car for the autofanatic
popular opinion, motoring journalists donīt spend their time dashing about the
countryside in exotic sports cars with beautiful, tawny blondes seated in the
passenger seat, their sweaty little hands tightly clutching at stop watches.
Unfortunately, most of us spend our working and leisure hours driving mundane,
very ordinary cars or just plain producing a magazine from the office, whithout
ever seeing the sun for days on end. There are compesations however, and over
the past few monts three have come my way. The drab was first broken by the
Aston Martin DBS and then by the NSU Ro 80 and now comes the last of a great
trio the Rover 3500 (which is pronounced, by the way, three-thousand-five).
Each has four wheels but very little else in common except that they are all
driverīs cars. And yet each is an automatic (the NSU is of course only a
semi-automatic for you still have to change gears, but there is no clutch
pedal), but their inherent roadholding qualities, performance, handling and
braking make driving any one a joy.
I would prefer
a manual 3500 (and for that matter NSU and DBS) because the edge is definitely
taken off the power of the new 3.5 litre V8 engine by the Borg Warner 35
automatic, but as Iīve pointed out before, very few people who pay over $4000
for a motor car want to change gears. Much and all as I may heap praise on the
3500 I would prefer a 2000 TC for its more sporty feel, its manual four-speed
gearbox and its slightly more precise handling when approaching the limits of
However, I feel
the difference of character is deliberate so that the 3500 would turn out to be
a different kind of car and appeal to those who want performance but with the
relaxed V8 feel. But first and foremost the 3500 is still very much a Rover with
all their traditional qualities plus a few new ones. The small, by American and
even Australian standards, 3.5 litre V8 engine, which develops 184 bhp compared
with 90 bhp for the 2000 and 117 bhp for the 2000 TC, was first used by Rover in
the 3-litre Sedands and Coupes which then became the 3.5 litre models.
obvious step was to use the engine in the 2000 body and the result is the 3500
and one of todayīs outstanding cars. Our test vehicle, which came from British
Leyland (Australia), who is taking an ever increasing interest in the affairs of
Rover and to a lesser extent Jaguar and Triumph in Australia, had covered over
9000 miles, most of them at the hands of other road testers.
this, more than usually mileage, the performance figures obtained from the 3500
were slightly below the standard achieved from the same car by other magazines.
On the other hand the 2000 TC tested in the October 1967 issue must have been a
good example for it recorded faster acceleration times than have been obtained
from other examples since our test. I have prepared a small chart so readers can
compare the performance of the 2000 TC, the 3.5 sedan and the 3500.
figures it can be seen that the 3500 is slow initially, but soon gathers speed
rapidly as it takes an evenly divided six seconds to go from 50 mph to 70 mph. I
feel sure that a newer car could return even better figures especially to 30 mph
and 40 mph, but even so the performance is of a high level on the open road. It
pays to hold the lower gears until the recommended shift points of 47 mph and 80
mph (it tends to change up early unless the accelerator is held to the floor)
although the engine will run far beyond these speeds and 100 mph is possible in
the intermediate ratio.
3500 cames with the old type Borg Warner 35 with D1, D2 and L controls but on
the latest models this has been changed to a simple 1, 2 and D. This allows for
manual hold in low or intermediate. Like most Borg Warner automatics it changes
sluggishly and there is an appreciable lapse between selecting 2 and getting
intermediate. The new engine hasnīt meant a great increase in weight, but since
the automatic transmission weighs more than the manual box, there has been an
overall increase. One way of keeping this increase off the front wheels was by
moving the battery from under the bonnet to the boot. The front spring rates
have gone up from 150 lbs to 170 lbs and at the rear the de Dion suspension has
been beefed up and the differential now has four pinions with a final drive
ratio of 3.54. But otherwise the suspension is unchanged. Larger section tyres
are fitted on wider rims, but the only other changes appear to be the addition
of an air intake panel under the front bumper bar and a number of 3500 and V8
badges displayed around the car at various points.
the normal 2000 and 2000 automatic, the performance of the 3500 is outstanding
and above 60 mph superior even to the TC. But the new modelīs biggest virtue is
the completely smooth feel and quite nature of the engine. It never intrudes and
provides a lazy surge of power without having the driver constantly changing
gears. Any complaints about the degree of roughness associated with the 2-litre,
single ohc, four-cylinder engine donīt apply to the 3500.
In all normal
conditions the 3500 handles exactly the same as the 2000 except that it has far
more power to push the car coming out of a corner and as a consequence is much
quicker for the average driver. It is only at the limits of adhesion that the
understeer increases compared with the four-cylinder car. But even as the driver
is braced against the seemingly inevitable front-end slide, the tail moves out
just enough to line the car up correctly again.
will never reach this stage of course, and for them cornering is simply a matter
of increasing the steering movements in proportion to the radius of the corner.
There is plenty of body roll when the car is being pushed hard, but this is only
evident from outside because the seats hold the occupants so well. Stability in
cross-winds is also excellent and the 3500 rides very impressively over all road
surfaces. Wheel movements are long this accounts for the degree of body roll
but also gives the car a soft, almost American feel on the road although it is
far tighter than any Detroit iron.
The steering is
heavy at parking speeds, but feels vague and low geared below 40 mph, until the
driver becomes accustomed to it and then he begins to appreciate the precision
and lightness at high speeds. The wheel itself is far too big. I would like to
try it with the Ro 80īs power-assisted rack and pinion steering. Generally, I
think the 3500īs handling and roadholding are in the very top bracket and
exceeded, in my experience of sedan cars, only by the Ro 80.
The brakes are
also of an extremely high standard for they feel very powerful and haul the car
down from high speeds in what seem ridiculously short distances. The front
wheels can be made to lock up on wet roads during a crash stop, but this was
probably a fault of the tyres which had worm unevenly. The rest of the 3500 is
just like the 2000. It is a small car really with a compact interior designed to
seat four people, and no more, in four comfortable bucket seats. The driving
position is up-right and the steering wheel adjustable for rake, although I
always drive with it at the lowest point of adjustment. Heating and ventilation
(the latest cars have flow-through ventilation) are excellent. Visibility is so
good I would so far as to say this is the easiest car to park, apart from the
heavy steering, I have tested this year.
I donīt like
the small convex interior mirror though. It is probably just a case of getting
used to it, as long time Rover owners never seem to complain. The range of seat
adjustment is wide even if there is very little rear leg and knee room when the
front seats are right back. The dashboard has the same rectangular panel in
front of the driver with strip speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges and
numerous warning lights. It reflects sunlight and can be difficult to read at
times. The parcel shelf is covered in a sticky rubber mat which prevents objects
from sliding around.
Wind roar at
high speeds was the only thing which detracted from the carīs ability to cruise
at between 80 and 100 mph in almost complete silence. The rubber seals on the
front quarter vents appear to be the villains of the piece. The 3500 is a car
you grow to appreciate. Its many fine points are not evident after a drive
around the block, although the comfortable interior, finish and quality of the
car are obvious at first glance. The 2000 was ahead of its time when it first
appeared in 1963 and the 3500 doesnīt have anything to fear from todayīs
competition. Both Mercedes benz and Jaguar are going to lose plenty of sales to
this businessmanīs express, especially since it sells for $5945.
Top speed 112.5
0-60 mph 14.6
sec. (manual hold 12.6 sec)