Rover 2000 TC
Englands answer to Naderism
The very first
thing we noticed when driving the new Rover 2000 TC was that everybody seemed to
be staring. This can sometimes be disconcerting when road testing a new model.
Especially when ste stares accompanied by a few polite snickers, sneers, or even
outright laughter. But in this instance there were no snickers, no sneers, no
laughter. If anything the stares could best be described as being compounded of
equal parts unbridled interest and open admiration.
But this really
isn´t too surprising in view of the ink given the recent Senate committee
hearings on auto safety. At one point the Rover achieved a certain degree of
notoriety by being one of the world´s few cars that Ribicoff & Co. didn´t
condemn. According to many this also marked the point that anything sounding
like intelligence came out of the hearings. In any event it wasn´t a bad
andorsement in anybody´s league.
there´s a strong possibility that everyone who stared at the car hadn´t ever
heard of the Senate hearings and were mainly interested just because the Rover
is a good looking car. It really is. There´s nothing flashy about it and it´s as
much of an example of the form-follows-function school of design as an old
Willy´s Jeep. Which is not to say it looks like a Jeep. The design is actually
as new and as fresh as tomorrow with none of the usual non-functional lines,
curves and planes that most of the other design studios are turning out these
days. It can best be described by saying that it borrows nothing, nor looks like
anything else on the road.
A point not
overlooked by those types who are mainly looking for status and snob appeal is
an automobile. Currently the Rover, because of its complete differentness and
because they are also slightly scarce, is a great favourite with these types. We
recently ran across one of these in Tijuana of all places. While parking the car
we noticed we were being closely scritinized by a fellow and his wife standing
on the curb. We were informed that he had owned his Rover 2000 for
three months and in that time ours was the only other he had seen on the whole
West Coast. We countered that that was strange because we had seen three of them
in the short distance between the border and the bull ring. Well, his was
red. We riposted with something to the effect that so was the one that was being
used as a taxi. In fact we understood that they were in great demand by the
local taxi drivers and that soon all the taxis in Tijuana would be Rovers.
Probably red ones. He later one-upped us by pointing out he was shooting a Nikon
F while we were equipped with less expensive Minolta cameras. We considered
demanding satisfaction – something like 600 mm lenses at forty paces – but
decided to let it pass. After all the seed had been planted and he probably
couldn´t wait ´til he got back to the States to trade the Rover for something
just a little less common. Which is just our round-about way of saying that the
Rover does indeed have something to offer for everyone, including the status
angle probably arouses the most interest as far as the Rover is concerned.
Unfortunately it was beyond the realm of our road test to conduct any deliberate
crash and collision studies with the model we tested. However, we are here to
say that neither did we have any unplanned accidents. In over three thousand
miles of driving under all conditions we didn´t even come close to an accident.
That´s saying something too. There were occasions where, if the brakes hadn´t
been so reliable, or if the cornering power hadn´t been so high, we might
have had a close moment or even a bad accident. Thanks to things like good
four-wheel disc brakes and sophisticated suspension along with very superior
tyres, the incidents weren´t ever worthy of second thoughts. As far as we´re
concerned the primary safety considerations in automobile design always have
been and always will be those that reduce the chances of an accident happening
in the first place. Cars can and will be designed that will also reduce
the possibility of death or serious injury if an accident does occur. But anyone
who thinks that a car can be designed that will eliminate the possibility
of death or serious injury resulting from accidents is just blowing so much
many exoerts (both legitimate and pseudo) the Rover 2000 is one of three of the
world´s best cars to have an accident in (Citroen and Mercedes make the other
two). This is quiet probable but also highly theoretical. The overlooked danger
inherent in this line of reasoning is that with all the emphasis being
placed on accident survival instead of accident prevention the average driver
(encompassing the bulk of the driving population) is apt to become an even worse
driver than he already is. And as tests have shown Mr. Average Driver is a lousy
driver. We can see him now, as more and more survival equipment is developed and
built into our cars, blundering serenely along secure in the fact that Ralph
Nader, the Great White Father, and the auto manufacturers will protect him from
all evil. In the inevitable accident he will have a rude awakening.
Don´t go us
wrong – we´re not sayning that cars can´t be made safer – we just deplore the
misplaced emphasis. After testing the Rover we agree that it is one of the safer
cars on the road.
is one of the most advanced found anywhere on a racing car. All four wheels are
indipendently sprung. At the front, wide-based upper and lower A-arms are used.
The coil springs lie horizontally in the rear of the fender wells and are
actuated by a lever arrangement off the upper control arm. This location reduces
unsprung weight, allowing more positive shock control. At the rear double
U-jointed axle half shafts are used and located both by trailing control arms
and by a de Dion tube. The de Dion arrangement keeps both wheels parallel to
each other throughout their travel and also keeps them perpendicular to the road
during cornering (no camber change). Conventionally mounted coil springs are
used. The handling of the car has to be experienced to be believed. A four-door,
family-type sedan just can´t corner like that!! (Comments overheard from drivers
of several “sports cars” who had been badly used by the test car over a
particularly twisty stretch of mountain road.) About 50% (at least) of the
Rover´s capacity for cornering can be attributed by the Pirelli Cinturato tires
that are as much a part of the suspension system as one of the control arms. In
fact, as the factory likes to point out, first they had the tire and then
designed the suspension around it. The steering is “just right” – 3 ¾ turns
between locks. Quick enough for precise handling without being either too heavy
or too light. Power isn´t offered, or needed.
The brakes are
an equally big safety feature – if you´re concerned about preventing accidents.
Servo-assisted discs are used on all four wheels. Front discs are 10 ¾ inch in
diameter and the rears are 10 ¼ inches. Total swept area is 436 square inches.
We used them very hard but couldn´t beat them up to where any degree of fade or
increased pedal pressure was noted. They never once pulled – hot or cold, wet or
dry – and all stops (panic or otherwise) were straight and quick. Even though
the brakes are servo-assisted (standard equipment) the requited pedal pressure
is higher than what one is used to with power-drum brakes. The wheels were
virtually impossible to lock – which is good, and it is a simple trick to apply
just the right amount of pedal to obtain the maximum rate of deceleration. Here
again a lot of the credit has to go to the Pirellis. The rear discs are mounted
inboard next to the differential to cut down on unsprung weight. They are
self-adjusting, but the fronts aren´t. The parking brake is a pull up lever
mounted between the front seats and can be used in an emergency to stop the car
(though not too quickly).
The engine is
just as interesting as the rest of the car. Small by our standards (120.8 c.i.)
it affords an amazing degree of performance. The “TC” designation means that
twin SU carburettors are fitted. These, along with 10.0:1 compression ratio,
help produce 124 bhp at 5500 rpm. The cylinder head is aluminium and carries the
single overhead camshaft. The crankshaft runs in five main bearings and is
smooth enough to fool even the experts into thinking that what is actually a
four cylinder engine is a six. Performance is very good with brisk acceleration
and a top speed of 110 mph plus. Overall fuel consumption averaged out to 21.1
mpg and was fairly consistent for all types of driving conditions, never
recording less than 19.8 mpg with a high of 22.2 mpg.
transmission is a four speed, all synchromesh unit. First gear has a 3.6 ratio,
second 2.1, third 1.4, with top being direct. The rubber-mounted hypoid
differential has a 3.54:1 ratio. The gear shift lever is floor-mounted and
features a reverse lock-out. Shift action is about par for English transmissions
which means it´s on the heavy side and not as precise as you´ll find on an
the basic body structure and the interior reveals some of the design features
that supposedly make the Rover into a better car in which to have your accident.
Unitized construction wherein the body and chassis are welded up from sections
and panels into one unit is used. By design the front and rear sections are
supposed to crumple (in an accident) at a given rate to help absorb some of the
forces generated by the collision. This cuts down on the loads imposed on the
human body and hopefully will absorb enough of the force to keep the passenger
section from collapsing. The section between the front and rear doors is
supposed to be strong enough to act like a roll bar, but we wouldn´t bet on it
holding up the top in case of a roll over. The firewall is a rigid structure,
better described as a bulkhead, and is angled in the area of the engine so that
if a front collision forces the engine back it will be deflected downward and
away from the passenger compartment. Another good feature is gas tank location.
Instead of the usual under the trunk mounting the Rover has it right behind the
rear seat, vertically, where it is less apt to receive forces that would rupture
it. Door latches are advertised as being “accident proof”, meaning that they
aren´t supposed to fly open on impact. Could be but they aren´t mentioning if
they mean any accident at any speed. The exterior body panels are unstressed and
all bolt on for ease of replacement. Hood and deck lid are aluminium.
compartment is well designed and definetely on the luxurious side with full
English leather upholstery and deep pile wood carpeting. Other features include
fully adjustable, two-spoke aluminium steering wheel and bucket-type rear seats.
The seats are about the most comfortable you´ll find with plenty of fore and aft
adjustment plus the reclining back which will allow any shape to find the right
rake is adjustable over a two-inch range. The gearbox for the steering is
mounted back by the firewall which keeps it from slamming back into the driver´s
chest in which case of a front ender.
clutch and accelerator pedals are all of the suspended variety and of the same
size and shape. They take a little getting used to. The clutch and the brake
aren´t bad but the accelerator is impossible. We defy anyone to drive any
distance and not end up with foot cramps. There just isn´t a comfortable
position possible with it. It´s very tiring. Luckily the driver will be too
uncomfortable to fall asleep. Maybe this is an added safety feature?
We also had no
love for the shoulder harnesses that came as standard equipment on the front
seats. A well designed harness is a must if the fatality rate is to be reduced,
but a poorly designed one could be worse than none. The across the shoulders
type has several drawbacks – you can slip out of it from the side – or just as
bad, it puts the seat belt in such a position that it is right over the vital
organs of the stomach where it shouldn´t be. You can also slip right out from
under it in this position.
carries a base price of $4195 which at first sounds high. But after you consider
what you´re getting it´s not too high after all. In addition to the advanced
engineering and design concepts you also get quite a few “extras” that are
included in the base price: Icelert Electronic Probe; bumper guards with rubber
inserts; Pirelli radial ply tires; outside rear view mirror; tachometer;
aluminium two-spoke adjustable steering wheel; wooden gearshift knob; fully
adjustable bucket seats; prime leather upholstery; pile carpeting; dipping rear
view mirror; seat belt anchorages front and rear; windshield washers; electric
clock; heating and ventilation system; safety sun visors and vanity mirrors;
front shoulder harnesses. All of which added to good English craftmanship make
it an excellent buy. We won´t say there should be one in every garage – but there
should be one that´s at least equal to it.