Rover makes a statement in style

15 January 2000: by Brian Byrne.

I was turning the car at the bottom of town when my local friendly Rover dealer came across to me and opened the door.

"Any idea of where I can get one?" he asked. Which might seem a bit silly, since I was driving the very top-of-the-line version of the Rover 75. But he wasn’t joking. He’d been allocated one at the beginning, and had another coming in a month’s time. "All I know about it is that it’s white," he added ruefully. "And I’ve orders for half a dozen of these things, with no idea of when I can fill them."

It made me appreciate the fact that I had a 75, even if only for a week. Truth was, though, even though I’d only picked it up the day before, I was appreciating it anyway. It was the first Rover with character since my beloved 2000TC of the mid-sixties. A different kind of character, sure ... more towards the upper market than had been the 2000 ... but the 75 has, if nothing else, style in buckets.

Not everybody likes it. My wife, for instance, thought it immediately too old-fashioned, and the interior decor (the epithet ‘design’ would be too limiting!) far too fussy and even garish for her liking. My business partner, on the other hand, loved it. "When I win the Lotto ..." she murmured several times as we motored thither and yon in the course of work.

(Would Lotto winners get bumped to the head of the queue?)

For me? Yep, definitely. Going with a retro style is a gamble for any modern manufacturer, however the designers of the Rover 75 have produced a car that is not just distinctive, but regal in a way that very few monarchs in the world know how to be. It looks big, bigger than in fact it turns out to be from the inside. It definitely looks class (not classy), and the amount of chrome embellishing the lines brings us back to a time when a car was something to be proud of, when it made a statement about one’s standing. In fact, come to think of it, when a Rover was a Rover.

A utilitarian machine, this one is not. As a car that turns heads, it is absolutely a stunner. After that, how easily can we live in it?

Very well, really. For a start, it has a TV.

Yes ... a TV ... that works, though we’re rather limited to the national terrestrial channels. OK, so maybe it might seem a gimmick, but there ARE people who would suffer badly if they were to get home too late to watch Coronation Street. In this version of the 75, they can pull in to a lay-by and watch (only the sound works while the car is in gear, which makes some sense). Besides, it’s not totally a gimmick, because the screen used is already in place for a number of other functions that have become standard in many cars - the radio display, trip computer info, Global Positioning Satellite system (though as yet not operable in Ireland because we haven’t digitised our ‘road’ network) as well as some other stuff. (And I must say that, while between appointments on some mornings, it was an education to me to see what actually is transmitted on RTE TV in the mornings. And TV news bulletins, even if only available in audio form on the move, do tend to give far more detail than their radio counterparts.)

The inside of the car is also very distinctive, with in the review vehicle’s case a very strong mixture of blue leather, beige plastics and deeply warm wood (real). The instruments are ovoid in shape, with their numerals in a rather pleasing old-style font. There’s a contrasting piping around the seats, while the overall ambience is absolute plush. Then there are the details, many of which one would expect, others a nice revelation.

The electric seat adjustment is a given, I guess. And the air-conditioning (now that they’re giving it away with Daewoos and Mondeos and Mazdas) too. The cruise control is a must with any decent automatic (and this automatic is, by the way, a 5-speed).

More unusual bits are the sunshade that lifts over the rear window with the push of a button (remember the ones in the old Ford Prefects operated by a cord to the front?) and it does doubly good duty as a diffuser of headlight intrusion from those uglies who insist on tailgating at night with their lamps up full.

And I liked the beeper that warns you when reversing that you’re getting too close to an obstacle, or other car. Mind you, it is almost essential, as rear visibility when parking is very poor, particularly because of the three head restraints on the back seats. The Rovery touches of stainless steel sill with the name writ large, in case you forget what you’re getting into, are also nice.

This version has a 2.5-litre V6 engine that is smooth and silent in operation, married well to that aforementioned automatic gearshift. In driving terms, it is not a car that you’re tempted to hurl around the place, though I’ve no doubt that it will stand up well if you try. It is primarily a car to make that statement, make it in style, and have you enjoy doing it. At £36,297 it does it cheaper than a Lexus 300, and with more panache.


Rover 75 facts: 1.8-, 2-(V6) and 2.5-litre (V6) petrol; 2-litre diesel; 5-speed manual or 5-speed auto (standard in 3-litre); saloon & estate; price range £24,995-£34,545.

© Telling Tales Ltd

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