US spec. Rover 3500 S

Your Rover waiting is over

The Rover 3500 S, by any standard, must rate among the best engineered cars produced in the automotive world today. From our first experience with the Rover 2000 (December 1964) we have been impressed with the overall concept of this sports sedan designed to transport four people in the best possible manner, regardless of road surface or climatic conditions. Now, with the advent of the V8 engine, the Rover 3500 S takes its place among the really outstanding Gran Turismo cars of the world. The V8 engine gives to the Rover 3500 S that which it lacked when powered by the four-cylinder 2000 cc powerplant, effortless power and performance to go with the superb handling, comfort and braking which it always had in its four-cylinder form.

Initially there is some feeling that even the V8 performance leaves a bit to be desired. There is no feeling of outstanding acceleration, rather, the feeling is of adequate acceleration in almost total silence and efficiency. This feeling becomes even more pronounced as speed increases. At higher cruising speeds, the 3500 S whispers along in near silence with only a subdued murmur from the 184 hp. aluminium V8 under its hood. Soundproofing is excellent and the air of quiet elegance is enhanced by the almost total lack of wind noise with the windows up at a speed of 70 miles per hour. The click of the Pirelli Cinturato tires on the freeway expansion joints even seems remote and subdued.

As with most engine transplant operations, the Rover has gained a significant amount of weight. Apparently the large portion of this increase has gone into beefing up of suspension and body components, as the 3500 S imparts a much greater feeling of solidity than does the Rover 2000 or 2000 TC. The extra weight, up from 2810 lbs. to 3184 lbs. has seemingly not impaired the handling ability of the Rover and it has substantially improved the ride over both smooth and indifferent road surfaces. The car gives the impression of a much heavier car; yet the control and handling is of a standard comparable to a really good sports car. The brakes, as we expected, are altogether superb. With continued experience with the car and as the miles driven add up to the thousands, the feeling of confidence builds even more strongly.

The front and rear suspension, final drive ratio, brakes, steering wheel, and tire sizes have all been modified to deal with the increased power to weight ratio of the 3500 S engine. The battery has been moved to the trunk compartment. Appearance changes over the 2000 include the 3500 S emblem on front grille, trunk lid and rear portion of front fenders. A V8 insignia is fitted to the left side of the hood and the right rear portion of the trunk lid. Below the front bumper is an auxiliary grille; this supplies air for the transmission oil cooler, which is now an integral part of the engine radiator. The bumpers have guards with rubber fitted inserts. The wheels have been redesigned and now are fitted with large size radial ply tires as standard equipment.

Drive train

The Rover 3500 S is based on the highly successful 2000 models and introduces the long awaited performance increases desired by Rover owners and enthusiasts. The V8 is of 3500 cc or 215 displacement.

The cylinder block is cast aluminium fitted with steel sleeves. The crankshaft is supported by five bearings with thrust taken by the center bearing. The connecting rods are of forged steel, and aluminium alloy pistons are used. These are fitted with two compression and one oil control ring.

The cylinder heads are also cast aluminium. Iron valve seat inserts and valve guides are used. The valves are operated by means of hydraulic tappets which insure quiet engine running and maintain tappet adjustment at the correct clearance.

Lubrication of the engine is by means of a pressure fed oil system, which incorporates an oil pump located in the timing chain cover and an external full-flow oil filter.

The standard transmission with the Rover 3500 S is the Borg Warner 35 automatic. To Americans this gearbox, a three-speed unit, will feel quite familiar. It has the usual torque converter and planetary gears. First and second gear may be held manually as long as desired for maximum performance. However, it is wise to observe the tachometer red line to avoid overreving.

Power and performance

With a weight of 3184 lbs. the 184 hp Rover produced a good quarter mile time of 17.5 seconds and a top speed of 79,87 mph. 0 to 60 was accomplished in 8.1 seconds.

We tried several acceleration runs with the transmission in various modes. Letting the gearbox and torque converter think for itself produces rather ladylike results. We obtained our best times by letting the engine wind to about 3000 rpm, holding the foot brake with first engaged and on up through the gears with shifts just below the red line.

Power for everyday maneuvers such as entering freeway on-ramps is more than adequate, the V8 comes on readily as required to match the flow of traffic.

It is only on floorboard bending thrusts on the throttle that the Rover 3500 S seems at times to be a little short of carburetion. This is due, of course, to the smog device which decrees the use of only two 1 3/4 in. SU carbs.

Roadability and handling

The independent front and rear suspension adequately allow the maximum performance to be used even when operated at high speeds on poor roads. The power steering system has been well engineered to combine light effort combined with maximum road feel. The action is quick (4 1/2 turns lock to lock) and positive, and the rack and pinion design is in keeping with the general high standards of all components. The feeling with the Rover 3500 S is that this car is capable of withstanding much punishment with few problems and above all few or no rattles. Rovers in the past have tended to have their share of rattles, but the 3500 S is tight and rattle free. During our 2800 miles road test, we had no rattles develop and nothing went wrong. Prior to our getting the car, it had been driven from New York to California for our use.

Driving a Rover on winding and hilly roads really comes under the heading of fun. The performance and excellent road adhesion allowing high cornering speeds with great confidence. As stated before, the Rover is a very forgiving car. The radial ply tires provide really good adhesion and the car must really be tossed into a corner to get out of shape. The Rover has a claimed top speed of 106 mph and, while we did not reach this figure, at speeds over 90, it feels 100 per cent stable.

Brakes and safety

The big 10.75 in. disc brakes on all four wheels provide stopping power adequate for cars much larger and heavier than the 3500 S. The Rover remains one of the best stopping cars produced by the automotive industry to date. A couple of years ago, ROAD TEST ran the Rover in a braking test against a high-powered American car. After ten stops from high speed with both cars, the Rover stopped 44 car lengths shorter than the domestic car. The brakes are safeguarded by two complete braking systems. During our brake tests we found no fade, even after 10 stops from 60 mph. The high reading was 30ft. per sec.2 This is equivalent to a stopping distance of 129 feet. The system is equipped with a proportioning valve which limits premature rear wheel lockup. Many cars have this device, but weight distribution, tire configuration, and suspension characteristics are also most important to achieve maximum braking effort. The Rover combines all these elements to provide dramatic braking capabilities. The weight distribution of 51 percent front, 49 percent rear is excellent. The radial ply tires, of course, offer good adhesion. The independent suspension assures maximum surface contact. The brakes on the Rover are over-engineered to provide braking in keeping with the performance capabilities. Rover, over the years, has provided safety standards much more rigid than currently required.

Comfort and convenience

Everything about the car is designed to produce the best possible combination of convenience and comfort.

A really well thought out dashboard with no less than seven instruments gives the driver necessary information. There is some difficulty, however, in viewing the outermost gauges lamp, water temp and fuel level. These are slightly blocked by the leather-bound steering wheel. The most conspicuous gauges are the two large dials comprising speedometer and tachometer. The speedometer has the speeds marked in both mph as well as kph. This makes for a rather busy looking speedometer and some will feel that miles per hour alone would suffice for cars destined for the United States. The speedo also incorporates a resettable odometer, a feature becoming increasingly rare on American cars. The reset knob is well placed and the unit may be quickly reset to zero with the car moving or still. The lettering on all dials is white on black, to use the most sensible combination for maximum visibility. At night a rheostat controls instrument lighting from dim to bright. All controls, lights, windshield wipers, radio etc. are laid out for maximum convenience and the driver soon learns by the shape of the knob what its function is. This makes for easy use without having to look away from the road.

The steering wheel is adjustable to provide an angle to suit most any individual. This, too, may be easily adjusted while the car is in motion. The windshield wipers are among the best we have ever encountered, with a multiple speed adjustment to suit any weather condition. The highest speed setting for the wiper produces the fastest wiper action we have yet seen on any car, and we look forward to trying them in a heavy rain, but California in August is not likely to accommodate. The wipers may also be set to operate intermittently and in this mode the blades make a sweep, park, and then in a few seconds make another sweep. We found this to be most useful in conditions of light mist when steady use was not necessary. Even the sequence is adjustable by a small knob which varies the degree of delay. The windshield washers are also effective and powerful being operated by a Lucas electric driven water pump.

The seats remain as before and consist of two fully adjustable buckets. The back and forth motion is adjustable to a fine degree over a considerable distance. With the front seats in the farthest rear position the rear passengers are severely restricted to leg and knee room, but by the same token, in this position even a tall driver can barely reach the wheel and pedals. The angle of the back rests are infinitely adjustable by a quick set and lock mechanism. Both the reach and angle are by large levers for maximum convenience. There are no glove boxes on the Rover; instead, large bins for both driver and passenger hinge down for access. These provide a large storage area and are designed to offer maximum knee protection in case of a crash. Rear seating is adequate for two but somewhat tight for three persons. The Rover 3500 S is really designed to transport four people and luggage in utmost comfort and five only when necessity dictates.


The wait for the Rover 3500 S has been a long one. We received a number of reports from friends and colleagues who were able to drive the car in England and Europe and the reviews were glowing. We are delighted that our wait for the Rover V8 is over.

Although nearly all previous complaints have been solved, there still will remain those who will find fault because the 3500 S doesn´t get off the line like a 426 Hemi Charger. The flow-through ventilation needs re-routing to get the piping away from the engine. The steering wheel slightly obstructs the driver´s view of the instrument panel. There´s no air conditioning. We´re nit picking. The Rover 3500 S is a really fine automobile and it was well worth the wait.

ROAD TEST / USA November 1969