Rover 3500 V8
Rover 2000 established new standards of ride comfort and refinement when it was
introduced, but from the first there were those who said that its impeccable
handling deserved more multi-cylindered power. Temporary appeasement came with
the TC version but the 3500 should now silence them, even if a mere 160 bhp from
a 3 ½ litre V8 indicates plenty of untapped potential.
Exposure to the
V8 power unit´s easy-going charms for just a few days helps to explain
trans-Atlantic preference for the arrangement. Despite an awesome 78% power
increase over the original 2000 SC, the 3500 delivers its instant urge with
complete effortlessness and tractability, at whatever speed you prod the
accelerator. This amenability is evident in starting and idling too, whilst the
car seems just as happy to waffle along city streets as it is to sear along the
open highway. Nevertheless, the driver remains “in touch” with the power unit as
it purrs at him, in subdued but still audible tones, and it must be stretched to
near maximum power before fan whine becomes a little intrusive.
The car´s soft
responsiveness is enhanced, of course, by the standard Borg Warner 35 automatic
transmission. Since last autumn this has been doctored to suit Rover´s own
preference for the model. The results were especially pleasing to those of our
test team who normally are not automatically-minded, for the rearrangements
provide a full degree of manual override together with automatic change points
which are unusually sensitive to accelerator depression. For example, gentle
acceleration prompts an upward change into top at 20 mph, half throttle extends
it to 40 and full pedal movement without kick-down delays it past 60 mph.
Similarly, moving the selector to 1 will find low ratio at any speed from rest
to 35 mph, depending on accelerator depression. The practical value of these
settings is demonstrated by the similarity in our acceleration times using
kick-down and manual hold. Understandably, automatic upchanges are not always as
silky as on some Borg Warner applications, yet response to kick-down comes
smoothly enough with only a couple of seconds delay.
nicest feature of this transmission is the delightful selector action which
clickety-clicks its way through 1, 2, D, N, R and P with no nasty notches and
gates to circumvent. Just a handily placed button inset in the top of its knob
avoids unwitting engagement. This need not to be depressed for the half inch
movement between D and 2 or when using the 1, 2, D progression on a standing
start and we got almost juveline pleasure in playing with the thing in these
consumption seems very satisfactory for the performance available on a car which
is no featherweight. Our figures include our expensive performance testing stint
but quiet driving seems to effect only marginal improvement – we never obtained
more than 23 mpg even when we were at our most virtous. The 15 gallon tank
includes 1 ¼ gallons held in reserve by a facia control, so effective range is
just under 300 miles. We are pleased to note that the oil consumption matches
the 2000´s moderation in this respect.
In the past we
have praised the Rover 2000´s unflurried ride and classic cornering behaviour.
If we say that we are just a trifle disappointed with the 3500 it must be
clearly understood that it is only on the basis of the natural comparison with a
close relative. Even by absolute standards the ride is still extremely good,
especially on dips and undulations at cruising speed. At a slower pace the
fatter radials feel more knobbly and cat´s-eyes thump typifies the 3500´s
greater low-speed harshness which is probably heard more than felt. Changed rear
suspension mountings and altered spring ratinga may contribute to this as well.
The use of
aluminium engine castings has limited the V8´s weight increase to a mere 50 lb,
which does not seriously upset basic weight distribution or cornering balance.
Even so, the steering feels heavier as cornering speeds and angles build up,
despite lower gearing. Also the 3500´s stronger understeer adds to the amount of
wheel movement needed, whilst Avon radials and the de Dion rear suspension
permit no rear-end wheelspin or deviation, even under power, in the dry. This
insistent grip is almost too much of a good thing sometimes and robs the car of
that delightful throttle-induced steering balance which the 2000 possesses. It
takes a wet surface to produce any oversteer on the 3500 but it is then as
controllable and progressive as ever. Brisk cornering produces quite a lot of
roll but excellent seat support prevents this from causing serious passenger
Apart from its
extra effort, the steering remains very similar to the 2000´s with about an inch
of free movement and plenty of road feel, even to the extent of some “kick-back”
over certain ruts. The directional stability is excellent along ridges and white
lines and the car is only mildly affected by blustery cross-winds.
The brakes are
very powerful and fade resistant. Our drivers did not find the pedal height and
arc ideal, though, and similarly the efficient handbrake was too close for most
drivers to get a comfortable pull angle. It had no difficulty in holding the car
up or down a 1 in 3 gradient.
From behind the
wheel nearly everything has that functional feel and appearance which makes the
driving position seem more like the cockpit of a stratocruiser. The seat itself
has vast fore-and-aft and rake adjustment and the rather flat cushion can be
tilted back by using spacers provided in the tool-kit. In any case, ample
legroom ensures good thigh support and the nicest compliment we can pay to the
seat shaping is to say that you remain very comfortable and secure on long fast
journeys without any exaggerated support or an initial impression of
sumptuousness. Vision and headroom are satisfactory without being exceptional. A
rather high screen rail and thickish pillars with quarter-lights are noticeable
and the near-side front wing is out of sight, so it is difficult to see the
side-lamp marker on that wing at night. Most drivers will see the rear
extremities, though, and there is good rear vision. We weren´t too happy about
the convex interior mirror, for its diminished image is disconcerting and tall
drivers complained that their view was chopped off at the top by the roof line.
The whole rear glass is spanned by it, however.
wipers manage to cope with the wrap-around screen edges but have to leave a
triangular blind spot at the top and bottom corners on the driver´s side.
Electric washers are conveniently worked by the same control. Instruments and
controls are located with regard to function before style, and the designers
have provided a layout which works well yet remains in good taste. The main
rectangular instrument has an accurate ribbon speedometer with trip and total
mileage recorders and is flanked by fuel contents and water-temperature gauges.
Above are illuminated warning panels for handbrake, ignition, oil pressure, high
beam, flashers and excess choke.
The rev counter
which is standard on the 2000 TC is an extra on the 3500, but discreet
speedometer markings indicate maximum speeds in first and second which
correspond to a realistic 5000 rpm. An accurate clock is suspended in full view
in the centre of the top screen rail, but must be removed to regulate or restart
widely spaced at steering column level along the facia and are named as well as
symbol marked and shape coded. Two stalks on either side of the column work
headlamp flashing and dipping (left) and penetrating horns and indicators
(right). Heater, radio, choke and petrol reserve are placed lower in the facia
centre, before the gear lever. The 17-inch steering wheel has rake but no reach
adjustment and the pendant floor pedals are well aligned directly before the
driver with almost too much stretching room for an idle left foot. The
accelerator is smooth and comfortably placed but the double-width brake pedal
causes drivers with smaller shoes to lift their heel well off the floor to
attack it dead centre. Instruments are illuminated by rheostat control which
also includes the gear selector and the four headlamps give a splendid spread to
match the car´s performance at night. Reversing lamps are built into the rear
clusters, clear of mud from the back wheels, and extra positions on the headlamp
and sidelamp (separate) switches cater for auxiliary lamps and one-side-only
It´s said that
the design team responsible for the idetical 2000 were told to style the
interior like Scandinavian furniture. After five years of familiarity we still
think the result is the best compromise we know between contemporary and
traditional. Leather seat trim is well matched with simulated material on
armrests and non-wearing surfaces. The facia has a tasteful and practical black
pvc shelf fitted with an anti-skid mat, a padded top rail across its entire
width with formica wood-grained inserts between which curve around to continue
along top door rails. The headling is an attractive plastic fleck design and
unfussy door trims match the upholstery and lower facia trim. Good-quality bound
carpet covers the floor and the sides of deep footwells whilst satin-finish
stainless steel tread-plates handsomely protect door sills. Everywhere there is
this clever and unpretentious blend of traditional and modern materials to
produce a harmonious, well-finished result.
Entry and exit
is aided by generous front-entry space, with doors held to almost ninety degrees
by strong check links. However, there is only just enough rear foot-entry space,
and deep foot-wells can complicate exit for the less agile. Once seated, you
will find four armchairs with little to choose between them for comfort,
especially if the front seats are set well forward which gives everyone of
average height sufificient legroom and headroom. The rear seat is meant to
cosset two in shaped luxury with padded rear quarter panels designed to support
dozing heads but the wide centre armrest will fold away to give a third adult a
are located at the front and rear of the centre console and a single central
roof lights obeys courtesy switches on all doors, although it is distracting to
drive with it on. Pop-up buttons are depressed to lock passenger doors although
there are no separate childproof locks.
The 35ßß´s V8
power plant not only propels the car very rapidly but also manages to do it with
subdued dignity. The engine and exhaust remain completely unobstrusive until fan
whine intrudes near maximum power and the addition of proper air extractors
saves one resorting to noisy front quarter windows – the quarter rear ones we
preferred to use on the extractorless 2000 are now fixed on the 3500.
the bigger tyres have introduced a certain amount of road noise over lateral
ridges and coarse-dressed surfaces, which is a pity because the 2000´s are
beyond criticism in this respect. Despite this, the 3500 is masterfully discreet
as you try to hold it down to the legal limit on main road journeys and it goes
without saying that body creaks and sizzles are completely absent.
Strip vents in
the facia directly before front occupants have a vertical direction control as
well as volume adjusters. They are linked to the two-speed heater booster (which
is sensibly wired to operate also when the ignition key is turned to the
“accessory” position). Ram delivery is improved by the incorporation of rear
extractor ducts and rear window demisting is now achieved quite easily, although
the quiet lower fan speed is still needed at town speeds. This applies also to
the heater which has reasonable output with a wide range of instant temperature
variation. Windscreen ducts span the entire glass width and there is also
excellent distribution at floor level, reaching both front and rear occupants´
feet. Our car had the nasty habbit of blowing cold air at one´s feet when the
direction lever was set for face level ventilation only, an annoyance we have
not experienced before.
Safety is a
very prominent feature of this Rover design and is not just a tacked-on
afterthought. The front and the rear of the body skeleton is designed to
collapse progessively on major impact and the steering box is well out of the
way, high on the scuttle. Anchorage points for safety belts are built in at
front and rear whilst our car was fitted with the standard front belts which
incorporate adjustment for the shoulder strap. Doors are burstproof and the
facia, sunvisors and front seat backs are all generously padded; front
occupants´ legs are protected by rounded control shaping and parcel compartments
made of padded, collapsible material. Even the friction-held rake adjustment for
front seats will yield in a violent rear impact, to obviate neck whiplash injury
which is becoming a matter for increasing concern. The AA Gold Metal for Safety
was awarded to the design in 1966 and this impressive list helps to show why.
One solitary criticism is that the door controls look a bit hard and spiteful
compared with some later designs.
boot would be generous but for the width-robbing spare wheel location and the
presence of the battery on the opposite side, although the latter is well
shielded by its plastic cover. The optional wheel mounting point on the lid
seems expensive but is a worthwhile extra to make room for holiday luggage.
There is no sill and automatic illumination of the lined depths is provided, but
we noticed a tendency for rain to drip in from the opened lid in wet weather.
Inside the car there are useful lipped rear-window and facia shelves, whilst the
lower plastic “bins” swallow sizeable bric-a-brac and are lockable too.
Apart from a
lower “chin” below the front bumper, new rubber faced overriders and appropiate
badges, it is impossible to distinguish the 3500 from 2000 models, and even the
rear ventilation extractors are undetectable from outside. It shares with them
the bolted-on body construction over a strong skeleton base unit and the
underside is effectively sprayed with protective compound in manufacture,
although it is a pity that the underside of the sill panels do not share this
treatment. Front grille, nave plates, window surrounds and door tread plates are
all of stainless steel. Arden green paintwork on our test car was thoroughly
applied in both the obvious and less obvious places, whilst concealed drain
channels under bonnet and boot are painted with a corrosion-resistant black
bituminous finish. The chrome bumpers stand well clear of the bodywork and their
mountings go straight through the chassis. Construction and finish seem to
justify the advertisement which boasts “A Rover is still a Rover”.
Supported by a
crude prop, everything under the bonnet seems to fit in remakably well. All
routine topping-up items are easy to reach with even direct access to the
carburettor dashpots without having to disturb the air cleaner first. A spate of
carburettor flooding made us appreciate this virtue half way through our test.
There are four fuses and a 45 amp alternator serves the 60 amp hour battery
which has had to be relegated to the boot on the 3500 where it intrudes on space
but is easily reached in its acid resistant plastic cradle. Width-robbing inner
wing flanges rather complicate spark plug access but the distributor and coil
are excellently placed, while the fuel pump and oil filter are easily reached
too. The filter element together with engine and axle oils are changed every
5000 miles, when just one grease point also requires attention. Hydraulic
tappets and disc brakes all round are self-adjusting, of course. The screw
pillar jack fits into four points below the doors normally occupied by rubber
grommets. It lives beside the spare wheel, together with a useful tool which
includes spanners, seat spacers and a tyre pressure gauge.
addition to Rover´s P6 range offers exciting performance to fully exploit the
design´s stable handling qualities. It also manages to stay amenable and free
from all temperament which is important to people contemplating long term
ownership and mixed conditions of use. No one will be surprised that it uses
more fuel that the 2000 but it is a pity that its steering, road noise and
low-speed ride comfort are not their equal.
respects the 3500 inherits those notable features which makes the range so
distinctive. An uncompromisingly comfortable four seater with barely adequate
boot space, it is both refreshingly styled and well constructed. What ot sets
out to do, it does very well, unlike some modern designs that attempt to attract
everybody and finish up satisfying nobody.
individualism and strength of character, you don´t use this Rover – you take it
– 60 mph 10,8
top speed 112
consumption 21 mpg
AA / UK