Rover 2000 Automatic

After the background experience of their strong efforts in international rallying, Rover took a bold step forward from their familiar image as manufacturers of the gentlemanīs carriage when the 2000 was introduced in 1963. Instead, the accent was on the sportsmanīs saloon, so naturally only a manual 4-speed gearbox was fitted initially. The 2000 was launched as an enthusiastīs car, aimed at the man who had grown out of two-seater sports cars but still took pride and pleasure in his driving, and who obviously would appreciate a good gearchange and well-spaced ratios. It has become established as one of the most successful cars of the decade, and has gained a well-deserved reputation for safety in its construction and road performance. With the wider market appeal and greater production capacity, an automatic option will be welcomed by many.

Borg Warner Type 35 is the transmission used, with D1-D2 control to permit intermediate starts, and the selector is mounted between the seats. It works in a straight to-and-fro quadrant, with safety notches beneath the lever to prevent inadvertent selection of lock-up, park and reverse. A small release button in the top of the selector knob (just as on the Rover 3-litre gear lever) is pushed to clear the safety latches. The lever will move freely between D1, D2 and neutral without the button being pressed.

To move the lever back into the Lock-up position, the button must be pressed, a practical reminder not to make this move without first checking that the speed is not above 70 mph. In the opposite direction, however, from Lock-up to D1, the lever is simply slipped forward over the ratchet.

In all conditions the transmission works extremely smoothly in conjunction with the lively overhead camshaft engine, and it scarcely ever causes any jerk or jolt. Sometimes, however, as the car is brought very gently to rest in traffic, there is a slight snatch as the lowest gear dropped in. When moving away on a light throttle the upward changes are imperceptible. On faster take-offs the transmission goes smoothly into intermediate at about 25 and to top at about 55 mph. With the accelerator right down on the floor, these change points are raised to 38 and and 68 mph respectively. As usual, the Lock-up gives overriding control to hold low or intermediate, depending on the road speed when it is selected. The maxima then are not automatically governed, and the driver must respect the limits laid down by the manufacturers. These are marked on the speedometer for his guidance by yellow spots at 47 (for low) and 78 mph (for intermediate).

These maxima are high for an automatic 2-litre and show that none of the high-geared character of the manual 2000 has been lost. Perhaps the automatic car is now too high geared, for the drop in performance compared with the manual car is very marked. Even at full throttle the car gets away rather sluggishly, taking more than 6 sec. to reach 30 mph from rest. The 0 to 60 mph time of 18.0 sec. is almost 3 sec. slower than the 2000 tested on 11 October, 1963.

The lack of punch is noticed particularly when there is need for brisk acceleration to overtake in the 30-60 mph speed ranges. Even by slipping the lever to L and kicking down, low gear cannot be selected above 25 mph, so intermediate must do. Acceleration in D2, with first gear eliminated, is so slow that it is difficult to see any purpose for this other than possibly to reduce wheelspin on ice or snow.

Above 70 mph, the good body shape pays off, but the power loss in the transmission is felt, and it was thanks only to a perfect day, with negligible wind for testing, that the car could be timed to 90 mph, in a mean of 56.7 sec. (43.6 sec. for the manual car). Maximum speed is down by 8 mph, with repeated opposite runs clocking exactly 94 mph. The gearing is unchanged, giving 19.5 mph per 1.000 rpm, and the 2000 automatic sounds sufficiently unperturbed right up to maximum speed for it to be cruised on full throttle if one is hurrying across the Continent. A true 100 mph is obtained easily down gradients.

Compensating for the comparatively leisurely performance is superb controllability and road holding. This combination gives full confidence and enables speed to be conserved and high averages to be put up in safety.

The steering is not heavy, even at very low speeds; it becomes feather light yet retains good feel and balance when under way. The car responds immediately to the smallest movement of the steering wheel at high speed. There is considerable roll when corners are taken fast; until the cornering attitude has settled it feels a little "loose" on its suspension and momentarily not as stable. Once it is leaning into a bend, however, the driver senses the generous amount of cornering grip in hand and can push the car through tight twists and sweeping bends with real spirit. Slight understeer is balanced by an outward movement of the tail end when cornering forces are really high.

Particularly on small movements, the springing is very soft yet thoroughly well damped, and the ride comfort is a match for any of the worldīs best cars. The suspension is excellently insulated from the body so that no road noise is heard on even the coarsest surface; not is there any thump over catīs eyes, an unusual achievement for radial ply tyres. Bad potholes provoke only the mildest jolt. It is most impressive when cornering hard on an uneven surface to find the wheels follow the road contours exactly and there is no trace of wheel hop. Just occasionally, undulations on a motorway provoke slight pitching, but this seems to occur only when the frequencies coincide with those of the road springs.

We doubt whether any car covered quite as many pre-production development miles at the MIRA test track as did the 2000, so it is not surprising that it rides the corrugations at up to 60 mph with only a subdued hum from the tyres. Almost the same speed in possible on pavé, limited only by loss of directional control - forgivable, since the wheels must be off the ground a large part of time at that speed. The long-wave pitch test, however, produced rather violent recoil; the car does much better when it takes a single sharp ridge, such as a hump bridge.

There is noticeable dive at the front if the brakes are used viciously, but in sustained braking the car keeps a fairly level attitude and stops all-square - slight squeal but no locking - and gives a 1.0g stop with only 100lb. on the pedal from 30 mph. Braking is very progressive and gives a great feeling of security from any speed. Fade tests on the all-disc system produced a small increase in the effort needed, then they settled to a constant figure showing no further deteriotation. Although smaller Girling discs have now replaced the original Dunlops, their performance seems totally unaffected by the change. Those who like to use the left foot for braking with automatic transmission will appreciate the wide pedal provided, but it is a pity that there is no rest for this foot when it is idle; the floor is too flat, and the toe board is too far away. The handbrake had to be pulled up a very long way to hold the car on the 1-on-3 test hill, and we were afraid we had permanently stretched the cables; in fact, no damage was done.

For a car with automatic, the Rover made a difficult job of restarting on 1-on-3; there was lot of churning and exhaust roar before it gathered way slowly. Exhaust noise was heard with the test car when accelerating, not a sporty crackle from the tail pipe, but a deep throbbing under the bonnet and floor; but we suspect there may have been a small leak in the system. Some mechanical noise is also heard when the engine is working hard in spite of the thick sound deadening on the underside of the bonnet. This relatively high noise level contrasts strangely with the remarkable silence on the overrun and the lack of wind noise.

For starting from cold, the rich-mixture knob usually needs to be pulled out a little way but the engine is an easy starter. For once, this is an automatic car which does not stall when the selector is moved to D first thing in the morning. If a traffic halt comes within the first mile of moving off, however, the engine may stall if the mixture control is not pulled out again to "catch" it.

Including a fair amount of traffic work, but perhaps slightly less hard driving and sustained high speeds than our Road Tests normally involve, the 2000 returned an overall fuel consumption of 21.8 mpg, which is within 2 mpg of the test figure for the manual change model. The fuel tank holds 12 gallons, and the gauge, marked in quarters, indicates the fuel level down in the last 1 1/4 gallons. This quantity is held in reserve and is switched on by pulling out the left of the two knobs on the small console; the right-hand one is the cold starting mixture control. The mild oil consumption means that the level needs to be checked only infrequently. On a journey, one could go some 500 miles without bothering to glance under the bonnet.

Seating "ergonomics" and the layout of switches and minor controls have received a lot of detail attention in the Rover 2000 design. The seats are firmly upholstered in real leather and are well bucketed to give correct support right up to the shoulders and hold the occupants in place very well on fast corners. The combination of infinitely adjustable backrests, ample to-and-fro movement on the seat runners, and about 2in. of vertical adjustment on the steering wheel, allows each driver to tailor the position to his own taste. Taking the wheel again after someone else had driven the test car emphasized the choice available by the vastly altered settings they had chosen. Inertia reel safety belts would be appreciated, as fixed belts make it difficult to reach the window handles.

Deep under-facia pockets are padded for knee protection in accidents, and will lock. The left pocket is large enough to take a sizeable brief case; the one on the right has two compartments to clear the steering column, but still gives ample space for a camera or other valuables. The arrangement of minor switches on the facia panel is well thought out, though the lighting arrangement is complicated by having separate switches for side and headlamps. The latter can be thrown the other way for foglamps if these are fitted. The sidelamps switch over-rides the headlamp one and throws the opposite way to light the offside front and tail lamps only for parking.

Excellent night driving illumination is given by the four headlamp system, with a really broad flood of light along the kerb on dipped beam. Pulled towards the wheel, the finger tip dipswitch flashes the headlamps on main beam. The matching switch on the right sounds purposeful wind-tone horns, and also serves as the indicator switch. Separate front and rear interior lamps are fitted, and each is lit separately by opening either of the appropriate front or rear doors; front, or both lamps, can be turned on by the facia switch. The front interior lamp is concealed behind the driving mirror, and throws a pool of light downwards on the switches; it is just adequate for map reading. When the panel lamps are on, the six positions of the transmission selector are illuminated in bright green, variable with the panel lights rheostat. The diminishing rear mirror makes following traffic seem farther away than it is.

Not only are the individual switch functions labelled, but each also has symbols picked out in white. This may be a convenience for export markets, but the effect is fussy and detracts from the otherwise excellent neatness of the interior. All the facia panel and imitation wood trim are high quality plastic mouldings and the appearance is refreshingly simple and attractive. As well as indicator repeaters, the oblong instrument block ahead of the driver includes warning tell-tales for choke - thermostatically controlled, to come on only if the knob is left out after the engine has warmed up - low brake fluid level and handbrake on warning combined, oil pressure, and ignition.

Cool air vents on the facia edge are directly ahead of the front seat occupants, and can be adjusted finely. The heater also is responsive to careful adjustment of its controls, so that the interior temperature can be kept just right in all weathers. On its slower setting the fan is inaudible from within the car, and it is still quite when switched to the "fan 2" position, which delivers a torrent of air into the car. Demisting provisions are really effective. A good flow of air passes through the car even with all windows closed, but the heater tends to "cook" the right foot, making the left foot feel cold. The front quarter vents swivel to let even more cool air in during hot weather.

Visibility is good, and although the rather high scuttle and bonnet line conceals the little reflector tip above the left sidelamp from the driverīs view, it is easy to judge the width. Two-speed windscreen wipers clear big arcs, but could be better sited. Although the end of the blade goes to within an inch of the screen edge on the driverīs side, a large triangular section at the bottom righthand corner is left unswept; when parked, the wipers were 2in. above the base of the screen.

Imperfections in the whole car are very few indeed, and mainly of a trivial nature. The chief point in any overall verdict on the 2000 automatic would be the need for more lively performance, but as explained earlier, the excellent handling characteristics make up for this to a large extent, and the 2000 remains a very fast and safe car. It has a tremendously likeable character, arousing enthusiasm from all who drive it.

Autocar / UK September 1966