Rover 3500 V8
extract of comparison
with Ford Granada 3.0
GXL, Opel Commodore 2.8 GS, Toyota Crown and Vauxhall Ventora
Not so long ago
a £2500 car would have been out of the reach of all but the better-off section
of the community. But now that we are told the national average wage is £40 a
week, one of these cars costs little more than a year´s wages. With the
traditional helpfulness of the hire purchase companies a £2500 car can be yours
in 38 painless instalments. Naturally, factors like insurance, fuel costs,
repairs and maintenance must come into the decision but one of the semi-luxury
cars in this group test is by no means outside the reach of the man in the
street. It no longer causes raised eyebrows to see blue collar workers arriving
at the factory or building size in an XJ6 or Mercedes 220. Money squeezes and
fuel shortages not-withstanding people seem prepared to indulge their fancies
whatever the cost. The bulging order books for quality cars indicates only too
well that there are plenty of people waiting to join the serried ranks of the
The cars in
this comparison test are, with one exeption, luxury versions of cheaper models
in the range. The exception is the Toyota Crown which is a separate model from
the remainder of the Toyota range. The Rover 3500 is, of course, basically the
Rover 2000 fitted with a 3 1/2-litre V8 engine, the Ford Granada is bodily the
same as the cheaper Consul models but fitted with a 3-litre V6 engine instead of
the V4 and 2.5-litre V6, the Vauxhall Ventora has a bigger engine than the
Victor models lower down the line and the Opel Commodore is bodily similar to
the Opel Rekord which is sold with much smaller engines.
This is of course a potential
weakness of any improved version of a cheaper car, for a good many people do not
like having a
sitting in their driveway when a man two doors away has an identical looking car
which cost maybe £800 less. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who
recognise the special attributes of the ameliorated versions of fairly mundane
Technically the Rover 3500 is the
most interesting of our five-car group. When it was first announced as the Rover
2000 in 1963, the car was a real technical advance on the majority of other
British cars. Even today, although other cars have cut down the leeway, it is
still an outstanding car. The chassis/body unit is unique in that a large number
of body panels are bolted on so that repairs are easier to undertake than on
most other unitary chassis.
The suspension, too, is unusual:
the coil springs of the front suspension are mounted horizontally, acting
against the front bulkhead, the loads being fed into the springs via a
complicated series of links. The aim of this system is to feed suspension loads
into the very strong bulkhead.
The rear suspension is by a de
Dion axle which allows the wheels to remain vertical without suffering the
severe camber changes of some independent suspension systems.
The 3500 is powered by the
all-aluminium V8 engine which Rover devised from the American Buick V8. When
originally announced the 3528 cc engine gave 160 bhp but the demands of
pollution regulations have gradually reduced this and at the time of the London
Motor Show the engine was fitted with new pistons in order to reduce the
compression ratio to 9.25:1 from 10:1. This reduced maximum power to 143 bhp,
allowing the engine to operate on lower octane lead-free fuel which reduces
emissions. The 3500 drives through a Borg Warner three-speed gearbox, the type
65 model having been adopted for 1974; this is claimed to offer smoother gear
changes. The Rover 3500 S model uses a four-speed manual gearbox.
Our test car was fitted with the
optional Dunlop Denovo fail-safe tyres; these tyres have the capability of being
able to run for up to 100 miles at 50 mph in the deflated condition before
repairs are made. These tyres are only available if the optional power steering
is also specified as the steering effort would be too great with the manual
steering. The Minister for Transport Industries has recently changed the law on
tyres to cover the Denovo as it was previously illegal to drive on a flat or
partially flat tyre.
The price of the Rover 3500
without extras is
The Rover, which has the largest
engine of the group, is the second fastest. It accelerates to 60 mph in 11.1 sec
and to 80 mph in 19.2 sec with the standing quarter mile coming up in 17.2 sec -
slightly faster than the Opel. The Rover´s engine is considerably noisier than
that of the Opel - but noise suppressiom is a perennial problem with aluminium
engines. At peak revs the engine sounds quite harsh and slightly rough but it
too has hydraulic tappets to prevent over-revving. Lower down the rev range the
Rover V8 is impressively smooth and if the gearbox is left to its own devices,
upward changes are made at 4500 rpm, at which engine speed the car just whispers
along. Upward changes occur at 35 and 68 mph but if the gears are held manually,
these increase to 47 and 78 mph respectively. Top speed has reduced slightly
from that of the previous model due to the drop in power but the car is still
good for 111 mph. The Borg Warner type 65 gearbox is a distinct improvement on
the type 35 as upward changes are extremely smooth, but the kickdown changes are
more jerky than on the GM unit. There is some gear whine in low gear but
generally the box is quiet.
To sum up the performance
characteristics of the cars, the Opel and the Rover are by far the most eager,
the Opel is particular being crisp and sporty in feel. These two cars could
fairly claim to be sports saloons, whereas the other three are less accelerative
and more stately in their progress.
None of the cars is very
economical for they all have to be driven slowly to exceed 20 mpg. Our overall
consumption figures naturally reflect a higher degree of hard usage than most
people would require. The Rover used the most petrol, giving 17.5 mpg, with the
Opel and Granada close behind at 18. The Toyota (19 mpg) was little better and
the Vauxhall was best at 21 mpg. Although private owners ought to get over 20
mph they will certainly not exceed it by much unless they creep around at under
60 mph and use the throttle sparingly. All the cars require four-star 98 octane
fuel. The Commodore has a 15.3 gallon fuel tank, the Granada 13.6, the Toyota
15.4, the Rover 15 and the Ventora 14.25 gallons. This gives the Granada a
fairly modest cruising range for a large family car of under 250 miles.
Nothing startling can normally be
expected from large cars weighing 1.5 tons but the Opel and the Rover are quite
outstanding in their handling for cars of this size and weight, although they
both achieve their handling by different methods.
The Rover rolls more than the
Opel, but it too can be whipped through bends very rapidly and is not at all
upset by bumps as the supple suspension absorbs it all without protest. The
Rover has the added advantage for the skilled driver that the power can be used
to break the rear wheels loose on bends to turn the natural understeering
tendency into oversteer. The Dunlop Denovo tyres behave in exactly the same way
as any other radial ply tyre although they seemed to squeal without much
provocation. The driver is at least safe in the knowledge that should a tyre
deflate while he is oversteering round a bend he ought to be able to retain
All the cars have power steering,
which tends to remove the natural feel of the road. Most keen drivers resent
this as they can feel from the messages passed back through the steering wheel
what the car is doing. With a power steering system the driver is invariably
aware when the car has done it and it´s too late to make appropriate
corrections. However, without power steering all of these heavy cars would be
almost impossible to drive.
Although the Rover has a fairly
poor 4 1/2 turns lock to lock its steering retains a good deal of feel, which
results in some heaviness at parking speeds and a tendency for the wheel to
self-centre when cornering hard. This became a little tiring after a while.
The brakes of all the cars work
very well under heavy braking although the Toyota´s began to fade under repeated
stops, then to grab, and the car would slew to a stop at an undignified angle.
The others stopped all square with no problems at all. The handbrakes all held
easily on a 1 in 3 test hill.
All the five test cars are
four-door saloons with excellent seating. The Toyota, Ventora, Granada and Opel
all offer very similar accommodation, allowing room for two on the separate
front seats and three at a pinch on the rear bench. The odd car out is the Rover
which is really designed as a four-seater, for the rear bench is sculptured into
a shape which leaves little doubt that only two are to be accommodated. Leg room
in the rear of the Rover is also at a premium if the driver is to be at all
comfortable. It does compensate for this in having the most sumptuous seating of
the group. The cushions are deep and well shaped and the reclining backrests of
the front seats have ample side bolsters to give good lateral location. The rear
seats, too, are well shaped to give occupants good support. The standard
material for seats is brushed nylon but leather is an option and head restraints
for all four seats are another option.
All five cars are comfortable to
ride in, but they each have their own character. For those who like a soft, well
damped ride which will cope well with bumps, the Granada is undoubtedly best,
but it will not corner as well as the Opel which has a firm - some might say
hard - ride. It will become a bit skittish on bad bumps, but the ride smooths
out as speed rises. The Rover has a fairly firm, but well damped ride which
copes well with bumps yet gives a feeling of reassurance, allowing the driver to
travel fast over poor surfaces.
The Rover and the Opel are
equipped with almost ideal instrumentation and minor controls. The circular
instruments of both cars are nicely laid out and completely legible while the
fingertip column controls leave one in no doubt as to their function. The
tastefully restrained interior layout of both cars gives the drivers and
passengers a feeling that engineers who care have developed and driven these
cars for many miles.
Again, no clear cut winner
emerges from this group, although a couple stood above the others. The Opel
appealed immediately to those of the test team who value sure-footed handling, a
firm ride and good performance above all else. It was not so popular with those
whose paunches take unkindly to the sharp vertical motions over bad bumps.
The Rover was admired because of
its sheer quality, both in terms of engineering and interior layout. It fell
down in our eyes on its relative lack of interior room and the high noise level
from the engine, tyres and the wind. If not pressed hard, the engine was
wonderfully smooth and powerful.
The Granada impressed as a roomy
maid-of-work which would probably go on for years with no problems. Its
combination of interior room and performance was liked by most drivers but the
gaudy interior was not. If the badge had read Jaguar instead of Ford more people
might have been impressed - such is snobbishness.
The Toyota Crown should have been
impressive but even its vast array of equipment did not endear it to many of us.
It seemed to be like a latter-day Eliza Doolottle attempting to crash into high
society before it was quite ready. If the garishness and tinsel can be
eliminated, the Crown could be a real threat.
The Ventora is under a handicap
because it is a fair bit cheaper than the others and therefore cannot hope to
have the same amount of equipment. But it impressed with its good if
unexceptional standard of handling and steering and its interior room. It should
be something elase with that rumoured V8 installed.
Probably, if we were feeling in a
sporty mood when the cheque book was out, we would go for the Opel or the Rover,
but if common sense prevailed, and the bank manager was looking over our
shoulder, we would have to pick the Ford.
What Car? / UK