Rover 3500 V8
says: "The safest car in a crash is the one that avoids it with preventive
safety design." - "The safest car in the world." After a full 1200 miles test,
we found plenty of high points in the carīs performance specifications - weīve
left the crash testing to the experts.
prople what they know about Rover and theyīll tell you itīs the safest car in
the world to have a crash in. Rover achieved its safety message with a massive
world-wide advertising campaign on the 2000 sedan - but much of the potential
market is still unaware of the carīs real qualities.
2000 derivatives are actually a fine range of luxurious, fast, safe,
well-equipped executive expresses built to operate at minimum economy levels for
their size and specification, and priced competitively in their market area.
version is the Three Thousand Five V8 sedan - and it is almost 18 months since
we tested the first version of this thoroughbred. Since then the car has been
improved and its local distribution has finally gone to British Leyland
folllowing the Rover merger in 1967.
Even as we
road tested this car, we realised it was being "obsoleted" - only slightly, and
by a new facelifted Rover 3,5 just released in Britain. Significanly, almost
every point of criticism we noted on this car has been improved in the new one.
But with world demand for the car, Australia is not likely to see the 71 Rover
until after mid-year. When it comes, it will be New Zealand assembled - part of
the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which we will reciprocate
with Austins and Morrises.
basics, the Rover Three Thousand Five is a marvellous combination of effort from
English and American design studios. The US influence is under the bonnet - and
Rover still doesnīt play-up the American origins of the small-bore all-aluminium
V8 that gives it the spunk to compete with the monsters of the trans-Atlantic
inherited the alloy mill when Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac minions realised its
amateur design team had come up with a powerplant that didnīt easily adapt to
volume production techniques. It has had considerable refinement since then,
plus some British equipment - and the SU carburettors replacing the traditional
Yankee quadrajet are the most immediately obvious.
engineers produced a "large" shoehorn und prised the lightweight alloy engine
between the font flanks of its 2000 sedan, noting on the way that there was no
longer sufficient room for a power steering booster. They commented that the
base car needed no structural or mechanical modifications to accommodate a vast
boost in power and performance.
engineers, familiar with the almost hand-crafted assembly of their favorite
toys, this may not seem surprising, but it is an almost unique feat in
automotive shoe-horning history.
Thousand Five has retained the excellent handling qualities of the 2000 although
the initial understeer handling habits of that car have been somewhat
accentuated. With correct tyre pressures, the Rover can be aimed at a tight
corner until understeer develops right up to full front end plough. Providing
youīve passed the apex and have room to grab some lock with the large 17 in.
steering wheel, you can change to oversteer by abandoning the throttle. Pushed
to its limits, the car simply plough-understeers, but you have to be going
ridiculously quickly for a car that is supposed to be a dignified sporting
In any case,
I had to go to the test track to experience such sensations (although these
handling traits can be developed on wet or dirt roads). Normal motoring even on
fast open road sweepers wonīt shake the car from its neutral attitudes with a
tendency to gentle nose-heaviness when committing the car to line. Due to the
slow-reaction of the large-diameter wheel and some lost motion near top dead
centre, I also found the car could be caught out of balance in open-road esses.
The result was rather excessive body lean, and a "lurch" when changing locks.
still sets record point-to-point times on our test courses, and it proved the
most comfortable riding car weīve yet punted to the snow country. For ride
excellence it probably falls short only of the Jaguar XJ6 - and that is a big
Rover engineers managed to blend handling and ride to keep individual proponents
of both facets quite contented. The car is shod with Avon radials - tenacious in
the wet, progressive and sensitive on dirt, and almost unbreakable with hard
driving on dry bitumen. And they ride beautifully, too, though Rover fits only
one type and tunes its suspension accordingly. Wear rates vary with the
individual - from average with the sporting motorist to exceptional for the
retired company director.
Itīs all done
with Roverīs well-developed 2000-type suspension. Thereīs nothing special about
double wishbones, but Rover engineers laid the coils over horizontally to take
the weight through the kingpins, give more spring travel, and reduce unsprung
weight. Líke the Jaguar XJ6, the Roverīs front suspension incorporates anti-dive
geometry for braking - by inclining the top wishbone. An anti-roll bar is
Dion rear tube axle is almost a trade-mark. This uses fixed differential with
double-universal half-shaft drives to the rear wheels, but the De Dion tube
behind the differential acts virtually as a live axle. Two extended trailing
arms locate the entire unit and coaxial coil/damper units provide the ride. Rear
radius rods cut fore-and-aft movement.
tramp the Roverīs rear end with hard acceleration on corrugated dirt, although a
slight spline looseness produced a definite click when moving from first to
reverse for parking manoeuvres.
through the Borg Warner-adapted auto-transmission is otherwise smooth. Rover
modified the normal Type 35 system to allow the intermediate gears to be
held-in. This raised the change points from 44 mph and 70 mph to 60 mph and 88
mph - giving a magnificent manual hold range on the gearbox for cornering and
braking. Acceleration, as with most auto gearboxes, is still at its maximum
using drive and letting the box shift at the engineīs peak.
engine is smooth and quiet. A high compression ratio (10.5 to 1) demands 100
octane fuel and the engine protests if you get a sour load from a little-used
depot, but you canīt fault its performance otherwise. It pulls the car strongly
with excellent high-speed acceleration that makes it safe for highway overtaking
and high speed handling. Its 184 bhp has to tug only 25 cwt which means you
canīt beat 17 seconds for the quarter, but youīll get 115 mph on the top end -
100 mph all day - and the aerodynamic wedge body pushes so little air that a
gallon goes around 20 mpg. My worst on test was 18.8 mpg - the best was 24 mpg.
A 15 gallon tank gives a good range - even at worst consumption level.
one mechanical concession to the V8 in production - beefier brakes. Its
engineers point out this wasnīt necessary to keep the car well ahead of general
world braking standards, but they were anxious to ensure the 3.5 matched the
2000īs stopping performance, despite the extra weight and power. There are
four-wheel discs - inboard at the rear to reduce unsprung weight.
of the safety scene. Rover has made much of its separate skin system, isolated
reinforced cockpit cocoon, progressive crumple rate end sections and
meccano-style, build-up panels. Mercedes surreptitiously suggests in its safety
literatur that Rover swiped its world patent on progressive crumple rate panels,
but I wonīt buy into that argument. The car has proven crash-safety qualities
and many additional features.
general driving ease must play a big part in safety, but other cockpit fittings
are more obvious - generous crash-padding, protected knobs, switches, recessed
levers and handles, simple precise instrumentation, ideal auxilliary controls
(headlight flashers etc.) and a marvellous ventilation system.
than 1200 miles and one of the most comprehensive tests to date, I noted a
number of items and areas for improvement. They covered: seat comfort - poor
contour, bad padding, lack of lateral support; steering lock and intermittent
windscreen washer/wiper; exterior style changes to grille badgework and rear
changed or fitted all these points to its just-released 1971 car. Style-wise
itīs switched the TT5 to a new black-out grille, with matching black rocker side
panels and leather-covered pillars. The wheel trims are also new. The entire
dash set-up has been re-arranged with circular dials and more auxiliary
instrumentation. The switchgear has been revised and the intermittent washers
have been fitted. Besides the anti-theft column lock, Rover has also built-in
turn-knob quarter vents.
steering (Adwest system) is optional with a smaller-diameter steering wheel.
Mechanically, the battery has been moved to the boot, and an alternator replaces
the generator. There are detail changes to handles, winders and fittings.
I can think
of only three other small points of criticism on this fine motor car - the radio
volume control is mounted on the wrong side, the wind noise is excessive at high
speed, and the big bonnet lid needs something better than an awkward manual
some small details, too - no lights in the gloveboxes, blind spots from the
windscreen wipers, lack of fresh-air volume at low speed from the ventilators
and a complicated key system.
You can live
with all of them, and quickly grow to love the Rover. Itīs imperfections are
small, and its compensations in comfortable, efficient, fast, smooth and
economical motoring are considerable. And you can still crash it safer than
almost anything elase!