Rover 2200 TC – Citroen D Super

In their own way, both the Citroen D Super 5 and the Rover 2200 TC are, curiously enough, victims of themselves. Time and progress has not been specially kind to either of them, but the fact remains that they continue to be successful, to evolve, to move if not with the minute hand then at least with the solid old hour hand.

Both have been around so long that they have no need to prove anything, not anymore. Their very presence makes the point eloquently enough. When the Citroen D series started life back in the mid-fifties it was a radical design even by French standards. Today it is still radical by the measuring impliments of the seventies. On the other hand the small Rover could never have been described as radical, even by its greatest supporters back some 10 years ago when the car made its debut. Unusual solutions to problems certainly, but nothing radical.

Citroen have been more daring with the D series, having expanded both the engine sizes and the body shapes, to say nothing ogf trim and price. The French firm catalogues an imposing list of alternatives to tempt the customer, including the Safari estate car and, by a stretch of imagination, the SM. Roverīs policy has been more conservative. Single carburettor engine, twin carburettor engine, automatic option for the SC, then V8 power with automatic only, gollowed by V8 with manual. No body variations, though, just mechanical ones. Now the 2000 has been given a 10 per cent increase in engine capacity, more to guarantee the productsī acceptability under the European emmision laws than to motivate new buyers.

With the demise of the 3.5 Litre saloon, the small-bodied models are alone holding the banner for Rover, at least until such times as BL announces the long awaited, more encompassing big car. There is, however, no immediate possibility of canning the 2200/3500 series; after all, who in his right mind would halt the product of a range of vehicles that continues to attract a waiting list of customers?

For at least the last eight years the air has been thick with rumours of how Citroen were about to replace the D series; but so far Citroen have quietly strengthened the position of the model with calm, considered changes carried out because the engineering team found how the make something work better.

Rover are less into the options game than Citroen, however. A basic D Super costs ₤2029, but the addition of various non-essential (like swivelling lamps) but nevertheless very desirable extras quickly boosts this figure up to close on that of the Rover 2200 TCīs ₤2239.

Engineering, styling

By enlarging the cylinder bores from 86mm to 90mm, Rover have increased the cubic capacity of their four cylinder engine from 1978cc to 2204cc, resulting in an increase in power and torque despite the fact that the TCīs compression ratio has been lowered from 10 to one to 9,0 to one. In its newest form, the TC develops 115 bhp at 5000 rpm with 135lb/ft or torque at 3000 rpm against the old modelīs 109.5 bhp at 5500 rpm and 124lb/ft at 3500 rpm. As before a pair of SU carburettors is employed, along with a single overhead camshaft atop the heron head. To help with the emission control, there is a thermostatically-controlled hot/cold intake incorporated in the air cleaner.

The four speed gearbox has been strengthened to cope with the extra torque and to avoid a repetition of the transmission troubles that afflicted early 2000s. With that goes the four-pinion differential of the type used in the 3500 (was previously two-pinion). The drive train leads to a de Dion rear axle with fixed lenght drive shafts; location is achieved with a Watts linkage and training links. At the front horizontal coil springs with traverse bottom links and leading top links, complete the suspension.

Marginally smaller than the TCīs new engine, the D Super dipslaces 2175cc from a bore of 90mm and a stroke of 85,5mm. Its four cylinders are capped with a pushrod cylinder head which uses a fairly normal crossover arangement to achieve near hemispherical combustion chambers. Itīs not a high revver either; peak power, 106 bhp occurs at 5500 rpm. At 8,75 to one, the compression ratio is not high, but like the TC it prefers four star petrol. You get the impression that the Citroen engine is understressed compared with the Rover and the power and torque figures bear this out; the D Super use a single carburettor, incidently.

Of course, the Citroen is front driven. The drive is taken out the front of the engine and into a five-speed manual gearbox which protrudes well forward, thence through a conventional diff to the wheels. Suspension is typical of the breed with self-levelling hydropneumatic units providing independent springing all round, essentially the same as that in all other Citroens. Included in its specification is the usual manual heugh adjustment for extra terrain clearance and to help when changing a wheel. As with the Rover, the Citroenīs suspension has remained largely unaltered during the course of its evolution, providing the basic rightness of the design as every year goes past.

Worm and roller steering is employed in the Rover and itīs rather low geared, needing 3.75 lock to lock for a 35ft circle. Happily, the steering is light and certainly does not require power assistance although it should be noted that itīs pretty handy in the much heavier 3500 version. Power steering for the Citroen, however, is just about essential. The combination of 185-15 radials (Michelin XAS, of course) high gearing and front drive strive to defeat the efforts of those who are weak of limb. The turning circle is a foot larger than the Roverīs, although it seems more, and needs only three turns lock to lock. The power steering adds ₤78 to the price, and most D Citroens come in with it, the assistance comes from a central hydraulic system.

There are inboard discs on the front and conventional drums on the rear, activated by that small push-button on the floor, so often mistaken for the dip-switch by people who think conventionally. The Roverīs brakes are all disc, those at the rear being inboard, and the system is servo-assisted.

Both cars employ blot-on body panels which simplify crash damage and repairs, although insurance companies seem to ignore this in their assessments.


Neither car has much acceleration in the accepted sense. They are quite lively, though, as long as you remember to keep the power units working around the point of maximum torque. The virtue of big fours is their lugging power; perhaps that is the thing at which these cars are best. There are times, in the Rover particularly, when you can almost count the revolutions.

The Citroen manages to exploit its performance better than the TC. The reason is inherent in the aerodynamics of the D series: the sharpe shape allows the car to cut through the air very cleanly and thus enables the engine to pull a high top gear quite comfortably. Thus, the D Super can be persuaded to cruise at around 115 mph with the possibility of building this up to 120 mph on slight downhill runs, while the other four speeds in the box have fairly good ratios that give you the choice of either stirring them for performance or pottering, say, in fourth and third only.

With maximum power available at 5500 rpm there is little incentive to try for more revs than that. Never smooth, the engine feels a churny as the tacho climbs towards the red band; not fragile mind you, just lumpy like an old engine that has passed through the development mill a number of times.

That applies rather much to the TC, too. The long history of the ohc four-cylinder Rover engine has failed to produce a smooth result, partly due to the fact that it employs a flat head surface with the combustion chambers in the piston crowns. The power comes at 5000 rpm and the red line is at 6000, but like the Citroen there is little incentive to aim for the peak. For one thing the power drops off rapidly and for another feels too lumpy. Gearing is somewhat lower than the Citroenīs and the shape mitigates against reaching the red line in top. Nevertheless, the TC will steam along quite happily at 100 to 105 mph, and its acceleration up to 60 and 70 mph is relatively brisk and assuring. Lacking the opportunity of having five speeds like the Citroen, Rover have opted to keep their intermediate ratios high and this works quite well.

In top the Citroen gives 20.2 mph per 1000 rpm and the Rover 19.7 mph per 1000 rpm. Yet it is the Rover that does better in terms of fuel consumption. You donīt have to try particularly hard to get 27-28 mpg, but the Citroenīs figure in the same conditions tends to be more in the 24-26 mpg region. Is it, we wonder, that the Citroen invites harder driving? The Rover now sips from a 15 gallon fuel tank (it was only 12), whereas the Citroen needs 14.3 gallons to fill its task.

Tuning potential

There is almost none for either. Far better in the case of the Rover to put your money down to a 3500 S and stand in the long line of people who got in before you. Alternatively, a competent tuning house should be able to clean up the manifolds and ports with a consequent gain in general smoothness and running efficiency.

Much the same applies to the Citroen really. The DS 23 with its larger capacity engine makes more sense than fiddling with the existing unit, and the DS 23 has a fuel injection option as well. Or you can pay more than twice as much and have the Maserati V6 powered Citroen SM.

In other words, donīt meddle with either the Rover or the Citroen engine if you are in search of more power. There are no bolt-on goodies for either so the search for a few extra horses could be as frustrating as it is expensive.

Maintenance, spares

The Citroen is a specialised car that requires the attention of Citroen dealers. If it is serviced badly or incorrectly or not at all, then itīs reasonable to expect that it will give more trouble in its life than a neglected Ford Escort, for instance. But then a Citroen gives you more in return, so its a reasonably fair exchange. Spare parts are quite costly, too, but there is no shortage of them and the dealer network is reasonably strong.

But not as strong as Roverīs. Being a British Leyland division, the service net is cast wide, and the car itself is reasonably simple to work on. The spare parts system is not great though, and we know of some people who have encountered long delays in getting parts. Like the Citroen, the Rover does need quite careful care and attention to get the best out of the vehicle in the long term and inevitably that entails servicing that is more costly than for conventional cars. The Citroen needs a service every 3000 miles, while the Rover should have attention at 6000 miles.

Handling, steering, brakes

First, the Rover. It is essentially a conventional car and its road behaviour reflects this. The steering, although not as precise or as nice as rack and pinion is nevertheless quite accurate at the expense of feeling rather dead.

Depending on how you set the car up for a corner, it will either understeer strongly and feel a bit clumsy, or it will track very neatly and finally break away at the rear. In the natural course of events it likes to be powered through corners and when it is there is a lot of roadholding and a fair bit of body roll as well. Finally the rear-end slides fairly abruptly but responds to correction quickly and tidily.

With anything approaching enterprising driving, you can get the Rover around the countryside quickly and esily, its compact dimensions provided little handicap on narrow roads. In other words, itīs hard to do it wrong in the Rover; itīs forgiving, safe, sure. We were less enthusiastic about the brakes. The pedal was light enough, but it felt spongy and was not too consistent in its movement. Not that this stopped the anchors from working effectively for they were able to bring the car to an unspectacular halt from any speed.

Of course, the Citroen presents rather a different brake picture. Its high pressure hydraulics require only a gentle dab, a caress, of the brake button to stop the car; the trock is to do it just right, specially on slippery surface where wheel locking can be a problem for the unwary. Once mastered, the Citroenīs brakes work superbly in bringing the car to a fast, positive halt with no fade and no drama.

Itīs the size of the Citroen that can intimidate the driver on narrow roads. It feels and it is quite a lot longer than the Rover; the long snout is mostly out of sight, so you must always allow for several feet of unseen shovel nose.

There is inevitably an element of initial concern when driving a Citroen because it feels strange: Will we inadvertendly put the brakes on too hard? Will we forget the nose and shunt some Mini in the bum? Will we ever come to grips with the steering? It takes maybe 10 miles to get the message and after that you adjust to the non-conformist aspects of the design. Steering is very sensitive and very responsive. If you move the wheel the car changes direction immediately; no waiting for the message to be passed, no nonsense, just action. All of which gives the Citroen incredible swervability in emergencies. You can be out of a crisis situation on steering alone before most cars have even begun to change direction. The Citroenīs high speed stability is superior to Roverīs. Whereas the French car will maintain its course through thick and thin, the Rover is prone to moving about in crosswinds.

As you would expect, the Citroen is an understeerer. Normally it remains neutral, but gets progressively more understeer the further you go beyond the realm of steady driving. The actual level of roadholding is high and even when the ragged edge of understeer is reached, adjustments to the power settings retrieve the situation. Body roll is at roughly the same level as it is in the Rover. Of the two, the Rover is more fun to drive because it is compact and more chuckable as a result. Conversely, the Citroen is in a different category for it allows you to explore areas not available in conventional cars.

Ride, comfort

The Citroenīs unique suspension gives it a better ride overall than that provided by the Roverīs system. Yet the Citroen is not perfect. It has a marked dislike for sudden humps, which confuse the suspension no end, and there is also more radial thump over cateyes than in the TC. But the Rover generates more road noise than the Citroen which is remarkably good in this area. Nevertheless, both cars are extremely capable vehicles that will tackle virtually any kind of road surface confidently. Only on really hard bumps was the Rover noisy in the suspension, and that did not come from bottoming so much as the normal operation of the workings.

Neither car is quiet at speed. There is quite a lot of mechanical noise from the Citroenīs engine over 110 mph – about the same amount, in fact, that you encounter in the Rover at 100. The test Rover had a wind noise problem around the driverīs door, but it seemed to be more an individual fault than an inherent one. Air-induced noise in the Citroen was lower than the Rover, but its fresh-air ventilation system, although commendably efficient, was rowdy at speed; the TCīs does not pass the quantity of air and was quieter.

We prefer the Citroenīs seats and driving position. The dimensions of the seats are greater, the upholstery softer and the cushions higher off the floor so you tend to put your feet down onto the pedals rather than having to stretch out to them. Both cars we tested had the cloth trim thatīs a ₤30 option in the D Super, but a standard alternative to leather in the Rover. We liked the friction lock backrest adjustment on the Rover over the Citroenīs more conventional arrangement, but found that the TCīs seats lacked back support over long distances; shorter people may have been better off than our six-footers. Even with the latest modifications on the seats the Rover is still a small car inside, capable of carrying only four people at best and then with some sacrifices needed to ensure that those in the back have enough legroom. Conversely, the Citroen really will carry five poeple with a huge amount of legroom and has no intrusive transmission tunnel.

Small items accommodation is much better in the Rover than in the Citroen, the former having those two angled bins under the fascia that are so convenient and capacious, plus the wide fascia shelf itself. The Citroen has a few pockets and a smaller glovebox in front of the passenger, but makes up for this by having a much larger luggage boot than the TC. The Roverīs spare wheel can be accommodated on the boot lid if necessary. The D Superīs spare is under the bonnet, in the nose of the car.

Plainly designed and laid out, the Citroen is more comfortable than the Rover in most respects, although the compactness of the British car is an attraction in itself, specially since the Citroen often feels wide, long and rather awkward to park.

Controls, instruments

The Rover wins hands down on instrument quantity, listing on its fascia a speedo, tacho, and dials for temperature, amps, fuel contens and oil pressure, all neat white on black faces directly behind the absolutely large but admittedly adjustable steering wheel.

Against this array, the Citroen appears almost casual. It has a matching speedometer and tacho, a fuel gauge that was still saying a little under a quarter full when the tank ran dry on a Belgian autobahn, and a circular bank of lights that couples the three major failure elements (hydraulics, temperature, oil pressure) to a glaring “stop” sign that leaves no doubt as to what you should do next. The panel takes away the need to scan the instruments.

The Rover works its wash/wipe and lighting systems from central fascia control knobs, with the winkers, flashers, horn and dip operating through steering column stalks. Citroen opt for lighting, wash/wipe, dip, horn, winkers and flashers to be worked by column stalks, leaving only the minor switchgear on the fascia itself. Both the French and british approach work commendably well with no problems; itīs worth pointing out that Citroen do not believe in self-cancelling winkers.

Citroenīs other oddities are the single-spoke steering wheel and the brake button on the floor. They take time to get used to, but once mastered are perfectly satisfactory. Unusually, the Citroen has a steering column gearchange that leaves the front floor completely clear of hardware, the handbrake being under the fascia on the right hand side. The gear pattern is conventional, fifth being the odd one out, is on the same plane as reverse and protected by spring pressure. A floor change as nice as the SMīs would have been better, but the column lever worked very well indeed.

Nor can any complaint be levelled at the Rover. As we said before, the steering wheel is too big, but its rake can be altered by releasing a friction nut. Floor mounted, the gearchange is smooth and positive with short movements from one ratio to the next; reverse is locked out with a collar on the lever itself, and the handbrake is between the seats.


These are a pair of horses for courses. Around town the Rover TC offers quite real advantages over the substantially larger Citroen but loses what it picks almost at once because it is small inside.

Although the Rover is a fast cruiser, too, with better fuel consumption and a greater cruising range than the Citroen, the latter is more comfortable over long distances and feels less of a disgruntled slave mechanically when you are trying to put lots of miles into the day. And the five speed gearbox gives a good spread of ratios for difficult conditions too.

We would be happier with the Citroen than the Rover for carrying people and luggage fast over long distances. Yet the Rover is nippier in traffic and offers rather traditional creature comforts with lots of attention to detail fittings. Itīs almost to the point of lossing a coin, but we would hope that it came down on the side daying D Super.

UK 1973