Rover 75 Saloon – Here's for the Underdog

Rover 75 Saloon. Handsome.
Not quite a Jaguar, not quite a BMW, no longer a Honda – the Rover 75 is an odd bird. I will not hide my interest towards them; there’s something quite fetching about a failed premium car that comes from a troubled upbringing. Everything on a 75 is either chrome, leather or something in between, and the furrowed brow framing the quad headlights makes for a mean look from the right angle. Of course, then you start noticing the details that do not quite gel, like the fender corner shape that’s clearly framed an indicator at some point of the design, but no longer does. Still, the stance is good and you do see the P5B Coupé bloodline in the rear corner tuck. I was in junior high back in the late ’90s and a subscriber to CAR Magazine, when the 75 was rolled out alongside the Jaguar S-Type. It was a weird combination of cars with decidedly over-retro’ed design inside out, and I’m sure the 75 pulled it off better despite being hindered by the pensioner shade of light blue worn by many of the press material cars displayed; I think the S-Type was most often maroon. While the S-Type shared its floorpan with the Lincoln LS, the 75 wasn’t strictly speaking anything else underneath, but a car of its own. Rover was under BMW management at the time, but a lion’s share of the development work was done before the company changed hands, over from British Aerospace. There were unfair jabs at the 75’s possible BMW-ness; I can see it as “If it succeeds, it’s an E39 underneath (despite being FWD), if it fails it’s because it’s still a Rover.” To be honest, the interior of the 75 was something absolutely ghastly with some of the colour combination decisions clearly made under the influence of watching too many episodes of Keeping Up Appearances. But, let’s move on to this 75 I saw the other day. It’s a dark greenish blue or blueish green, however you see it; by far the best choice of colour for it. The interior is mushroom-coloured with cloth seats. Leather would suit it better, but cloth probably ages better; I recently sat in a maroon car which had the leather steering wheel seams come undone, and if that is any inclination of how the leather seat stitching is going to fare I’ll rather pass on it. Behind that Viking ship-adorned grille is a two-litre, quad-cam “K” V6, putting out 150 hp. I’m sure it’s completely fine for the car, despite coming with a host of reliability question marks. But as any Rover engine seems to have an appetite for head gaskets, perhaps it’ll just have to be taken as a characteristic – they all do that, sir. And if the grunt offered by the 2.0 weren’t enough, there’s also a 2.5-litre version – and then there are the MG versions, some of them with some raw Mustang power shoehorned in and the smoke coming from the rear wheels this time around. Not only for the over-75, I’m sure. The 75:s available for sale around here seem to fall into two distinct categories. The first is the more expensive one, with cars most recently owned by old first owners. Service books are perfect, with stamps diligently filled in by anything close to authorized dealers (BMW-affiliated most often); expensive servicing like the V6’s timing belt recently done. These go (or do not) for something closer to 10k. The other camp are the cars bought from old people and run by somebody else for a while; since something has now inevitably gone wrong they are being offloaded for cheap. Except a couple thou’, with room for repairs. My tactic is waiting for the prices of the good ones to come down. Since 75 derivatives are being churned out in China, replacement parts must be available for some time. And by the time the good ones are ridiculously affordable, there musn’t be anything left to fix on my flagship Mitsubishi so it’s logical to move on to something else just as old-money and finicky – and Sigmas must be long dead by then. And curiously enough, that’s the exact car I’d compare the 75 to – the 1990s Mitsubishi Sigma with the 6G72 V6 (yeah, it’s the Diamante by any other name). It’s just a question of what kind of BMW influence you want your four-wheel leather lounge room to convey. Trivia bit: Pre-production 75:s had such brilliant detailing quality that the metal door handles on some cars had sharp casting marks left on them. There was an anecdote of a Rover guy being cut across all four fingers when trying to open a driver’s door.

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