.
Itīs evident from testing both cars that theyīre competent and
comfortable machines. Neither is going to turn many heads in the street, and
theyīre not going to cause their owners too much heartache either.
The Rover is the more distinctive-looking car, and is now
sufficiently old-fashioned in appearance to justify its classic status. Itīs an
attractive design, with aggression in that shark-like front end that gives it an
air of purposefulness. The Triumph is also an aggressive-looking car, but
paradoxically its more modern looks donīt do much to help its appeal today - the
styling is so clean, itīs almost bland. Itīs undoubtedly a better-looking car
than the original Michelotti.styled Mk I, but by being so it loses out on
character. The Triumph offers more in the way of mechanical refinement, and is
probably the easier car of the two to work on.
The bottom has to be that if youīre primarily concerned with
appearance and the cachet of a highly respected name, go for the Rover. If, on
the other hand, your attitude is more down-to-earth and you want something you
can drive with the minimum of fuss, the Triumph is a safer bet.
Classics / UK October 1989