Rover 3500 S
extract of comparison
with Audi 100 Coupé S
and Triumph Stag
Once you get
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
Motoring Which? / UK