Rover 3500 V8

It is a great credit to Rover engineering that in the substantial revisions, the mechanical side has been left largely alone - the overdue introduction of power-assisted steering as an option on the 3500 is about the only change in this respect. When the 3500 was first tried in April 1968, we remember that the steering felt rather heavy and out of character in such a refined and otherwise easy-to-drive car; now at Ģ74 extra, power steering can be specified to complete the package for a luxury car within compact dimensions.

The system used for the steering is the Adwest arrangement as first used by Jaguar on the 420 and parallel Daimler Sovereign, and features a varying ratio. Near the centre position, the ratio is relatively low, giving small response to wheel movement. As the wheel is turned, the steering becomes effectively higher-geared and small movement of the wheel then has greater effect. The result is particularly satisfactory on a winding road, when the car can be hurried along with a minimum of steering wheel movement for successive bends. The turning circles have increased from just over 33ft (between kerbs) to 34ft 9in. (right) and 37ft 1in., but there is a useful reduction of steering wheel turns from lock to lock from 4.5 to only 3.2. This and the must lower steering effort make the 3500 very easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces.

As before, there is quite a lot of body roll on corners, and fairly strong understeer. Initial steering movement seems to settle the car into its angle of roll and line it up for the corner, and it then follows through very well. On the straight, the lack of play in the steering remains good, but directional stability is poor. The car wanders off course badly even in mild cross winds, and rather delicate control of the steering is needed to avoid accentuating these movements at high speed. Slight sucking noises are heard from the high pressure fluid in the steering, especially when manoeuvring and using nearly full lock.

The test car was on Dunlop SP Sport tyres. The Rover 2000 series has always been noted for its excellent grip and for the very high cornering speeds possible in the wet without making the wheels slide, and this adhesion in tricky conditions is made even more impressive by these excellent tyres.

Suspension refinement seems even better than before, though we have been told of no reason for improvement here. Soft initial movement is backed up by strong damping so that undulations can be taken fast without any disturbing plunge or floating, and ordinary surface irregularities are ironed out very well. In the back, the ride is appreciably less comfortable, and quite a lot of pattering reaction is noticed. Road roar is well subdued without entirely eliminated.

Judging from appearance only, the new front end, with its four headlamps set in rather deep wind traps, looks a little less aerodynamic then before, and perhaps this may explain a small reduction in maximum speed from 114 mph to 112 mph; buit this is a very marginal difference, and the optimistic rev-counter is in any case just reaching the beginning of its red section at 5200 rpm, which the handbook says should not be exceeded. All the standing start acceleration figures up to 90 mph were within half a second of the times recorded by the original 3500, and the acceleration to 100 mph in 36.4 sec. shows a small reduction on the 37.7 sec. previously timed.

On the road the car seems fast without having any pretensions to sporting performance. The vee-8 engine is extremely quiet from the aspect of mechanical noise, though quite a lot of the characteristics exhaust beat is audible under acceleration. An ordínary pressed steel fan replaces the earlier Rover fan which had long blades with curved ends. Extensive sound-proofing on the underneath of the bonnet helps to deaden any fan roar. Those raised pressings on the bonnet panel, incidentally, are for appearance only and not - as may be presumed - to give clearance for the two SU carburettors.

Up to 100 mph or a little more is well within the 3500īs capacity for sustained cruising in still air, and as well as the low level of mechanical noise, improved door seals and the tight fastening of the front quarter vents possible with the new winding fasteners helps to keep wind noise fairly low.

Borg Warner Type 35 automatic transmission is retained, but a change which, in the first 3500 Road Test, we said we would like to see - adoption of D-2-1 selector in place of the D2-D1-L control - has been introduced. As before, the selector has a safety knob in the top of the lever, which must be pressed in to safeguard park, reverse and low. Pleasantly easy and unobstructed to and fro movement of the lever is allowed between Drive (where all gears change automatically) and 2 (in which the transmission remains in second regardless of speed). Because of this very convenient overriding control it was less embarrassing than it might have been that the throttle valve in the transmission has seized on the test car, though eventually this broke the throttle linkage. Without kickdown, the transmission changed up at much lower speeds than normal, so it was not surprising that using the selector knocked nearly 6 sec. off the rest to 100 mph time.

It is as well to remember that bottom gear is not available with the lever at position 2; sometimes after changing down with the hold, traffic may force the car to a halt, and it will then restart in second unless the lever is moved either to Drive or to 1.

Changes occur smoothly but not without a slight jerk which occupants usually notice, and if low is selected, it sometimes goes in with quite a thud. The transmission can be left to its own devices most of the time, when the torque convertor plus the ample engine torque available, cope very well. Although Rover ally this engine to a four-speed manual gearbox in the Range Rover, the 3500 is still available only as an automatic car.

Starting is always prompt, and when the engine is cold there is no stalling if the mixture control is pulled out and turned to lock. Warm-up is rapid, and the enrichment can soon be dispensed with; if it is forgotten a "choke warning" tell-tale lights up when the engine reaches its normal running temperature.

The Rover 2000/3500 series has always had disc brakes all round, and on the 3500 with standard servo they work extremely well, giving really reasuring efficiency for moderate pedal loads. A firm tread on the pedal - yet still only 60 lb - brings a 1.0g stop, and even as much as 1.05g was obtained with 80 lb effort. In repeated hard use there is negligible fade. The handbrake is not quiet up to the same standard, and although it will lock the rear wheels at 30 mph, it would not quite hold on 1 in 3; there is a slightly soft feel to the well-placed handbrake lever between the seats, giving the impression that if it is pulled too hard it would just stretch the cables.

Vertical adjustment of the steering wheel is retained, and it enables the driver to position the wheel so as not to obscure the tops of the new circular instruments. All who used the car were impressed by the new layout, and we were delighted to see that the clear minor instruments flanking the rev counter and speedometer include an ammeter (against the trend towards voltmeters). There are also an oil pressure gauge, temperature and fuel gauges. All instruments and warning lamps are set behind a single transparent cover, easily kept clean. On the left is the clock - a Kienzle electric self-winding unit keeping excellent time - and above it is the choke warning tell-tale. Ignition, headlamp main beam and oil pressure tell-tales (as well as an oil pressure gauge) are dispersed between the tops of the four instrument dials, and indicator repeaters are at the bottom. Well placed between the bottom of the speedometer and the rev-counter is the triple-function brake warning light, which comes on with handbrake, low brake fluid, or worn front or rear brake pads.

Also in a single transparent panel is the lettering identifying the minor controls, and we were impressed at the way in which the lettering is illuminated from behind, beautifully clear to read at night when the panel lamps are on. A cigarette lighter on the left is flanked by a two-position interior light switch; first movement turns on the map reading lamp above the passenger map pocket, and further rotation brings on the roof lamp in addition.

The lighting control is new and less complicated then Roverīs previous arrangement. A single rotary switch is turned clockwise to bring on side, then headlamps; and it can be pushed in and turned to a further position for fog lamps if fitted. There is also a parking lamp position (push and turn anti-clockwise), which turns on the offside side and tail lamps without panel lamps. The lighting knob is triangular and can be found easily by touch (adjacent interior light and wiper switches have a straight raised grip). As before, a column-mounted lever dips or flashes the headleamps, and a raised pip at the top of the side lamps reflects a bead of light visible from the driving seat, when side lamps are switched on. The four headlamps give very good range, and generous spread of light when dipped.

A hazard warning switch to flash all indicators together is a new feature and its position is idetified at night by four small green light points around it.

Rover still fit an interior mirror of diminishing glass, mounted too high for a long view behind, and giving a misleading impression that following vehicles are farther away than they really are.

As well as fast and slow speed for the wipers, the switch is turned anti-clockwise for the new pause facility, introduced on a British car for the first time. A small white knob on the left of the steering column is turned to alter the setting, which can be varied to give one wipe every 17 seconds, or more frequently to almost continuous wiping. This is an excellent arrangement for drizzle, road splash or mist.

Heating and ventilation are unchanged, Roverīs system on this model being one of the best on any car in current production. As well as an efficient air blending heater, with convenient on-off air control and three-speed fan, it includes face level ventilators for cool air, immediately in front of the driver and front passenger. The air lever can instantly be moved up to close off all incoming air for a tunnel or to exclude dirty exhaust fumes from the vehicles ahead. The efficiency of the whole system has been increased by introduction of extraction on the rear quarters. Air escapes at the edge of the rear window and from the junction with the roof lining, through one-way flap valves concealed behind the rear quarter panels and is evacuated above and below. In muggy weather it still proved necessary to open a rear window to obtain adequate air flow through the car, and this gently increases wind noise. Black pvc covering over the rear quarter panels is one of the external identifying features of the new model.

Seats re-shaped

Seats have been slightly reshaped to allow ineria reel safety harness to be fitted more easily, though the test car was again fitted with rather clumsy-looking fixed Irvin belts. Spacers are provided in the toolkit for alteration of height or rake of the seat, and of course Roverīs excellent infinitely variable rake adjustment for backrests is retained.

Leather upholstery remains standard, but on the test car we had brushed-nylon upholstery on the wearing surface - a no-cost option which we recommend. It is treated with Scotchguard, making it impervious to stains. The seats are very well shaped, with ample small of the back support and good lateral location; but the cushions seem a little short for the thighs. They are very comfortable seats, and as before the rear compartment is shaped to carry two, with a large folding armrest between.

Excellent features continued from the previous model are lockable drop-down map pockets in front of driver and passenger, the one on the driverīs side revealing the concealed bonnet release - and a positive fuel reserve, whose capacity has now been increased from 1.25 to 2.5 gallons. Overall consumption proved quite good, at 18 mpg, allowing over 220 miles before going on to reserve. For touring the somewhat restricted luggage capacity can be increased by the optional exterior mounting for the spare wheel.

Rover could easily have remained complacent with their continued strong demand for the 2000/3500 series, but instead they have made a big effort to improve the appeal of the cars. A really desirable car like the 3500 thus becomes even better.

Autocar / UK October 1970