Once in love with Rover
engines in medium-sized cars is all the rage this year. Vauxhall have done it to
both the Victor and the Viva, and now Rover have followes suit with the 2000.
But donīt imagine for a moment that thatīs the end of the story, even with
petrol at its current price.
Of course, the
excruciatingly named Three Thousand Five (why not just Three-five, or even 350
to come into line with the Jaguar range?) was always on, right from the day we
first heard whispers about Roverīs work on anglicising the all-alloy Buick V8.
This engine was certainly the answer to the prayer of that hefty maiden, the 3
Litre, but equally clearly the numbers involved were not enough to make
production an economic proposition for this car alone. There had to be something
to make the effort really worth while, and in the absence of a totally new car
that something had to be the 2000 with the V8 slotted into it.
So the new V8
has gone in. It sits as far back as possible, and (one suspects) a bit higher
than Rover would have liked. It is claimed to be no heavier than the original
2000 engine, but whether or not that is so keeping it close to the bulkhead has
upset the balance of the car no more than could be helped. However, there have
been changes to both engine and front suspension. The air cleaner arrangement
has been totally changed from that in the 3.5, with the box stuck up near the
bulkhead. The exhaust has been re-routed, the oil filter position has had to be
changed, and of course the throttle and choke linkages have had to be engineered
to suit. On the suspension side, the bottom links had to be changed to clear the
engine, while the springs are uprated and the dampers are larger. And since
Rover decided that larger wheels and tyres (185/14, no less) were needed to
handle the extra power, the wheel hubs are now offset so that the wider rims
will fit. Tyres are all-new Avon textile radials.
of heavier steering problems, Rover have fitted a Burman variable-ratio
recirculating ball system to the 3500 which is lower-geared than the fixed-ratio
setup in the 2000.
Of the engine
we need say little, because it should still be fresh in everyoneīs mind after
the extensive treaties written about it last October. Of classic GM design, but
in light alloy instead of iron, carefully redetailed by Rover to bring it up to
their own requirements in the way of quietness and durability and made largely
in the Alvis factory at Coventry. It endows the 3500 with 184 gross bhp at 5000
rpm and a massive 226lbft of torque at the comparatively high figure of 3000
What one has to
remember is that these are gross figures, and that what actually reaches
the back wheels is going to be less due in large measure to the transmission,
which should be even more familiar to you than the engine, unfortunately. Not
that we have anything against the Borg Warner 35; itīs just that we must confess
to grievous disappointment that the 3500, like the 3.5, should have emerged with
automatic as standard and no chance of a manual box even if you want it. One can
follow the reasons behind doing this with the 3.5, but the 3500 inherits the
2000 tradition as a splendid diverīs car rather than an old manīs one, and as
we shall see the BW 35 is neither going to help it retain this tradition nor
make the most of the engineīs potential. All the more harrowing is the fact that
we know Rover flirted with the idea of a five-speed ZF box (presumably like the
one used by Aston) for a long time and rejected it. The only hope is that they
may elect to make something similar themselves a course of action that seems
logical, as they already make the much improved four-speed 2000 unit.
Anyway, what is
the car like to drive? Although our test specimen was devoid of badges, other
than in the privacy of the test track, there was just enough difference about it
to give it away to those who really looked. The fat tyres, for one, and the big
extra air scoop beneath the front bumper to take care of the bigger radiator
area. On the other hand there is but one tailpipe nothing there to give the
game away while from the driving seat you get precious little to tell you that
you arenīt in a 2000 Automatic. There is a 3500 blazoned across the steering
wheel spokes; the speedometer reads to 140 mph instead of 120; the transmission
selector is the floor-mounted one from the 3.5.....
Then you start
up, and at once it feels and sounds different. Certainly no quieter, definitely
a lot smoother, undoubtedly different. When you move away from rest the thingis
smooth and dignified. If you try and blast it away from traffic light it is
still smooth and dignified, and not all that fast. This is a measure both of the
fact that the transmission milks a lot of the apparently impressive power low
down and that the car weighs over a ton and a half with one hefty person and a
full fuel load aboard. V8 or no, you are going to have to resign yourself to the
fact that a determined driver in (say) a Corsair 2000E is going to leave you in
the traffic lights Grand Prix. From about 50 mph upwards, as your torque
converter starts to lock up in second gear and take you through to 80 or so, you
will have the laugh on him, but there is certainly no kick in the back away from
When you try
and park you really start to have trouble. Lower geared or not, the steering is
very heavy we would have thought impossibly so for some of the more ladylike
ladies of our acquaintance. Once on the move things are not so bad until you try
some ambitious cornering, but there will be those who will not like this car
until it has power steering which at the moment is not even an option.
On the credit
side the splendid visibility of the 2000 is of course retained, so that the car
is never a handful in traffic in the same way as its big sister.
This is not,
however, a town carriage. It shocked us by returning a fuel consumption of 12
mpg during a two-day period in which it never left Greater London, whereas the
overall consumption during the ten days we spent with it was about 17 mpg and on
one Mobil-type run up a fairly clear Great North Road and back it managed no
less than 23 mpg. But there is no getting away from the fact that it is going to
drink petrol an awful lot faster than the 2000, and on long runs the larger (15
gallon) fuel tank is much appreciated even though, together with the bigger
wheel and the battery banished from up front, it hogs already-limited space.
So, as we said,
automatic transmission or no this is too heavy and thirsty a car to be ideal
around town. It must therefore belong in the world of long-distance, high-speed,
luxury touring, where the traditional 2000 handling and comfort is allied to
new-found performance. Ah, but what has happened to that handling? Is the
comfort all it ever was? And just how crushing is the performance?
We hesitate to
say that the handling has gone to pot. The car can still go round corners faster
than most. Yet compared with the 2000 it has undeniably last something. Partly
through the different balance, partly through the changed steering, partly no
doubt because an automatic transmission with a limited manual override never
encourages fast cornering anyway. The 3500 understeers more strongly than the
2000, and the bigger tyres, while conferring impressive roadholding, do nothing
to cut down the alarming amount of wheel-winding which has to be indulged in.
With a good deal of lock on and the car travelling fast the loads are as much as
a strong man can deal with. Power oversteer is not the answer. On most bends,
piling on the power simply makes the understeer rather worse; there is no
suggestion that the back end is helping things by starting to run wide.
extreme situations the inside rear tyre will lift and spin if enough power is
applied, not just for a moment or two but for as long as you are prepared to
hold the condition. It spins out of adhesion with, yet in contact with, the road
surface, so that the result is clouds of acrid rubber smoke and the loss of many
milesī worth of tread. At the same time the outside front tyre is running
sufficiently nearly on its sidewall to wear the tread on an asymmetric section
in no time at all, and still the thing wonīt really oversteer, although
it does come nearer neutral. Perhaps the rumoured new front suspension (still
ages away, we hear) will be easier to set up. Meanwhile it does seem that a rear
anti-roll bar would help.
comfort? Well, if you take comfort as the sum total of seating, ride, noise and
heating/ventilation, then you are slightly worse off than in the 2000 SC. The
seats are the same; most people like them, one or two donīt. The ride feels
softer, despite the re-rated springs, and the bigger tyres give more of a
sideways shuffle and Dutch-roll effect that the 2000 suffers from, which might
upset the odd passenger. Heating and ventilation is virtually standard 2000 and
good enough for those who donīt have extensive experience of the Cortina or
Hunter. But the extraneous noise factor gave Rover some fearful problems, and
itīs no use pretending that they are entirely out of the wood yet.
performance, compare the figures given for yourselves: you can hardly say that
the 2000 TC (manual only, remember) lags all that far behind the 3500, either in
acceleration or in top speed.
It seems to us
that Rover didnīt quite make up their minds what they wanted this car to be. At
the moment it is more likely to appeal to the relaxed and elderly (except for
that heavy steering) and probably always will as long as there is no manual
So much promise
unfulfilled was this really the engine for the 2000? If BLMC means anything at
all, why donīt we see it in the ADO 61? In the meantime, we are off to see how
the 3500 goes on the Continent, so watch this space.