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42 years of the SD1
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As Motor magazine surmised after a brief drive at launch, the Rover 3500 was indeed an excellent driver’s car, “ On the open road, where the Rover excels, visibility is good and despite their blinkered appearance, the lights are powerful enough to let you exploit the roadholding on twisty roads at night. Only the premature squeal of the 195 HR70 Pirellis, which start making a fuss long before they reach their high adhesion limit, curb one’s enthusiasm. Whether these fatter tyres and the ornate alloy wheels are worth the extra cost we shall only be able to judge after driving on standard 185 HR70 tyres.” This brickbat aside – and that was a reflection of the current state of the art in tyre technology, the performance of the (suspiciously quick) pre-production car impressed. “Until the oil pressure takes up the slack in the hydraulic tappets, the engine sounds clattery for a couple of seconds after a cold start. Thereafter, its turbine smooth and feels a lot more vigorous than the previous 3500, especially at the top end. It revs willingly, but not quietly (who wants quiet when the noise was so good?) to the red line at 6000rpm, though such is the low and mid-range torque that you can keep well below 4000rpm and still cover the ground very quickly and quietly. We took no proper performance figures but our stopwatch registered 7.8s for an impromptu squirt from rest to 60mph against the uncorrected speedometer, and Rover claim a top speed of 125mph which we see no reason to doubt.”
The table demonstrates how the SD1 set the cat amongst the pigeons in the executive car market – those rivals that matched the new big Rover were slower and generally less economical – those that matched the car’s performance and economy were considerably more expensive. Autocar magazine summed up the new car in quite succinct terms, “It is hard to be over-enthusiastic about the new 3500; on every score, its qualities justify any kind of enthusiasm. I would have been hard to predict, especially looking at the bald paper specification, just how well the car would perform, handle and ride. Add to that the spaciousness and aerodynamic efficiency of the body, and the attention paid to ensuring that the car will last, and it is easy to see why all competitors are casting worried glances, not only at the car but also at its price. If the 3500 will be built in sufficient numbers, if the quality can be maintained along with the price, and if the ground is not cut from under its wheels by ill-advised legislation, the new 3500 should be one of the successes of the decade.”

Unfortunately, as we shall see, all of these provisos that were raised by the magazine’s conclusions concerning build volumes and quality of the product eventually became fact.

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1991 - 2018 Rover SD1 Club