Rover 2200

True-blue Englishmen flinch at the thought of criticising the Rover 2000, dash it all, it´s like keckling the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament. But, it has to be said that in spite of the model´s many virtues, it´s engine never was the most refined of “fours”, nor was it particularly lively. Seeking to silence their critics on these scores, Rover have increased the engine capacity by ten per cent and have introduced a range of minor modifications to carry the model into its second decade of production.

It takes barely a mile behind the wheel to discover that the bigger bore engine has quite rejuvenated the ageing 2000. Its lively pick-up and brisk acceleration are accompanied by far less harshness and altough you won´t mistake the engine for a silky six, it does feel a lot more refined. It is still not keen on pulling from much below 25 mph in top, but revs very freely to 6000 rpm as indicated by discreet speedometer markings. In terms of acceleration the 2200 is quicker to 60 mph by two seconds, while the 40-60 mph time in top is cut by 3 ½ seconds. In fact, the 2200´s performance is very similar to that of the old twin-carburettor 2000. It´s a shade slower through the gears and not quite as fast flat-out (104 against 108 mph), but where it really scores is in the fact that there is no trace of the cold starting problems or intermittent plug fouling when we experienced with the previous rather tetchy TC.

Thanks to large exhaust valves and a new SU carburettor, the engine is also made “cleaner” in order to meet current European exhaust emission regulations, yet is only marginally heavier in its consumption of four star fuel. With the 2000 SC we averaged 25 mpg, with the 2200 it was 24, and no one can complain at that in view of the improved performance. The heaviest consumption of 20 ½ mpg was on our day at MIRA with two fast motorway trips included, but up to 27 is possible with restrained use on rural roads. Both SC and TC models now share the 3500´s 15-gallon fuel tank which gives an excellent touring range of well over 300 miles before you need to call on that reassuring feature, the 1 ¼-gallon reserve which is held on tap. The filler pipe will accept full flow from a pump and is topped by a locking cap. ½ pint of oil was used in 900 miles.

The clutch has been given a higher diaphragm sping load in order to cope with the extra engine torque with the result that you have to press a little harder on the pedal which continues to work through a somewhat unnatural arc of movement. This makes it feel even heavier than it really is, especially as one has to use practically all its long travel. The harder lining coped well with our acceleration tests, however, and a comfortable restart is possible on a one-in-three hill.

Two inches added to the length of the gearlever have improved the change by reducing the former notchiness to an acceptable level. There appears to be little increase in travel, and movements around the well-defined gate feel crisp and precise, but we still found first gear occasionally reluctant to engage until the box had warmed up. There is no spring bias to the lever and reverse is protected by a lift-up trigger below the knob. The high and well spaced intermediate ratios are much quieter than formerly and the final drive is silent.

Rationalisation has led to the 3500´s stiffer rear suspension being adopted on the 2200. When we first drove the big V8 we expressed mild disappointment in the ride, tempered by the fact that we were comparing it with the level unflurried progress of the 2000 which was an object lesson to practically all the opposition at that time. No wof course, this firmness extends throughout the range and is particularly apparent around town. There is no doubt that the low-speed tranquility has suffered to some extent, although we noticed that the type of tyre makes some difference. On Dunlop SP Sports, for example, astute occupants may detect a little more suppleness in the cars progress. On “our” Pirelli´s, broken surface tremoring and cats´ eyes bump-thump are more obvious than previously, and surprisingly, Peugeot´s “big Mini”, the 104, we had on test at the same time as the 2200 made the Rover look second best on some of MIRA´s special ride sections. But on the open road and once above 40 mph the ride improves considerably and one can again enjoy the easy bump absorption which flatters many a B-class surface. The car is neither thrown off course nor deterred by a bump in mid-corner, although a trace of rear-end squirm associated with the de Dion suspension is just detectable on the straight at times.

One by-product of the firmer springing is that cornering roll is reduced but there is still plenty of understeer and we found that even when the tail begin to ease out on the cornering limit, gently backing off the throttle keeps things nicely in line. We were not particularly impressed by the roadholding on Cinturatos especially in the wet, but we liked the way the car dealt with their relatively early breakaway. The handling, or at least the steering response, could perhaps be even better with a smaller diameter steering wheel, but then manoeuering effort would be even greater, and here we are getting on dangerous ground for arguments rumble on in our office as to the desirability or otherweise of the big 17-in wheel – it seems you either like it or you don´t. There is some vagueness in the straight-ahead position which is accentuated at high speed on wind-blown motorways, but there is little tyre squirm on raised white lines.

The brakes are nicely progressive, but feel heavier than our Pressometer revealed; perhaps this is because, as with the clutch, one´s angle of attack on the pedal is not ideal. Fade-free and generally imperturbable, they quickly instil reassurance, even though their ultimate stopping power is not especially good at 0,94 g. But that was on the Pirelli´s – the last 2000 we tested on Dunlop SPs managed an effortlest 1 g. The handbrake lever is rather too close to the elbow to provide a good pull angle, but is has no difficulty in holding the car up or down a one-in-three hill.

The front seats have a vast range of fore and aft adjustment and infinite squab rake settings, while the cushion tilt can also be adjusted by using spacers provided in the tool-kit. It´s not many car makers that can cater successfully for drivers of widely varying stature, but Rover seem to manage the trick very well, for all our team commented favourably on the support they got for their shoulders, lumbar region and thighs. Headroom is satisfactory too, but all-round vision is poor by current standards. The high scuttle, thick roof pillars and quarter light frames are all very conspicuous and the nearside front wing is out of sight so it is difficult to see the side lamp marker on that wing at night. Most drivers will be able to see the tail fins when reversing though. The new convex dipping mirror gives a panoramic, if slightly diminished view through the elctrically-heated back window, while a door mirror, similarly glazed, eliminates offside blind spots. Two-speed wipers with a finely variable delay control giving a pause of up to sixteen seconds, manage to cope with the wrap-round screen edges but leave triangular blind spots at the top and bottom of the driver´s side of glass. We still like the neat instrument box with its ribbon speedometer and trip and total mileage recorders. These are flanked by fuel and temperature gauges while in a line above there is a series of coloured warning light panels. Bright weather creates some reflection problems in the glass which could be either curved or sloped, but otherwise the instruments are in clear view through the steering wheel. The ignition/starter keyhole in the lower fascia rail is perticularly easy to locate but although the three rotary controls and pull-out hazard flasher switch are clearly labelled, and illuminated at night they lack the ergonomic efficiency of the Triumph 2000/2.5 PI´s controls. Heater, choke and petrol reserve controls are placed lower on the centre console in front of the gearlever, while two slender column stalks work headlamp dipping and flashing (on the left) and indicators and strident horns (on the right). The four-headlamp lighting system gives a splendid range and spread to match the car´s performance. Reversing lamps are built into the rear light clusters and an extra position on the main lighting switch caters for any additional lamps.

Ventilation slots in the fascia are placed directly ahead of the front occupants and provide fresh air to the face without freezing your fingers. They have vertical direction control flaps as well as volume adjusters which diffuse the flow well, and while their ram delivery is normally good it can be boosted if necessary by the two-speed heater fan. Further ventilation is provided by the noisy front quarter lights operated by thief-proof handwheels and there are also quaint quarter panes at the rear, but so effective is the ventilation that such luxuries are something of an anachronism. Windscreen demisting is both prompt and thorough, and any back window condensation is rapidly dispelled by the efficient, electrically-heated glass.

Although the 2200 is never as masterfully discreet as the big 3500, it does prove a very easy-going cruiser all the way to 70 mph, beyond which it takes on the muted growl that one hears as well on hard acceleration. Fortunately this is nothing like as bad as the coarseness that bedevilled the 2000 on wide throttle openings, and thanks to revised silencing and thick rubberised bulkhead insulation many mechanical noises are most successfully quelled. Wind sealing is not partucularly impressive (there were hisses from our driver´s door frame at speed) and on coarse-dressed surfaces tyre noise is clearly audible.

Once you have fumbled through three keys to get the doors unlocked you find they open very wide. Strong check links hold them in place, and access to the front seats present no problems. Entry and exit for rear passengers is made more difficult by restricted foot entry space and the deep footwells, even if you are young and agile. Our tape measure didn´t support Rover´s claim that the reshaping of the front seat squabs has increased rear passengers´ kneeroom. Certainly the individual armchairs cosset two in luxury, with padded rear quarter panels just a head loll away, but anyone behind a comfortably seated six foot driver will find both knee and legroom intolerably cramped, and no match for a Peugeot 504 or a Wolseley Six. In fact, maximum rear legroom never exceeds 40 in. Except for the box-pleated, brushed nylon upholstery (traditional leather is available as a no-cost option), re-styled sun visors, and a bigger mirror, the interior remains unchanged. In spite of many years of familiarity we still like its appearance of harmonious good taste. The fascia has a sensible black moulded shelf fitted with a grippy rubber mat and the padded top rail across its entire width, with dark simulated wood inserts between, which curve round to continue along the top door rails. The vinyl headling is in an attractive fleck design, albeit with several small glue marks on the test car, and the heavy-pile bound carpeting carefully fits the floor to be clamped along the sills by handsome stainless steel tread plates.

Two ashtrays are located at the front and rear of the centre console, a single central rooflight obeys courtesy switches on all doors, but strangely there there are no separate childproof locks and it still takes excessive effort to work the exterior pushbuttons. Even after ten years the Rover´s heater is an object lesson to most other car makers. We found that the most uninaudible slow fan speed was needed quite frequently in town, but its distribution of warmth at floor level is excellent, reaching the feet of both front and rear occupants. The temperature control slide also has an exemplary action, instantly providing a wide range of settings without guesswork. The vertical control slides would benefit from some form of illumination after dark, however.

Apart from the fascia switchgear which could be more effectively recessed, the 2200 is designed around a host of safety features. The two ends of the body are designed to crumple progessively on major impact, and the steering box is mounted high on the scuttle. The fascia top is crushable and the knock-out interior mirror is flanked by soft sun visors. Similarly, front occupants´ legs are protected by storage compartments at shin level made of padded collapsible material. Even the friction-held rake adjustment for the front seats will yield in a violant rear impact to obviate whiplash injury, and slot in head restraints are available as an optional extra. The stanrard inertia reel seat belts plug into their centre stalk-sockets with a one-handed action and prove comfortable to wear; anchorage points are also provided for rear belts.

The illuminated and fully-lined boot would be roomy enough but for the width-robbing (or depth-robbing if you lie it flat on the floor) spare wheel location; the optional wheel mounting point on the lid is an expensive and ugly solution to the problem, but at least it is a worthwhile extra if you have to cope with extra holiday luggage. There is no awkward sill, but rain drips in from the opened lid in wet weather. Useful lipped shelves front and rear cope with interior odds and ends, while the invaluable lockable shinbins swallow handbags, maps and so on.

“2200” badges are the only means of identifying the latest Rovers. Otherwise it is very much the construction and finish as before with separate painted body panels bolted to a skeleton base unit which makes for simpler accident repairs. The bonnet and boot lid are of aluminium incidentally – perhaps that is why one is urged in four languages to close the lid with only a light downward press. There is a good deal of brightwork adorning the body, the majority of it being high quality stainless steel – we particularly like the handsome hub caps. We were a little disappointed in the paint finish, however, for although the exterior had a flawless gloss, file marks on door pillars and a gritty finish on one of the wheel arches, revealed by opening a back door, detracted from the otherwise impressive overall picture. There is a black, corrosion resistant finish under the bonnet, and the complete underside is comprehensively coated with a protective sealant, while box sections and body members are sprayed internally with rust-inhibiting wax. Small mudflaps protect the lower sides of the rear wings from gravel attack, and the sturdy chromium plated bumpers stand well clear of the panelwork and are soundly bolted to the chassis.

The 2200 proves fairly straightforward to valet, except that the radiator grille is fiddly to wash and the deep footwells complicate the job of cleaning the floors – the carpets can be removed with a tussle though. Also the brushed nylon upholstery tends to attract and trap dust and hairs, but it comes clean with a stiff brushing.

A crude hand-placed prop holds the lined bonnet aloft to reveal a compartment in which practically all service items are splendidly accessible. Only the clutch reservoir is awkwardly concealed by the coil and brake fluid container, otherwise all topping-up is simple, but you have to take a trip to the boot to check the battery levels. The carburettor dashpot and linkage are easily inspecting without having to remove the air cleaner and whipping out the plugs is no problem. A tubular suppression shield around the distributor could complicate points setting, but it lifts off with two screws removed. The disposable oil-filter canister is particularly well placed for quick removal and the new camshaft cover has an improved filler cap; the dipstick is inordinately stiff to remove however. Servicing is based on a 3000-mile (or three-monthly schedule) and the thick, comprehensive owner´s manual is particularly helpful to those interested in carrying out their own maintenance. Many spares prices are quite reasonable compared with those of several imported Continentals.

Besides a 60 Ah baterry, the electrical system boasts an alternator and a pre-engaging starter, and twelve fuses which are none too handily placed under the passenger´s side of the fascia. The is also a decent set of Jubilee clips on the water hoses, but it is sursprising to find that the cooling system isn´t fully sealed and that a fixed pulley fan is still employed. The laboriously low-geared jack slides easily into any of the four rubber-plugged sockets adjacent to the wheels. It is stowed behind the spare wheel together with a useful toll roll, but it doesn´t match the kit one got in earlier Rovers – even the screwdriver is made in Germany!

Rover claim that the 2000 was the most sought after two-litre in Britain. After ten years of production, sales approaching a quarter of a million, and with a current waiting list of five months, they could be well right. Indeed, in some ways we should be heralding it as a real challenger to the strongest European competition if it were to be announced tomorrow. However, in spite of the model´s popularity, it has been obvious that updating has long been overdue in certain respects, for the relatively harsh engine, giving only mediocre performance, the notchy gearshift, and restricted back seat and boot accommodation continued to blot an otherwise exemplary copy-book. But enter the 2200.

Rationalisation has tended to compromise the ride a little, yet the car´s steady unruffled progress on most roads is still an object lesson to many manufacturers on both sides of the channel, and the more sweet and eager engine which uses very little extra petrol is a really worthwhile change for the better. The easier gearchange is a distinct improvement too. Wisely, Rover have left well alone where it makes sense; the front seats are excellent, the heating and ventilation superb, and in spite of our niggles we think the construction and finish maintain the previous high Solihull standards.

Nonetheless, without a “back to the drawing board” approach little can be done to improve either the kneeroom of back seat passengers, or the volume of the boot, and, as had already been proved, no amount of cosmetics can camouflage the middle-aged looks. Ultimately, these will prove the 2200´s downfall, but this latest rejuvenation process means that the model has a good deal more mileage in it yet, and as a long-term investment at a keen price it still makes a lot of sense – provided you don´t have a lanky teenage family and their luggage to transport.


Top speed 105 mph



0-60 mph 12,2 sec.


Fuel consumption

24 mpg



UK 1973