Rover 3500 S

extract of comparison test

 with Audi 100 Coupé S and Triumph Stag

Once you get above £2.000, there´s a complicated range of cars to choose from, and they tend to be difficult to compare because there are considerable differences in character between them. What we´ve tested for this report are two cars that we know members are particularly interested in: the Triumph Stag, and the ultimate in Rover 2000s - the Rover 3500 S. With them we´ve tested the most expensive model in the Audi 100 range - the Audi 100 Coupé S - because the Audi came out well when we last compared it with a Rover (in April 1970).

The three cars are fairly close to each other in price, but quite different in concept.


Triumph Stag  £2.570

One of the few remaining convertible cars. Powered by a 2.997 cc V8 engine driving the back wheels, with, in our case, a four-speed manual gearbox, and overdrive. Power-assisted steering is standard. Our car had a convertible (soft) top as well as a detachable hard top (which included a heated back window). It costs about £100 less if you don´t have the hard top.


Rover 3500 S  £2.207

A four-door, four-seat saloon - biggest engined version in the Rover 2000 range, powered by a 3.528 cc V8 engine, driving the back wheels. The S version, as tested, has a four-speed manual gearbox. We also chose the £91 optional extra power-assisted steering


Audi 100 Coupé S  £2.575

A fastback, two-door coupé called ´a full four-seater´ based on the Audi 100 range of saloons. It is very similar mechanically to the Audi 100 GL saloon, sharing its 1.871 cc four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels (the 100 GL is itself a more powerful version of the 100 LS saloon).



Rover 3500 S

Its performance was extremely good. The engine was smooth and very powerful. It could overtake safely, and always had plenty of power in reserve. With top speed of 120 mph, it could cruise effortlessly at 70 mph (in fact the engine would be loafing along at just under 3.000 rpm at this speed).


Cruising at speed, it was very quiet, with only some slight wind noise disturbing the peace. Even accelerating hard, the roar of the engine was quite subdued. Opening a window made it a lot noisier.


The power-assisted steering was light and fairly precise. This option made normal driving more pleasant (we found the non power-assisted Rover 3500 we tested in October 1969 to be a very heavy car to steer). Cornering very fast, the car rolled a lot, and you had to be careful not to use too much power, or you could make the back wheels slide out. You had to use the accelerator delicately on wet roads, to prevent either front or back wheels losing their grip. Side winds blew it about a bit.


The ride was comfortable. Only large bumps could make the car bounce noticeably.


The brakes were powerful. They could stop the car very well from speed, weren´t much affected by heavy use, and recovered quickly from a soaking in water. The handbrake also worked very well, especially as an emergency brake.


The major controls were well placed. The steering wheel could be adjusted up and down (though in some positions it could obscure some of the instruments and warning lights). Some drivers found the clutch on the heavy side.


Parking was easy - with the aid of the power steering - though you needed quite a lot of room.


The headlights were very powerful and gave a very good spread of light on main beam. The reversing lights were very good, and the interior light was very bright. The map light, above the passenger glove box, was also very good - it could be used without distracting the driver.


The wiper pattern didn´t obstruct your view forwards to any great extent, but it did leave large blind areas at each side (and a dirty screen tended to obscure the wing mirrors for all but the tall - whereever you fitted them).


It had a small, convex interior mirror that didn´t dip for night-time use - an odd meanness on so expensive a car. It gave a wide field of view, but made other cars seem farther away than they really were.


On the road verdict: a very fast and easy car to drive


Getting in and out was quite easy (four doors). Door stays worked well.


The front seats could be easily adjusted forwards or backwards and had an infinitely variable adjustment for the backrest angle. Unlike other Rovers, it had synthetic seat facings instead of leather (leather costs £24 extra). The backrest was well shaped and supported you well. But the edges of the seat cushion didn´t really stop you sliding about on it. Even so, most drivers found the seat very comfortable. Some drivers would have preferred to be able to raise the height of the front of the seat. There was a set of four screws and spacers included in the tool kit that you could use to adjust the height of the seat at the front, at the back or at both. They did make a slight improvement. There was rather too little elbow room for big drivers.


The seat in the back was shaped for two people. Each half was very similarly shaped to the individual front seats, with plenty of side support in the backrest. There was a centre armrest. There was enough legroom, though not a generous amount. You could carry three people in the back for a short distance - but the one in the middle wouldn´t be comfortable.


The heating and ventilation worked well for those in the front. There was plenty of heat, easily controlled, and plenty of fresh air from the dashboard vents (but the stream of air could irritate some people´s eyes on long runs). In the back, there was too much heat at head level, which could make you stuffy.


For oddments there were two storage bins, one for the driver, one for the front passenger. There was also a useful shelf running across the dashboard.


The boot held only 9 cu ft, not really big enough for four people - the spare wheel took up a lot of room (though you could stand it upright, or lay it in the bottom of the boot, depending on the shape of the things you were trying to carry). You can have the spare wheel mounted on the outside of the boot for £18 extra.


Non of the locks on the car proved much of a problem to our ´thief´. He could get in and steal your valuables very quickly. He could also pick the steering column lock, though it was difficult, and took at least four minutes.


Comfort and convenience verdict: good in the front, quite good in the back; a pity the boot´s so small


Some safety points weren´t very well covered: non drop-out convex mirror, toughened windscreen, projecting visor mountings, safety belt mountings and back door ventilator catches, front vent panes when wide open, no childproof locks. Comfortable inertia reel safety belts were fitted as standard.


Safety verdict: basic safety design good, but a few detailed faults


Simple maintenance items very easy to check except that the bonnet was very heavy. A good well-made set of tools was provided: five double ended spanners, plug spanner, double ended screwdriver, tyre pressure gauge, as well as the wheel brace. Most of the 6.000-mile service wouldn´t be difficult to do yourself at home. You would need a set of feeler gauges, a large screwdriver, a funnel and an oil syringe. The handbook was very helpful.


The jack worked well and didn´t need too much effort. The boot sill, only 20 inches from the ground, made removing the spare wheel comparatively easy. Cleaning was difficult around the front bumper and the grille, but was otherwise fairly easy.


Maintenance verdict: few problems


The paintwork on our car was in very good condition at the end of the test. The paint was hard and resisted scratching. Where it had been chipped, it had flaked off somewhat, but the undercoat had stopped any rust from forming.


The underbody sealing had done an excellent job, though in one or two places it had come off in blobs.


The brightwork wasn´t so good. There was some pimpling on the back light surrounds, and quite a lot of rust on the bumpers and overriders.


Our car arrived with 13 delivery defects. Worst were wheels wrongly aligned, badly adjusted door lock and a broken weld on bumper bracket.


Thirty-two members told us about their 3500 S (11 had the optional power steering). They reported an average of three defects a car. Eight had troble with doors and locks, four complained about engine misfiring, exhaust trouble, bonnet catching, clonks in the drive shaft, and three of the cars with power steering had oil leaks from the power steering unit.


During test, our car was fairly reliable, needing workshop attention four times. Troubles were: petrol leak from in-line filter (1.000 miles), petrol leak from chafing pipe - dangerous (3.000), door catch adjusted (4.500), differential oil seals leaking (8.000).


Members´ cars had averaged 9.500 miles. Their troubles included: failed spark plugs - causing misfiring (44 per cent), difficult gear selection, clonk from splined joints on transmission shaft (22 per cent), engine oil leaks, noisy brakes, door lock troubles, noisy wipers (19 per cent), flat spots, paint blemishes (16 per cent), petrol leaks, noisy gearbox, rusty chrome, faulty alternator (13 per cent), faulty thermostat (10 per cent).


After test, there were small oil leaks from engine and differential; a clonk from the transmission; the handbrake gaiter was split; and there was some water in the back lights.


Reliability verdict: good for us, fairly good for members; spark plugs may give trouble in town driving


Our car had a fairly high fuel bill - it did about 20 mpg on 5-star petrol (five-star petrol has more lead in it than will eventually be allowed: it´s really a bad thing for a car to need this grade, which many garages anyway don´t stock). Its brakes lasted quite well, but you might need a new set of tyres every year - about £50 worth every 12.000 miles. Insurance is in Group 6, so you could pay between £120 and £200 a year, before no claims discounts, depending on where you live. Depreciation could be about £700 over two years.


Running costs verdict: in the region of £18 a week


The guarantee was the standard British Leyland Owner´s Service Statement. This is a clearly worded guarantee that doesn´t restrict your normal legal rights (though the Order Form still does).




Value for Money


The Triumph Stag (£2.570) fell between two stools. It had a powerful engine and could certainly go very fast. But, as a sports car, its cornering ability wasn´t particularly good, especially on wet roads, and, as a comfortable long-distance tourer, it was too noisy. Sadly, both for us and for members, its condition on delivery was very poor, and it wasn´t very reliable.


The Audi (£2.575) had a lot of good features - but a few drawbacks. It was capable of an impressive turn of speed, and its handling was good. Most people found it comfortable, and it had good minor controls, though its main driving controls were less satisfactory. The main problems came from its coupé styling, which restricted your view backwards and gave you less room. If you like the sound of it, we suggest you look at the Audi 100 GL saloon at £1.995, which should give you most of the advantages, without the problems the coupé styling produced. But of course, it may be the styling which attracts you.


Of these three cars the Rover (£2.207) stands out. It was very fast, quiet and comfortable. Its handling, though not in the sports car class, was alright. It had fairly good controls and instruments. Our car was reliable and, with the exception of an excessive consumption of spark plugs and some driveshaft troubles, members´ cars hadn´t been too bad. Against this, you must balance its fairly high running costs (including its 5-star petrol consumption), and its smallish boot. The power steering (£91 extra) is well worth having.


It´s worth thinking about its automatic brother, the 3500, costing £2.285. In our 3500 S, the manual gearbox worked well, though the clutch was a little heavy. Unless you really want a manual gearbox, we think that there is so much power available from the engine that you won´t notice the loss in performance from the three-speed automatic transmission, which will make town driving a lot more pleasant. But its leather seats could be rather slippery.


So, for a fast four-seater:

Good value for money - Rover 3500 S (with power steering)



  Audi Rover Triumph
quarter mile 17.4 sec 16.9 sec 17.1 sec
top speed 112 mph 120 mph 118 mph
fuel consumption 25.4 mpg 20.0 mpg 19.9 mpg

Motoring Which? / UK April 1973