Rover 3500 S
comparison with Triumph 2.5
When the choice
of a new car boils down to something in the executive saloon class around the
£2,000 mark, there is nothing British other than a Ford Granada GXL, Vauxhall
Ventora, Rover 3500 S or Triumph 2.5 PI. The Ford and the Vauxhall are built by
American-owned companies, and for some reason which mostly escapes us, they do
not carry as much prestige as the two British Leyland offerings. As a pair,
therefore, the Rover and the Triumph come very much in the same class as each
other. They are both quite compact saloons, around 15ft long, with performance
in the bracket that gives them a top speed comfortably over 100 mph.
alone they are much less equal. In their cheapest forms there is a difference of
£212 to be
considered. Put power steering and automatic transmission on the Triumph and add
a radio and most of the gap to the Rover price will have been swallowed up. On
the other hand, power steering is equally desirable on the Rover and to get a
cloth seat trim, which is a no-cost option on the Triumph, you must pay £24
extra. Both cars have heated rear windows and inertia-reel seat belts as
comparison purposes, we should have used manual versions of both cars, with
power steering, for our assessment in this test. Unfortunately the Triumph
demonstrator was an automatic without power steering, which complicated the task
but gave us some useful experience of a different version. For the performance
table we have therefore used figures from previous tests since neither car has
been modified since these went on record.
Description - Rover
Rover´s P6 series, the 3500 S made its debut in October 1971 - some
three-and-a-half years after its automatic counterpart (the 3500). Body
construction and suspension layouts closely follow the unique pattern pioneered
by the 2000 model in 1963. It features a welded steel base unit to which are
bolted the exterior body panels and mechanical components.
suspension is unusual in having transverse lower wishbones allied to
longitudinal (leading) upper links. The latter actuate coil-type springs which
abut against the rigid bulkhead portion of the base unit. Telescopic dampers and
an anti-roll bar complete the arrangement.
unconventional system is employed in the rear. Essentially a de Dion layout, it
is unusual in having fixed-length drive shafts. The resultant track changes are
taken care of by making the de Dion tube telescopic. This sliding tube
construction enables fore-and-aft location to be effected by means of Watt
linkages, one at each end. Each incorporates a large pressed-steel trailing link
beneath the axle and a tubular leading link above it. The lower ones actuate
coil springs and telescopic dampers.
Variable-ratio, cam-and-roller steering is employed, with power assistance as an
optional extra. A non-adjustable leading "track rod" (matching the suspension´s
upper link) forms a direct connection between the drop arm and the dajacent road
wheel. The other wheel is steered by an adjustable transverse rod, a relay lever
and a second longitudinal rod. A hydraulic damper is incorporated in the relay
Buick license, the vee-eight engine employs die-cast alloy for the block and
heads. Valves are overhead, actuated by hydraulic tappets, pushrods and rockers.
There are five main bearings. Carburation is by a pair of the lastest-Type HIF 6
SUs. Thanks to a slightly more efficient exhaust system, peak power (152.5 bhp
DIN at 5000 rpm) is some 5 bhp above that of the automatic version.
diaphragm-spring clutch is hydraulically actuated and is counted to an
extensively strengthened version of the gearbox employed in 2000 and 2000 TC
models. A short propellor shaft continues from here to the final-drive unit,
which features an extended pinion shaft enclosed in a rigid torque tube.
The latter´s front end serves as one of the assembly´s three widely-separated
mounting points; the remaining two are at the extremities of a cross-member
bolted to the back of the final-drive housing. A short Panhard rod helps to
resist cornering loads.
are employed for all four wheels, those at the rear being mounted inboard of the
drive shafts. An in-line servo unit is fitted.
Description - Triumph
The 2.5 PI is directly descended
from the Triumph 2000, which also made its debut at the 1963 Earls Court Show.
Some four years later a ´stroked´ version of the 2000´s engine, equipped with
Lucas petrol injection, was used to power the TR5. Triumph were quick to realise
that they now had the ingredients for a first-class sporting saloon. The
outcome, a year later (October 1968), was the introduction of the 2.5 PI. Twelve
months afterwards, both the 2.5 PI and the parent 2000 were superseded by
much-improved Mk II versions.
Both cars (2000 and 2.5 PI) share
the same basic body shell. Of orthodox all-welded construction, it features four
large doors and generous glass area.
Front suspension is of the
McPherson-strut type, employing coil springs. The forged-steel transverse arms
are triangulated by means of diagonally-disposed leading links whose
chassis-attachment points are designed to provide a controlled amount of
compliance. There is no anti-roll bar.
Rear wheels are independently
suspended on semi-trailing, cast-alloy arms. These pivot on diagonally-disposed
pressed-steel members (one for each arm) whose inner ends are bolted to the nose
of the final-drive unit. Bolted to the back of the latter is a third, transverse
member (also a steel pressing). The whole assembly is resiliently mounted at
four widely-separated points (the outer ends of the two diagonal members and the
two extremeties of the transverse one). Coil springs and telescopic dampers
complete the suspension arrangements. Hook-type joints are employed for the
drive shafts, each of which has a splined coupling to accommodate changes in
Steering is by Alford and Alder
rack-and-pinion. Integral power assistance is listed as an extra-cost option.
An in-line six of conventional
design, the 2.5 PI´s power unit employs cast iron for the block and head. The
crankshaft (also a casting) runs in four main bearings. Valves are overhead,
actuated by pushrods and rockers.
The 2.5 PI is unusual in having
the Mk II petrol injection system. With its six individual inlet tracts, each
with its own throttle-plate, the set-up is conducive to excellent breathing. The
result, despite the use of mild 2000 camshaft (as distinct from the sportier
pattern employed in TR models), is an impressive 132 bhp DIN at 5450 rpm. More
important, the torque curve peaks at a modest 2000 rpm (153 lb ft).
In basic form, the car has a
hydraulically-actuated diaphragm-spring clutch driving an all-synchromesh
gearbox. Listed as an extra-cost option is a Laycock-de Normanville overdrive.
Yet another option is the Borg Warner model 35 automatic transmission. In all
three cases, the final-drive unit has a ratio of 3.45-to-1.
Brakes are disc at the front,
drum at the rear. A direct-acting servo is used.
Performance - Rover 3500 S
Never has a car been so
transformed by the adoption of a manual transmission in place of automatic as
the Rover 3500. As if by magic the whole car has been endowed with a new
sporting character which puts it much more in the class of something like a BMW.
Because the vee-8 engine is largely built of aluminium the whole car weighs only
135 lb more than a Rover 2000 TC and it has all the long-legged high-geared
feeling of the four-cylinder versions, plus a lot more urge with a tremendously
eager response to the throttle. The vee-8 is also much smoother and more refined
than the four, to the extent of making the 3500 S feel like a turbine car in
Starting calls for generous use
of the manual choke when cold and we found the knob could be pushed back a long
time before the warning tell-tale came on as a reminder that normal engine
temperature had been reached. There were no flatspots anywhere in the range and
the cold-start drive-away characteristics were excellent.
From a standing start the 3500 S
rockets off to reach 60 mph in just over 9 sec and then goes on to clock 100
mph in under 30 sec. Top gear flexibility is remarkable, the car pulling quite
strongly from only 10 mph in top.
Clutch pedal effort is a heavy 44
lb. and the gearbox was notchy and stiff to use, with a non-too-positive and
rather rubbery feel about the shift mechanism. Ratios, though, are well spaced
and high, with third good for 90 mph and second capable of nearly 60 mph.
Performance - Triumph 2.5 PI
The petrol injection version of
the Triumph siy-cylinder saloon has been developed very much with performance in
mind. The extra half-litre of capacity and a sporty camshaft combine with the
injection characteristics to make the engine very like that fitted to the TR6
two-seater. There is rather less peak power, but a better spread of torque in
the middle of the range.
To judge from recent
correspondence in Autocar, owners often have trouble with the injection
engine. During the course of this test, which admittedly was in mild weather, we
found the engine always fired first try as long as the manual choke knob was
pulled right out to the limit of its travel. Almost as soon as the engine was
running, the control could be pushed back, and this practice was essential to
avoid a very sooty exhaust trail and spark plug fouling. Once the car had been
parked for over an hour, some use of the choke was again required for easy
starting, but only momentarily.
The manual gearbox on this model
normally has quite a light action but suffers from unpleasant baulking if the
synchromesh is required to do much work. The clutch effort required (30lb) is
low, but a badly designed throttle linkage gives a jerky take-up which makes
traffic driving uncomfortable for passengers. Generally speaking the automatic
option is well suited to the car, apart from a tendency for the creep rate to
vary with fluctuations in idling speed (a characteristic of the injection
Performance of the manual PI is
brisk, with a 0 to 60 mph time of 11.5 sec recorded and 0 to 100 mph possible in
just over 40 sec.
There is no doubt that the Rover
is by far the quicker car, as well it should be with an extra 20 bhp and 50lb ft
of torque. In terms of weight, its built-up construction gives it a 2cwt
handicap, but many will prefer the better ride and solidarity this brings with
On top speed alone, the Rover has
a 14 mph advantage over the Triumph although both can be cruised happily at 100
mph. In fact, the addition of overdrive to the Triumph (not available on the
Rover) makes its motorway behaviour the more restful of the two.
Apart from the obvious
differences in the standing-start acceleration times (Rover 2.4 sec quicker to
60 mph, and 13 sec quicker to 100 mph) the Rover is much more flexible at low
speeds and a lot more eager in the 70 mph plus brackets. In the Triumph you know
you are driving a tuned engine, whereas in the Rover the comparative silence and
smoothness add considerably to the refinement and could fool you into thinking
that it is a de-rated unit.
Fuel consumption, among other
things, is a function of vehicle weight, so it is only to be expected that the
Triumph should prove the more economical of the two. Differences, though, are
slight, the Rover returning 20.8 mpg overall, against the Triumph´s 21.8 mpg. At
a steady motorway 70 mph the figures are 24.7 mpg for the Rover and 26.3 mpg for
the Triumph. In automatic form both cars drop to around 18 mpg.
Whilst there is little to choose
between the two cars in terms of ultimate stopping power, the Rover requires
appreciably more pedal effort during the course of normal check-braking. In
addition, its brakes are inclined to squeal and ´wire-brush´ when hot. Neither
model suffers from fade problems. Another good point concerns the effectiveness
of the parking brakes (despite the use of rear discs on the Rover).
Ride and Handling
Even now, nine years after its
inception, Rover´s unconventional layout is able to hold its own with most
competition. Road noise insulation is good, there being little bump-thumping on
any but the roughest of surfaces. Some of the coarser asphalt roads generate a
certain amount of background hum, but this is never troublesome.
Even more impressive is the
quality of the ride itself. The car has a pleasantly taut feel, yet the
suspension copes with rough going in a most pleasing way. There is never any
float or pitch, but hard braking does result in considerable dive.
Steering response is good,
especially near the straight-ahead position. Moderately hard cornering results
in considerable body roll and a fair amount of understeer, but the latter is
effectively camouflaged by power assistance. Fiercer treatment causes the
balance to revert towards neutral, but is accompanied by a great deal of tyre
The Triumph´s more conventional
layout provides even better road-noise insulation, but the ride quality is a
trifle less impressive. Our main criticism concerns a tendency towards pitching
over certain short-wave undulations. In addition, there is noticeable rear end
´squat´ under hard acceleration, but this causes no discomfort.
Despite fairly low gearing, the
Triumph´s unassisted steering requires considerable effort. Without doubt, many
buyers will want the optional power system. This apart, the car handles
extremely well. Cornering ability is good and there is relatively little roll.
Undoubtedly, it is a much more ´chuckable´ car than the Rover. One of the
penalties associated with this is a slightly less stable feel at high speeds.
Another oddity is a tendency to veer to the right under hard acceleration and to
the left when lifting off.
In the main, both cars are quiet
and possess a distinct air of refinement. Road-noise insulation is good and the
wind noise is moderate at all but the highest speeds (over 100 mph).
Almost inevitably, the Rover´s
vee-eight engine with oversquare dimensions give it a marked advantage. Apart
from a subdued burble from the exhaust, the unit does little to advertise its
At low and medium speeds, the
Triumph is surprisingly quiet, too. When driven hard, on the other hand,
induction and exhaust notes blend to produce the kind of noise regarded by some
as an essential part of a sporting model.
Fittings and Furniture - Rover
It is now two years since the
Rover P6 was revised in detail, a new facia and instruments being the most
obvious improvements. The current layout is excellent, once a driver new to the
car has learnt to find his way around the unconventional controls.
In front of the driver is a panel
containing large and very legible speedometer and rev counter, flanked on the
left by an oil pressure gauge and voltmeter combined, and on the right by the
fuel gauge and temperature gauge sharing a similar round dial. A pair of stalks,
one each side of the column, control indicators, horn and lamps with rotary
master lamps and map light switches on a central panel. This panel also contains
the wiper and washer switch (with variable delay intermittent wiping provision),
hazard warning control and interior lamps switch which also operates a neat map
reading light over the passenger´s knees. On each side of the centre radio
speaker grille are hooked knobs, the one on the left operating a 2 1/2-gal fuel
reserve and that on the right controlling cold start mixture.
Each side of the facia in front
of the occupants knees is a deep vertical pocket with padded lid and small
cylinder lock. Above the facia rail in line with the instrument binnacle is a
On the 3500 S the seats are
trimmed in Ambla ventilated pvc instead of the leather which is standard on the
automatic 3500. For
£24 extra you
can specify leather or a durable brushed nylon cloth. We found there was too
much lumbar support on the test car and not enough lateral location to withstand
the considerable roll angles which could be induced during fast cornering. The
back seat is shaped for only two, with insufficient padding in the centre even
for emergency use. The Rover is therefore strictly a four-seater. Rear doors are
rather narrow, making it difficult to clamber in over the deep sills and legroom
is severely limited. There are no child locks on the rear doors.
By medium saloon-car standards
the boot of the Rover is both short and shallow in parts. The spare wheel
standing on the left taking up much of the precious width as well. For an extra
£18 a kit is
available for mounting the spare wheel on top of the boot lid, but it then
blocks rear vision and spoils the counterbalance of the lid.
Fittings and Furniture -
Three years ago, the Mk II
Triumphs were announced and these were much improved in many ways. The facia,
which was really designed for the Stag but appeared on the 2000 and 2.5 PI
first, is a fine example of how to lay out an instrument panel. In front of the
driver are a matching speedometer and rev counter with an eight-way warning lamp
cluster in between, and three supplementary dials on the outboard edges. A stalk
on the right of the column works the indicators, headlamps flashers and horn in
the usual way, while a matching one on the left operates two-speed wipers and
electric washers with a spring-loaded position for single flick wiping.
In front of the passenger is a
locking glove box and under the facia each side a useful parcels shelf. Seats
are trimmed in pvc or cloth for the same price and we found them comfortable and
well supporting. In the back there is a central folding armrest and a very
reasonable amount of legroom. Rear doors have no childproof locks.
Apart from a high rear sill the
Triumph´s luggage boot is large and convenient to use. The spare wheel is out of
the way under the floor.
Fittings and Furniture -
As far as the driver is
concerned, this pair of cars appear very similar. Both cars have well laid out
instruments and controls with large, easy-to-read dials and no owner would get
confused once he had become familiar with one or the other. The unconventional
arrangement of stalks on the Rover (pull right-hand lever to sound horn)
continued to annoy us and we wonder how long Rover can stick to this
The seats in the Rover are not as
comfortable as those in the Triumph and there is room for only two in the back.
As far as legroom is concerned the Triumph is much better, its extra 2 1/2-in.
of wheelbase paying handsome dividends here. Neither car has childproof door
locks, a mean omission on cars which are meant to be for family use.
Both cars have excellent heating
and ventilation systems, the Triumph having four adjustable fresh-air outlets
and the Rover two, unusually placed directly in front of the driver´s and
passenger´s faces. The Rover has opening quarter-vents front and rear, while the
Triumph has them in the front only.
For luggage, the Triumph has a
15cu.ft boot compared with 16 1/4cu.ft for the Rover, but when it comes to
actual dimensions the Triumph is about 31in. long by between 15 and 20in. high
by 54in. wide for most of its length. Rover´s dimensions are 32in. long by
between 15 and 26in. high by only 36in. wide.
As is so often the case in these
double tests I would really like to combine the best features of both cars into
one ideal model. I would want to keep the Rover engine and power train but fit
it into the Triumph body. In the Rover I found the scuttle and body sides much
too high to see over comfortably and I did not like its excessive roll on
corners and peculiar handling characteristics. If I were to be chaffeur driven
and have to use the back seat, it would definitely be the Triumph for me.
Because it is so effortless and
refined, my first instrinct is to choose the Rover but I really feel the
shortcomings would get me down in the end and cause me to change my mind. By a
very close margin therefore I would choose the Triumph with power steering and
overdrive. Any doubts I may have had about the reliability of the petrol
injection equipment now been dispelled by our long-term experience of a Mk I 2.5
PI owned by the company. As a family man I cannot understand why both
manufacturers fail to fit childproof locks to the rear doors (something you get
these days even on a Ford Escort or Morris Marina). The release levers do not
override the sill pips, however, so I suppose the answer is to unscrew and
remove these each time you carry children in the back.
Were I shopping for a
medium-sized (and medium-priced) British saloon, both these models would be on
my short list. Indeed, their only rival would be the Ford Granada, but that is
Both cars are derived from
basically nine-year-old designs. Even so, the Triumph´s specification has much
in common with that of newer and more expensive rivals. Although radically
different, the Rover is also able to hold its own on most counts.
The biggest contrasts between the
two concern styling and luggage capacity. With the benefit of an extensive
facelift some three years ago, the Triumph has much the more pleasing lines.
Among its practical advantages are an appreciably lower waistline, clearly
defined corners (from the driving seat) and easier passenger access. Spare wheel
storage beneath the boot´s false floor makes for greater area and a more useable
shape. Unlike the Rover, though, the Triumph´s boot has an awkwardly high sill.
Where ride and handling are
concerned, there isn´t a great deal to choose. The Rover has a marginally better
ride and feels a little more stable at high speeds. On the other hand, the
Triumph rolls appreciably less and is the more handleable car on winding roads.
Predictably, I prefer the Rover´s
power-assisted steering (an extra-cost option), but past experience suggests
that the Triumph´s rack-and-pinion layout is equally good (possibly even better)
in power-assisted form.
The optional automatic
transmission robbed the Triumph of much of its sparkle, thereby making
comparisons somewhat meaningless. Although the Rover would have a performance
advantage in any event, a manual 2.5 PI has a distinctly sporting feel and
performs very adequately.
Choosing would be a formidable
task. I love the Rover´s silky-smooth engine and effortless performance, but
prefer the Triumph´s low waistline and large boot. Other points in the Triumph´s
favour are its atractively-styled interior and no-cost option of brushed-nylon
Ignoring price, I might well
settle for the Rover in power-steering form. However, a Triumph with
power-steering and overdrive shows a saving of over
£160 - almost
enough for a year´s fuel. This would just tip the scales in its favour.
|0 - 60 mph
|top speed (mean / best)
||122 / 125 mph
||106 / 107 mph
|fuel consumption overall
Autocar / UK