Rover 3500 V8
makes its mark
concepts survive in this technologically-advanced world of ours? They can if
theyīre designed well in the first place take the Rover 3500 for example. The
current version must represent one of the best luxury personal car bargains
available on the Australian market. Despite its age, the car competes admirably
with its competition it doesnīt wear a GT tag, but it might as well. Itīs
safe, stable and comfortable, offering a high degree of luxury and that
intangible personal image of the top-level executive saloon.
introduction the original Rover 2000 was hailed as a major step forward for a
British manufacturer. Much the same comment heralded the 3500 V8 and that other
unique Rover the Range Rover. The companyīs approach is a purely
self-indulgent one. The engineers and designers appear to do whatever they
please, regardless of what the major mass producers would see as limits of
always been exclusive cars and the 3500 is no exception. Yes, itīs definitely
showing its age, around the edges, but like the Queen Mother the 3500 carries
its age well.
dimensions are compact and it offers four doors and four individual seats. The
cabin is well-appointed and the insulation is superb. The finish is good, the
traditional trim design gives the car dignity and on top of that it carries
the name Rover, which in itself is probably the carīs best advertisement.
arrangement is and isnīt fairly conventional. For instance the engine is at the
front, together with the transmission, thereīs a prop shaft and the differential
is at the rear. It has four-wheel disc brakes and power steering. But there are
many unique and individual touches which make the 3500 what it is.
It has a De
Dion rear suspension system, with inboard rear discs, and horizontally-mounted
front coil springs which are part of a very different type of front suspension
body/chassis construction is similarly interesting. The base unit (floorplan)
carries all the mechanical units and acts as a skeleton to which all the body
panels are fitted as separate, painted units. The base unit and panels are
interchangeable in the event of damage. The bonnet and boot lid are made of
the body are not apparent and the insulation of the cabin from road noise and
suspension movement is very good. The doors, although heavy, open easily and
allow clear entry and exit. They close with a resounding clunk. The 3500 is
definitely a four-seater car, make no mistake. Three in the back is not on in
fact with the front seats extended to accomodate a normal driver there is
quite a restriction on rear seat legroom. Headroom and shoulder room are
adequate and vision is very good. The windows are of the tinted Sundym type.
2000/3500 was possibly the first production-ESV many of the safety concepts
which were introduced at the outset were copied by other carmakers and the Rover
is generally regarded today as an extremely safe vehicle, in the Volvo,
Mercedes, Saab mould. Part of the new VW passive restraint system incorporating
the automatic sash belt is a knee bolster, to protect the legs and stop the
occupant sliding under the dash in the event of a collision. Rover already had
that idea incorporated in the 2000/3500 body, using padded glovebox doors
positioned at the knee height.
The Rover 3500
imparts a strong image as an effective safety capsule. All of the points raised
here relate to passive safety features, however we believe the Rover 3500 has
many efficient active safety features in addition. The handling and braking is
impressive, as is the smooth transmission of available power and the driverīs
controls. All this adds up to a car which gives the feeling of being safe, even
before you turn the engine over. Thereīs a very comforting quality about driving
a car that has been around for long enough (in one form) to have any bugs
ironed-out and to gain the benefit of continuing development and research.
All of those
qualities obviously help sell Rovers, but the price/value aspect is probably the
most important. Considering the Roverīs ability to compete with the current crop
of luxury/personal cars and its specification the 3500 is very good value for
your highly-taxed dollar. At $8706 there isnīt much around which offers
tradition, quality, handling and braking, V8 power and high-speed stability and
comfort. Not, that is, in a package as compact and well-sorted as the 3500.
The engine is
the well-proven (ex-Buick) 3.5 litre V8 fitted with twin HIF60 SU carburettors,
in current form it develops 107 kW, giving an efficiency rating of 30.04
kw/litre. Itīs a pushrod OHV 90 degree V8 which is quiet in operation and will
willingly rev up to the 5400 rpm limit.
transmission is the Borg Warner Type 65 three-speed automatic with a centre
console shift lever. The transmission is typically BW and is smooth and silent.
Up and down-changes are almost imperceptible and response is immdediate telative
to the chosen gear.
The lever is
mounted quite a long way forward of what we believe is the optimum position and
due to the rather small and awkward release-button mechanism the selection is
not as easy as it is with the accepted T-bar system. The ratios are well-spaced,
giving maximums in first and second (lever in Drive) of 58 and 115 km/h
respectively and when held the maximums are 80 and 132 km/h. Top speed,
according to Rover, is 186 km/h.
is independent at the front by an unusual system. The front coils are mounted
longitudinally and horizontally. They are acted on by transverse bottom links
and leading top links. The coils are mounted off the firewall. There is adequate
spring travel to soak up bumps and roll is restricted by a sway bar mounted to
the top links. The system gives good location and adhesion, with positive feel.
The rear suspension is by De Dion sliding tube and Watts linkage and coil
springs fitted to the forward links. The suspension system is well-designed and
offers a near-perfect compromise between ride comfort and handling.
The brakes are
Girling discs all round, mounted inboard at the rear. Dimensions are 26 cm and
27 cm front/rear and they handle maximum stops quite well. There is a power
assisted unit fitted and this gives good feel, although it takes some getting
used to as there seems little initial activity to accompany initial pedal
four-place, high performance, luxury touring car the Rover 3500 offers most of
what the market wants. The mechanical layout of the car is commendable and about
the only thing Rover buyers might want is updated styling. That will come with
the soon-to-be-released Rover SD1, although it will be a very much different car
to the current model.
The seats are
reasonably comfortable, but certainly arenīt the best available in some similar
$8000 luxury cars. The test carīs seats were covered in leather, but we would
have preferred the optional cloth trim. The seats are too firm and do not locate
the body well enough. On the road the 3500 generates quite high cornering forces
and this is where good seats (from a location viewpoint) are required. They
offer adequate adjustment, although we felt their forward travel was not quite
sufficient for shorter drivers. Legroom in the front compartment was reasonable
without being excessive however rear seat legroom is quite restricted.
position is average and visibility is quite good, but the design, with its high
sill lines, does tend to give a slightly claustraphobic effect at times
although, as we said before, one tends to feel well-protected in the 3500. The
controls are easy to reach and the dash-mounted switches are all clearly
illuminated for easy location at night. The new instrument layout is excellent
and those carmakers and designers who go in for clever, over-designed dash
layouts could take a leaf out of Roverīs book. It has managed to come up with a
dash/instrument layout thatīs functional, up-to-the-minute, clear and attractive
and all this achieved with fairly conventional round dial gauges.
stalks are very easy to locate and use. They are quite long enough and the
specially shaped plastic knobs at the end facilitate easy operation. The
thin-rimmed, large diameter, leather-covered steering wheel is good to hold and
its proximity to the stalks is such that just a slight movement of the fingers
brings the stalks into reach and their movement is easy and positive.
Commendably, the steering column is adjustable for rake as well. The remainder
of the dash layout is good, with two large gloveboxes, a wallet slot in the
centre console and a handy (rubber-faced) shelf just below the windscreen and in
front of the passenger. The brake pedal is quite big and easy to stab at in an
emergency. The handbrake (centre-console mounted) proved very effective and was
The heating and
ventilation was adequate and typically British. We canīt hope for European
carmakers to include big volumes of fresh air in their specifications and thus
we must judge on relative levels of effectiveness. Here the Rover 3500 is better
than most with dash-mounted air slots which are individually adjustable and can
be aimed at driver or passengerīs faces, plus a decent floor vent and damister
slots at the base of the windscreen. These are supplemented by quarter vent
windows in both front and rear doors.
levels in the 3500 are high, no doubt about it. It is an enjoyable car and is
very easy to live with. Itīs few design foibles can be forgiven in the light of
its age and it does represent good value for money.
As a touring
car it performs efficiently, but under test, not very economically. The V8 would
haul it up to 100 km/h in under 11 seconds, and cover the standing 400 m in less
than 18 seconds, but the fuel economy figures we recorded ranged between 16.5
mpg and 18.4 mpg. Still, thatīs about what youīd expect from a V8 lugging 1303
kg around. Using the BW 65 auto manually produced enjoyable motoring, the shifts
being easy and response to lever movement was immediate. The power steering unit
was efficient and yet still allowed much-needed road feel. The handling is
understeer-oriented and is accentuated by the heavy front weight bias. Rover
engineers did an excellent job of locating the V8 engine in the chassis
originally designed around the two-litre four cylinder engine, and in fact it
isnīt until you push the 3500 a little hard through tight stuff that the
understeer becomes harder to bear.
handles just about any condition our miserable Australian roads can offer and we
were impressed by the isolation of suspension noise and movement from the cabin.
The brakes locked-up on test initially, but after warming them up with a few 100
km/h to zero stops they performed efficiently pulling the car up in about 46 m
from 100 km/h.
None of the
driving efforts (brakes, steering, throttle) are high and the car is quite
comfortable buzzing along an expressway at 110 km/h to 150 km/h as it is tooling
around the city and suburbs. Itīs not an exciting car to drive, but it performs
with dignity and surprising dash and agility. We liked the 3500 itīs refined,
comfortable and offers very good value for money. It has a lot going for it in
terms of reputation, quality and comfort levels and its inherent safety