19 March 1999

AT LAST, A ROVER TO

WRITE HOME ABOUT

AH nostalgia! Something we British do rather well, what with our castles and tweed and endless re-runs of Carry On films.

The engineers and marketing types at Rover obviously thought so too, hence the new Rover 75s bid to combine faintly retro looks and interior with lets-beat-the-Germans-at-their-own-game mechanicals. Will it work well enough to prise streetwise buyers from the arms of BMW, Audi and Alfa salesmen, though?

Up to a point. For it achieves the tricky feat of mixing late 1950s styling cues with late 1990s sleekness in a surprisingly effective manner. Theres a full-blown chrome revival going on here, both inside and out, but its subtly done, appearing in chic little islands around door-pulls and oh-so-tasteful strips along the 75s flanks.

Theres a walnut (real!) dash in all models too and the main instruments look like enlarged versions of an old ladys 1940s dress watch. It could all have been as hopelessly twee as a mail-order porcelain cottage, but it isnt.

Stationary, the 75 may be pushing all those nostalgia buttons; moving, its as blissfully different from your fathers old post-war Rover as youd hope. All the engine options – 1.8, 2.0 and 2.5 petrol and BMW 2.0 diesel – are lusty enough and the 2.5 is unnervingly speedy. Levels of sound suppression are universally good, especially in the diesel.

The ride and handling are fine too, though the car mags will still tell you it doesnt quite reach the technological peaks of the aforementioned BMW/Audi/Alfa. Would us mere mortals notice such fine differences? Probably not.

So whats the problem with the 75? Nothing really – its a fine car, well-made and different from the herd. However younger, image-conscious drivers may still struggle to overcome the lingering notion that big Rovers tend to be driven by pinstriped forty-something businessmen or Sunday Express-reading ex-colonels. Only you, as your friendly local psychologist will tell you, can sort out that little conundrum.


Engines: Petrol – 1.8 litre 4cyl (120hp), 2.0 V6 (150hp), 2.5 V6 (177hp)

Diesel: 2.0 4cyl td (116hp)

0-60mph: 10.9, 9.6, 8.2, 11.0secs

Top speeds: 121, 130, 137, 120mph

Prices (OTR): 1.8 – £19,525-£22,525

2.0 – 21,175-£24,175

2.5 – £22,625-£25,625

Diesel – £20,725-£23,725

SPEEDIEST DIESEL EVER SEES

OFF THE PETROLS

THAT BMWs new 5-series oil burner is currently the worlds fastest production diesel car bears further explanation.

Its one of the first of a plethora of new cars to get 21st century diesel technology under the guise of common-rail direct injection. Electronics regulate the diesel knock and fuel injection processes to give big petrol engine performance and characteristics and the miserly fuel consumption of a diesel engine.

In BMWs 530d, this translates into a 0-62mph sprint of only eight seconds and (on autobahns only, of course) a 140mph flat-out dash. OK, we can all have performance at the expense of burning a plentiful supply of fuel, but this 1.5 tonne vehicle can average almost 40mpg.

The electronically burdened 3 litre oil-burner in the 530d is a worthy successor to BMWs 2.5 litre TDS. In practice, its as refined and responsive as any petrol engine and it gives a significant adrenaline rush each time you open up the big six-pot engine. And a high pressure turbo system helps shovel up shed-loads of torque in a controllable charge towards the engines 4500rpm red line.

Theres some clatter at idle and understandably so when cold, but winding this heavy car through the gears, you need to look at the diesel wording on the fuel gauge to remind yourself youre not driving a car with a big six-cylinder petrol engine. And the 530d has the ability to embarrass some of BMWs own big petrol engines on performance alone.

The only real disappointment was that farmers weeklys test model had a manual box, and not BMWs 5-speed adaptive auto box.

The verdict: Petrol-heads look out – if the addictive combination of power and torque from BMWs new common-rail 3-litre TD engine isnt enough, its also

capable of almost 50mpg when nursed. Its time for some serious tax concessions on derv.

In this months Country Car

David Cousins tries Rovers

new 75, Peter Hill takes the

wheel of Saabs new estate

and Geoff Ashcroft goes

in pursuit of diesel delight

in a Daewoo and a BMW.

Andrew Pearce, meanwhile,

has been muddying LRs

new Discovery