Car reviews - Rover - 75 - CDTi sedan
Performance, driveability, response, fuel consumption, fuel range, smoothness, transmission, ride quality, handling, steering, standard equipment level, interior ambience, safety, styling, value for money
Room for improvement
Road noise, interior space, boot space, CD stacker replaced by single CD player, no vanity mirror, questionable build quality, no stability/traction control
14 Jan 2005
By TIM BRITTEN
ONE needs to look hard to pick Rover’s latest iteration of its 75 model.
In a makeover that boils down to little more than fiddling at the edges, the already good-looking 75 gains a slightly smarter appearance and the odd refinement that improves its abilities on-road.
And what, exactly, are the differences?
Well, there’s a new front-end with a slightly more aggressive, more sharply defined character. The grille is bigger, the headlights get a new shape (and new projector lenses) and the parking lights are vertically oriented.
The rear bumper is new, too, and there are some new wheels to choose from. But externally, that’s about it.
Inside, the latest 75 gets re-shaped seats in front and rear, aimed at improving the impression of space but not really picking up any useful centimetres over the original.
The instruments are redesigned, and there’s a new wood finish to the dash area called Light Oak (except the Connoisseur that continues with a burr walnut finish).
Mechanically it’s necessary to look even harder, but there is one change that makes a significant difference – a new, faster steering ratio from the MG ZT.
The Rover 75 range begins with the Classic model, progresses to the more luxurious Club and tops out with the Connoisseur.
In between, and bringing the range up to four variants, there’s the new CDTi, which gets a four-cylinder BMW turbo-diesel engine and a touch more equipment than the base Classic version (leather seats, trip computer and multi-spoke alloys).
The CDTi is perhaps the most interesting model in the range and brings Euro-style diesel technology to deliver outstanding economy as well as introducing a different character to the car.
Not uncommonly, the turbo-diesel boasts more torque than the petrol equivalent.
In terms of power, the CDTi’s 96kW might be down on the 2.5-litre V6’s 130kW, but there can be no arguing with 300Nm of torque.
What’s more, it’s produced at a ridiculously lazy 1900rpm, where the V6 needs no less than 4000rpm to produce its 240Nm.
The turbo-diesel is pretty much a state of the art engine with its alloy block, twin camshafts, four-valve cylinder head layout and common-rail direct-injection. It’s also a long-stroke design, as commonly seen in diesels, which helps in the production of torque.
Its main feature, apart from the impressive torque, is the economy. While the 2.5-litre V6 is quoted at an average fuel consumption of 10.5 litres per 100km, the turbo-diesel manages a thrifty 6.7L/100km.
With the Rover’s 65-litre fuel tank, this promises cruising ranges close to 1000km and a lower annual fuel bill.
So how does the Rover 75 CDTi drive?
Well, to be honest, it’s better in many ways than the V6, even though it may not have quite the smoothness. Raw figures suggest the diesel is less eager to accelerate than the petrol engine, but the sensation is that it’s anything but slow.
The 300Nm is almost instantly available, making for an impressive surge of power. Even though the power band is typically narrow, with maximum kiloWatts coming in at a truck-like 3500rpm, the smooth auto box uses its five ratios effectively to ensure a steady, remorseless flow of power.
Like just about every modern turbo-diesel the CDTi starts almost instantly, and proceeds with a degree of in-cabin silence that makes it virtually indistinguishable from the petrol engine.
It’s quite smooth, too. Only at idle, with the windows open, can you hear it muttering away.
The high gearing, which is easily handled by the engine’s strong torque, helps in lowering noise levels as well as fuel consumption.
On test our CDTi didn’t manage the figures suggested in the brochures (we averaged 7.6 litres per 100km in a mix of highway and city driving) but this could no doubt be improved on with more kilometres on the engine and a more economical driving style.
Still it’s difficult to see the Rover equalling, for example, the turbo-diesel Peugeot 407.
In other aspects the Rover 75 feels little different to the original version. The sharper-ratio steering is however very welcome and the ride quality is as impressive as ever – although the noise transmitted from the road into the cabin remains more intrusive than the 75’s competitors.
The Rover is a quite agile handling car, right on target in its segment of the market.
It is only average in its class in terms of its ability to accommodate a full load of passengers though. It might seem bigger than, say, a BMW 3 Series, but inside it’s not, actually.
The leather seats look sumptuous, but the re-profiling hasn’t introduced anything noticeable in terms of interior space. The shorter rear squab makes the back seat easier to climb into, even if there isn’t any noticeable improvement in knee-room.
The boot is not especially large, but at least there’s a folding rear seat backrest that enables loading of larger items.
The manual seats however prove comfortable on long trips, even if they don’t offer the multi-adjustment available in full-electric seats.
Standard equipment is pretty good though, and includes a few things not originally fitted in base-model 75s. It gets six airbags (dual front and side, curtain bags) climate-control, cruise control and, a trip computer.
However, the glovebox-located CD stacker fitted to the original model has been replaced by a single-disc CD player and the base Club version (not the CDTi) now gets cloth seats rather than leather.
A strange aberration, and one of no real consequence, is that the driver’s sun visor lacks a vanity mirror.
British build still brings a few question marks, such as an airbag warning light that flashed intermittently during the test and the way the doors shut with a clatter, rather than a satisfying thump.
Dynamically this front-wheel drive prestige car matches it pretty well with the largely rear-wheel drive competition, although it doesn’t have the electronic stability control that is now virtually a standard feature in all midsize prestige cars.
It doesn’t get traction control either – although it’s questionable whether it’s needed.
At less than $55,000 this is a very appealing Rover though. It has a distinctive style, is more than competent dynamically, and has a very British interior ambience that is indisputably appealing.
As a turbo-diesel it feels more responsive if a little less smooth than the V6, and returns outstanding fuel economy.
Until the V8 arrives, this could be the most beguiling Rover 75.
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