Rover 2200 Automatic

The Rover P6, more familiar to all as the 2000 or 2200 SC and TC, is a firm favourite of Motor staff. There are competitors which are faster - some considerably - and at the same time use less fuel. Many also have higher standards of roadholding and handling. Almost all have more accommodation, especially in the rear and boot. In some respects, too, the design is beginning to show ita age. But few competitors have the restrained air of opulence and luxury (those that do cost considerably more) plus the quietness, comfort, and attention to detail.

When it was introduced some 11 years ago the 2000 was considered advanced, for apart from the engine there was the unusual suspension (wishbones and rocking levers operating horizontal coil springs at the front, sliding-tube de Dion at the rear) tuned specifically fior radial-ply tyres, the safety-orientated body structure with bolt-on panels for cheaper repairs (it is ironic now that the 2200 is not sold in the USA as it would cost too much to meet their exacting regulations), disc brakes all round (inboard at the rear) and shape-coded minor controls. Modification over the years - notably the bigger engine, introduced last October, uprated transmission and rear suspension, a bigger fuel tank and re-shaped front seats to improve rear seat legroom - have kept the model reasonably up-to-date, and in general terms the 2200 is as good as any of the rivals.

In the automatic transmission form in which we tried it, however, the car is not quite so admirable in one respect. If anything, the Borg Warner Model 35 automatic gearbox enhances the refinement, but it also has a very adverse effect on the performance. Moreover automatic transmission is only available with the less powerful SC (Single Carburetter) version of the sohc engine which produces 98 (DIN) bhp at 5.000 rpm and 126 lb ft of torque at 2.500 rpm.

As our comparison table shows, therefore, the performance can at best be described as sluggish if not downright poor. Around MIRAīs banked circuit the 2200 managed only 98.3 mph (Rover claim 98.8 mph, so we were not far off) and struggled up to 100.0 mph for the fastest quarters. The 0-60 mph time from a standing start (15.5 sec) is over three seconds slower than any other rival that we have tested. To put it in perspective this is the sort of time that manual versions of the Citroen GS Club, the Fiat 127, the Fiat 128, the Mazda 818 suffer when an automatic transmission is fitted, and with an overall figure of 20.4 mpg the 2200 is no exception. Surprisingly the 2000 Automatic had a worse touring consumption - only 23.6 mpg - but as might be expected gave a better overall (21.1 mpg) consumption. In comparison to its rivals the 2200 is rather below average.

The Borg Warner transmission fitted to the Rover was good in most respects, but we feel that something more could be done with the ratios and the torque converter to overcome the weight of the car and poor low-speed torque from the engine and thus improve the performance. Holding the car in D on the brakes when idling pulled engine speed down to the point where the alternator warning light came on strongly, and at the same time the engine shook noticeably. Full throttle changes took place at an indicated 38 and 69 mph in D, changing manually increased the change speeds to 45 and 75 mph as indicated by little red lines on the speedometer - but it was reluctant to kick-down to first at speeds much above 25 mph, or second above about 55 mph, both speeds where a quick spurt comes in useful for overtaking.

In other ways, though, the box was exemplary, with smooth and neat changes, up or down, automatically or using manual hold; only the occasional kick-down change was rather thumpy, while kick-down otherwise gave willing if not over-eager changes. The gear lever was floppy, with an ill-defined gate which rather spoilt the quality image, but the detent to prevent accidental selection of neutral is a feature we recommend. Noise is notable more by its absence than presence. In normal use, the box was unobtrusive and smooth - what an automatic gearbox should be, in fact.

The big steering wheels feels cumbersome at first to those used to more normal sized wheels, and at parking speeds or in tight slow corners the effort required for the non-assisted steering is high; this, coupled with strong understeer at low speeds can make the car quite tiring to drive. Once the car is moving briskly, though, the steering becomes lighter and the understeer can be changed to oversteer by keeping the power on.

Handling is usual safe, predictable, and even surprisingly wieldy, but there is a considerable amount of roll (which could make some passengers feel uncomfortable) and for this reason it can be untidy through an S-bend. Grip from the Dunlop SP Sports fitted to the test car was high, but in the damp - or even on a tight corner in the dry - the tail can come out quickly if too much throttle is used.

But performance and sports-car handling are not the reasons for which many people buy the 2200. Ride instead probably comes high up on their list of priorities, along with other more comfort-oriented features. Here the Rover scores heavily, for the ride is pretty good. The suspension can cope with the extremes of road surface, from minor corrugations to potholes or long-wave undulations, while on a smooth motorway type road it is very good indeed, allowing relaxed high-speed cruising. The seats add to the superb comfort, for the comments by our Road Test staff ranged from "good" through "excellent" to "superbly comfortable" - although one dissenter felt that the seat cushion was excessively flat. Rake, however, can be adjusted by altering the distance pieces on which the seat runners are mounted.

The 2000 was never intended to be more than a four-seater, so the rear seat is not really spacious, although alterations to the front seat backrest have improved matters in this respect. But the shape of the individual back seats effectively prevents the carrying of a fifth passenger - or at least only with some discomfort. Luggage accommodation, too, is a mixture of the good and the bad, for the smallish boot has an awkward shape, while the spare wheel intrudes unless the boot lid mounting option is specified, but on the other hand there are the excellent shin-bins in front of both driver and passenger, and a useful coarse-textured shelf on top of the facia, plus a further shelf below the back window.

The shape-coding of the minor controls was hailed as a minor advance when they first appeared, and they are still very good in this respect; but time has over-taken them, for, unlike those on some modern cars, both the light switch and wipe/wash switch are facia mounted and thus not too easy to find in an emergency, the stalks on the column simply controlling the dip and flash (left-hand) and indicators plus horn (right-hand).

Whereas the comprehensive round-dialled instruments on the 2200 TC were praised for their attractiveness, most of our drivers disliked the SCīs combined strip speedometer plus temperature and fuel gauges contained in square box on the facia shelf, feeling that it looked to much like an afterthought, and was not at all integrated into the facia. On the other hand the cluster is very clear and well located, being easily visible through the steering wheel.

We know from experience that the Rover heating and ventilation system is very good, but that in the test car seemed to have a fault, for to get either heat or fresh air it was necessary to have the quiet two-speed fan in operation except at high speed, since ram effect was otherwise negligible. But the face-level vents - slots directly in front of the driver or passenger - are in just the right place, and can be easily and finely controlled for both direction and flow - an excellent set-up, and another indication of the sort of thoughtful detail that went into the design of the car.

Noise insulation is another pointer to the quality of the car. There was some harshness from the engine when it was extended, wind noise builds up only slightly with speed, the tyres thump over Cats-Eyes, and there is some roar on rough surfaces, but none of these noises are really obtrusive and on the whole the 2200 is well ahead in this respect.

Over the years subtle cost-cutting exercises have been carried out (plastic instead of metal grille and badges, for example, or cloth - which we prefer - instead of leather seats, and ordinary round knobs instead of the curved hooks for choke and petrol reserve) but the excellent array of fittings is still there. Such features as the petrol reserve, the hazard warning lights, the adjustable steering column, the windscreen wiper delay, and three-position interior light switch are still rarities nowadays. The finish, though, was a little disappointing, with one or two minor quality faults such as cloth patches peeling off and ill-fitting trim strips.

All told the 2200 Automatic is a solid, comfortable, quiet, smooth car enhanced in refinement by the addition of an equally smooth gearbox but diminished in performance. Attention to detail design put it at the top of its class when it was introduced, and after all these years itīs still not far off.

0-60 mph 15.5 sec.

top speed 98.3 mph

overall fuel consumption 20.4 mpg


Motor / UK July 1974