Preconceptions are sometimes a little difficult to change. The moment we are given the keys of a car to play with, our brain naturally jumps into gear and starts to remind us of all the things we have heard or read about that particular model. It's only natural to want to come to the same conclusions, it's a pack thing, wanting to be in agreement with our peers, who often appear to be much more knowledgeable than ourselves. They have the Rover 600 down as a bit of a lemon and buyers have generally agreed, or at least listened.
Long-held beliefs are also difficult to change. The longer they have been held, the more difficult it is to change them. The world is flat, the sun revolves around the earth, evolution theory is heresy and a car with 100k miles on the clock is shortly due to visit the great scrapyard in the sky.
So with 105k on the clock, the Rover was off to a somewhat ignominious start. Being painted in a shade of "jam butty" white didn't help matters either, making an already large car look even bigger. Looking around though at other examples, painted in somewhat more subtle shades, I really can't help but think what a handsome car this is. Okay, so it's very much a Honda restyled by Rover, but who cares. Honda design and build solid high quality motors and for once, the last vestiges of the British massed produced car industry did, in this case, a styling job which looks neat and classy. Much as we may claim to hate the French, we all have to admit that we do harbour a sneaky admiration for their sense of style and flair. The Rover 600 once topped a French poll for the world's most beautiful car, and whilst I may not go that far (by a long way!), I do think they had a fair point. It has a clean, modern look, perfectly balanced with none of this retro throw-back nonsense.
Edging my way into the rush hour traffic, I was relived to see that all traces of the pre-Honda Rovers have been disposed of. The car has superb ergonomics, with wheel, gear stick and pedals falling naturally to hand and foot. It may seem a small point to most of you, but I do find the pedals on some cars, notably French ones, far too close together - other nationality cars also seem to have their own little pedal placement quirks. The controls were also nice and light, perfect for town and traffic conditions. The steering wheel, despite presence of an air bag, was nicely shaped, tactile and round. The only disappointment was the hard square gear knob (who the hell invented square gear knobs and why? Have you got a square palm?) saved only by the fact it has relatively modest proportions (see Mondeo for the mother of all square gear knobs!) and has a slick short shift. The steering and pedals are all light and easy in action far removed from the He-Man items in Rovers sold not all that long ago.
Running through town, I was grateful for the engine's flexibility and low rev grunt, pulling easily from 1000 rpm in the higher gears. I wasn't prepared however, for the speed with which the direct injection motor hauled me up the first stretch of open road (slip-road in this case). This diesel motor really has got everything a modern diesel should, unfortunately many haven't - turbo kick in the mid and top-range, without sacrificing traditional diesel grunt low down. Although it's obvious what the fuel is on starting up, once shifting at higher speed, the engine settles to a muted hum which is covered by the slightly louder than expected tyre roar. The sophisticated electronics and mechanics that go into creating this type of faultless performance are well beyond my limited knowledge suffice to say that 115 mph, sub eleven seconds to sixty and close on 50 mpg is very, very impressive for such a big car.
I'd have to check out the measurements here but, when most mags compare the 600 to a BMW 3 series or an Audi A4, I think they may be talking about comparative market price sectors. I'm not sure that it even comes close as the only BMWs at this price are the rather crude and basic compacts. Let me get my tape measure out and check though, my eyes may be deceiving me.......
yep, according to my tape measure, the 600 is the best part of a foot longer than the old BMW 3, 8 inches longer than an Audi and only around 3 inches shorter than a new 5 Series. It is though a touch narrower than any of these and lower than them all - not by much but is does heighten the impression of this being a long car.
Interior space looks and feels excellent, helped by Rovers choice of tasteful light coloured trims and for once, they haven't gone overboard with the walnut! Interior space is fairly limo like although it may be at the expense of a little boot space.
The plastics are reasonably high quality, not shiny or not hard. The dished-out and rubber-matted dashboard top looks classy and thoughtful but, in reality it's next to useless for anything not flat - i.e. it's good for money / credit cards etc which you wouldn't leave there anyway. Despite this being a basic, bottom of the range car with few frills and fripperies, the interior gives the impression of understated quality. Air-bags and ABS do make it into the spec list, but I'd happily swap both for a sunroof. Air-con is included if you like that type of thing and front windows are electric but the omission of electric rears does seem a little on the cheap-skate side.
As a driver's car as opposed to just quality transport, the 600 really is quite an able car. The suspension is firmer than you expect and prone to the odd bump and crash around pot-holed towns, but it rewards with tight, flattish cornering when going faster on more open roads. The light steering around town firms up slightly as speed increases, but is still a touch too light and not quite direct enough. This seems to be a problem with modern power-steered vehicles in general, as manufacturer's don't seem to want to give us quick-steering cars any more. Maybe it's a safety thing - probably deemed unsafe for us by some expert somewhere. Either way, when all the arm twirling is done, the 600 skates round calmly and gracefully without threatening to run wide. It should really come as no surprise that it handles so tidily after all, the same basic chassis also holds on to a 2.2 Vtec Screamer and the close-on 200 bhp 620 ti turbo motor.
As already mentioned, this car had clocked up 105000 miles, so is it ready for the scrap yard? Well I really don't think so. The motor was smooth and sweet and with fleets trying to protect their investments, the service history is of course A1. These days, metallurgy is a much more exact science and engines are built to much better tolerances than ever before. Well looked after motors will run effortlessly to massive mileage's. Many of these cars spend their entire life at 65 - 85 mph on the motorway and with high top gears, many modern cars aren't even stressed at these speeds, they are just cruising along gently. Remember the most wear occurs to an engine on start-up so it's life expectancy is probably more related to how many times it's been started than how many miles it's done. When it's an ex-fleet car like this one, you can be guaranteed it's been looked after but, if you want to find a car that's skipped a few services and spent most of it's life running at less than optimum temperature, then look for a low mileage shopping car.
Bodywork and interior was better than you could possibly expect from a 3 year-old car of any mileage. Spotless would be a fair description. It would be reasonable to assume that if it can survive 3 road years with no ill effects, then a few more won't do it much harm either.
The world isn't flat
The 620's not a lemon
and with it being rather unjustly ignored, it's a bit of a second-hand bargain to boot!
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