Rover 3500 V8

car for the autofanatic

Contrary to 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 adhesion.

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.

The next 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.

Because of 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.

  3500 3.5 2000 TC
0-30 mph 5,3 sec. 4,5 sec. 4,1 sec.
0-40 mph 7,3 sec. 6,5 sec. 6,1 sec.
0-50 mph 9,6 sec. 8,9 sec. 8,5 sec.
0-60 mph 12,6 sec. 12,8 sec. 11,2 sec.
0-70 mph 15,6 sec. 16,4 sec. 15,8 sec.
0-80 mph 20,1 sec. 22,8 sec. 21,1 sec.
Top speed 112.5 mph 108.2 mph 110.8 mph

From these 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.

Originally, the 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.

Compared with 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.

Most drivers 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 mph


0-60 mph 14.6 sec. (manual hold 12.6 sec)


Fuel consumption

19.6 mpg


Australia 1969