Rover 2000 SC

Fourīs comfort

Astonishingly the Rover P6 was launched over seven years ago and it has only just received its first facelift, a fair endorsement of the original design which itself took several years to reach fruition. In 1963 the Rover 2000 set new standards of ride and comfort, and to some extent facia planning, for that class of car; the ride in particular was among the top in any company. Our criticism then were the slightly fussy but very revvable engine, some gearbox whine and prominent radial thump at low speeds. Its outstanding virtues were effortless high speed performance with comfort and luggage space for four adults; it wasnīt very quick off the mark but our pre-production prototype achieved 104 as a mean of two opposite runs.

Since then the more powerful TC and the 3500 have been introduced. The current 2000 SC engine should give the same performance as the original. but it is possible that the hand-assembled prototype was a little faster than standard. Our latest test car was slower in acceleration in top and third gears as well as maximum speed, although from rest to 80 mph the newer car was quicker. Whether this is from vagaries of driving or production we cannot say, but the present 2000 SC is not quite a 100 mph car, although quick enough away from rest to satisfy most owners not interested in the extra TC power.

The Rover is still an extremely comfortable car to drive in - there are very few better - and the changing standards of seven years have done nothing to mat our admiration for a fine product.

We commented that the roadholding was remarkable for a car of that size where comfort was the prime consideration; in todayīs more grip-conscious terms it is still good but the roll angle is higher than we are accustomed to on many saloons. And side winds have more effect than we would expect from a solid car which on a wind-free day feels absolutely stable. The 2000 is a pleasant car to drive whether you are pottering around the countryside at 35 mph, or chuntering down the Autoroute at 90 mph; quick, quiet and comfortable - a nice blend of traditional Rover and modern technology.

Performance and economy

Back in 1963 the choice of a four cylinder engine for this class of car was a little sursprising, even though it was a all-new overhead camshaft unit. But four cylinders have remained as the predominant specification in the motoring world and Roverīs five-bearing "square" engine is as smooth and revvable as any. Its long legged gearing with up to 6.000 rpm available gives good intermediate speeds which one very rarely needs - 30, 55 and 85 mph being speedometer markings for gearchanging. The engine has a slightly snarly note as you wind it up towards these figures, but at normal engine speeds it just thrums remotely and unobtrusively but nevertheless audibly.

Full choke gives instant starting. The choke can then be pressed home progressively; a warning light tells you if the choke is out unnecessarily after about a mile or so. Despite its highish gearing the Rover engine is remarkably tractable pulling very easily from under 15 mph in top gear and as low as 5 mph in third without judder, about 350 rpm. Third is good for over 80 mph but tails off at 70 mph. Top gear pulling is predictably not very strong, but if you arenīt in a hurry it is smooth; if necessary you can always snatch second for overtaking.

From rest we managed 50 mph in under 10 sec; the clutch and transmission work so well you just get as many revs on the clock as you like, pop the clutch and the transmission absorbs it all, the car stepping off quite smartly without a trace of wheelspin.

Although the maximum speed of the original test car was 104 mph, we never achieved this speed either on a staff car or this test car; 98.3 mph seems fairly representative, although this car had less than 2.000 miles on the clock when tested. The throttle linkage operates very smoothly and progressively with low gearing at small openings but quicker opening at the end of the travel. This increasing heaviness was quite noticeable for 90 mph cruising and for sustained cruising was almost a limiting factor.

Although our car had a sticker on the rear screen which read: "Use Super/USA Premium Grade Fuel (100-Octane 5-Star UK)" this was a mistake; the 2000 SC is rated for 4-star fuel, 5-star for the TC. On French premium fuel, 4-Star equivalent, the engine occasionally ran on after a spell in heavy traffic, but there was no pinking and we had no trouble on British 4-star fuel. Our overall fuel consumption with quite a lot of the mileage abroad was very similar to that of the previous test (pre-70 mph limits) at 22.6 mg. High speed 90 mph cruising returned 19 mpg; generally checks showed around 23-25 mpg and many owners will get nearer 27 mpg.


We have already said that the clutch is very tolerant, absorbing any shocks that clumsy feet put into it, but the whole transmission system is good. The small gear lever sits in just the right place and moves around a precise gate with very little effort. You can feel the slight obstruction as the synchromesh engages but when the speeds are synchronized the lever slips forward with the usual lightness. If you rush the change you can beat the synchromesh, but for normal motoring it is pleasant to make the changes as smooth as possible, further helped by the smooth progressive throttle action.

On paper the ratios may not look very close, but coupled to a useful rev range and high top gearing they donīt need to be any closer. Youīll never use the top end of third in this country, and bottom is only just low enough for a clutch dipping getaway on a 1-in-3 hill.

There was a little whine from the final drive but not from the gearbox.

Handling and brakes

The Rover was one of the very few cars in 1963, certainly the only popular one, to feature a de Dion rear axle. It has more recently been joined by one or two more in this respect. Its de Dion tube is unusual in that the tube telescopes - rather than the driveshafts. The tube is well tied down by Watts links and the back of the car is virtually unstickable in hard cornering even on bumby roads. A hard burst in second gear on a wet surface can just get the tail sliding but mostly the grip potential exceeds the power surplus with the SC. As a result understeer is the predominant characteristic but not to an excessive degree; the steering is nicely geared and weighted for the open road and the response to it is good, mostly neutral. As you try harder you have to apply a little more lock, but it never reaches the stage of feeling that any more lock wonīt make any difference. It behaves safely and always has something in hand.

On dry roads the SP Sports squealed if you tried too hard, our only criticism of them, as they gripped very well in the wet. The message of changing adhesion came up through the steering wheel before anything irretrievable had happened. In terms of roadholding the Rover could probably corner as fast as a live axled sports car, and the Rover wouldnīt need to slow down on bumpy surfaces.

It is possibly the design of the front suspension that makes the Rover twitch surprisingly in side winds; the lower wishbone is convetionally transverse but the upper one is pivoted on the engine bulkhead and runs longitudinally. One feels that the natural trail of the tyre takes up some of the rubber bush slack at speed with a transverse wishbone, but that the offset from the upper ball joint isnīt sufficient to do the same for the upper one, with the result that a side gust will impart a bit of roll in the car, and the steering in the straight ahead position isnīt taut enough to make the correction instant. At high speeds the movements are quite sudden and even at 70 mph the Rover is not good in side winds although still better than rear engine saloons.

Girling disc brakes all round give very reassuring performance from little effort with only 40lb needed for 0.97g, but panic braking uses high forces and 75lb returned 1g, so there is quite a tolerance for maximum braking effort. During our fade test the pressure required went down as the disc temperature rose, accompanied by some smell and an occasional grindy noise. A trip through the water splash had no effect, though. The handbrake provided 0.35g stopping but couldnīt quite hold the car on a 1-in-3 hill.

Comfort and controls

The changing standards of seven years have certainly not caused downgrading of the Rover in terms of comfort. The ride is still extremely good - almost on a par with the Jaguar XJ6. Long, well-damped suspension travel absorbs main road undulations with real ease and the car stays impressively level with no sideways jerk from one wheel bumps. It is good on cobbles, too, although there is a fair amount of tyre patter noise. At town speeds radial thump is surprisingly pronounced. It appears that the more compliance you build into the suspension the more noise there is likely to be, unless you insulate the occupants acoustically. You can hear the Rover low speed thump but not feel it. Compared with the average live axled car the Rover is considerably more comfortable on all surfaces.

Most of us like the seats for straight line travelling but the leather surface was too slippery to help the slightly shaped backrests grip your back; some people found themselves slipping forward in normal travelling. This really only affects the front seat passenger - the driver has the steering wheel to hang onto and rear passengers are well placed by the shaped seat backs. With the front seats comfortably back an adult in the rear will need to splay or offset his knees slightly. Rear seat accommodation is good although only for two adults and a possible child on the hump in the middle. A thoughtful detail is the padding in the rear panel for sleeping heads to rest against; you can, of course, have optional headrests for all four seats although we resent the intrusion on visibility.

With slightly modified seat shapes Rover can now incorporate inertia reel seat belts, which are comfortable and simple to adjust, but they donīt hold the passengerīs shoulders if the driver is trying hard. Most of us like thr driving position very much but one or two object to the old-fashioned dangling of the legs, the knees being bent much more than in most cars. The controls, though, are very comfortably placed. The gearlever position with its short throw is just right. The pedals are well spaced and it seems easier now than before to heel and toe. The seats themselves have a wide range of adjustment fore and aft and the backrests recline via a friction lock hinge through any number of positions. The steering column has a single-locking clamp which allow limited teleskopic and vertical movements, ample though for any driver to find a good seating position.

With the seats well off the floor the view forward over the fall-away bonnet is very good; screen pillars arenīt too thick and the door pillar is thin and well back so traffic visibility is good. You can also see the little fins at the back for reversing; a nice feature of Rovers has been the sidelight tell-tales and these are useful aiming marks for navigation through small gaps.

With 150 watts available with all four headlights the main beam is good in spread and range, but the 100 watt dipped beam is a little ill-defined as well as being liable to dazzle if the car is fully laden, the suspension travel being great enough to require some instant adjustment as on some Continentals. With the tail well down the mirrorīs image is chopped off rather too close to the tail of the car for comfortable motorway cruising abroad - the DS 21s come up fast.

The new wiper switch has three settings, low and high speed plus a delayed action position, and you control the delay time by a little white rheostat button on the steering column surround; the blades leave a slight blind spot in the top right corner which taller people notice occasionally.

We used to think the Roverīs ventilation system was one of the best in that the outlet points straight towards the front occupantsī faces, but the throughout seems to have diminished since the early models; perhaps the sealing has been improved. In fact there is little ram effect with the temperature setting on hot; the more convoluted passage seems to choke the throughput and you need the three-speed fan unless the setting is on cold. But the system is versatile enough to get the right climate. The heated rear screen is an optional extra.

Much of the Roverīs appeal lies in its general insulation from the outside world and this includes noise. At speed there is little engine noise and wind noise is low, so long distance travelling is effortless with an 85-90 mph cruising gait.

Fittings and furniture

The 2000 SC retains the original eye-level grille instrument nacelle with a full width strip speedometer, plenty of warning lights and gauges for water temperature and fuel. This is a convenient layout which is easily visible through the top half of the two-spoke steering wheel. A useful auxiliary which used to be a feature of older cars is the petrol reserve tap; it is easy enough to watch the fuel gauge but is useful to know that you can manage another 30 to 40 miles when the engine first coughs. A separate two-position switch controls the map-light and the central interior light.

Oddment space is provided with two shallow glove lockers and if you arenīt going to corner quickly the parcel shelf can be used for maps etc. With the spare wheel vertical in the left rear wing boot space is slightly limited.

Our test car was fitted with leather seat facings at an extra cost of Ģ74 7s 3d, which give the right sort of smell for Rovers at the expense of slightly slippery seats; you can specify Ambla. The floor is carpeted as is the boot.

Servicing and maintenance

A comprehensive tool kit is supplied with the Rover, enough really to do most of your own servicing. There is no grease gun for the only point which needs attention - the sliding joint on the prop-shaft. This is necessary despite the chassis mounted differential to absorb compliance of the various rubber mountings in engine and transmission. Servicing is required every 5.000 miles and everything on the engine is nicely accessible.

0-60 mph 13.6 sec

top speed 98.3 mph

overall fuel consumption 22.6 mpg


Motor / UK December 1970