Sunday, 18 April 2010

A car for the Connoisseur

Rover 75 - a bargain not to be missed

My good friend Jon Sellars offered me a spin, back in November, in his XJR. Like me, he's a BL man with a fondness for Jaguars, and like me, he's young enough to defy the 'old man' image. However, unlike me, he's of sufficient age to be able to insure pretty much what he wants. At the time, the Jag was back at his home and we were in Birmingham at the NEC, but he offered to let me have a spin next time he, the car, and I were in one place. I met up with him at the Pride of Longbridge rally last weekend, which he attended in his Rover 75. Such a car was more in the spirit of PoL than the big cat, he said, before asking if I'd like a go in the Rover whilst it was there.

Not an offer that I, as an admirer of the 75 and British car fan in general, could decline. Jon's 75 is one of the most desirable in the range; a 2.5 V6 Connoisseur SE automatic saloon in royal blue with cream leather. Save the colour combination, the one I'd buy - and I'd not mind the shade he chose if my preferred Primrose wasn't available.

Unlike previous big Rovers, the 75 feels hemmed-in - it's by no means claustrophobic or cramped, but there is no sense of complete and utter space. Instead, the car seems to shrink around you from the moment you shut the door. Survey the dash, and it's more than pleasant - call me old fashioned but walnut, leather, and magnolia dials comfort me in a car. The seats are well shaped and legroom and headroom - even in the back - are more than adequate for a long legged beanpole like myself.

Put the car in 'D' and you hit the only real flaw I managed to find. The plastics on the gear selector didn't feel quite as upmarket as the rest of the car would make you think. I expected nicer, but then I remembered that the car as a whole looks and feels more upmarket than it really is - was the fault with the car or my perception of how it should ? Set off, and the atmosphere is one of utter serenity. It's a soothing and relaxing car to drive - partly, I suspect, due to BMW's desire to avoid in-house competition - with a near silent V6 at town speeds. The suspension is more than capable of dismissing anything so undignified as a bump and twirling the near-vertical steering wheel provides effortless changes of direction. That's not to say the car detaches you from the outside world - it's fairer to say that the 75 cushions it's occupants from any undue discomfort or effort.

I could quite easily live with a 75 - especially given that current prices are the stuff of wild dreams for we Yorkshiremen. The 75 wasn't particularly expensive for it's class when new, and today it represents an even better used car bargain. Even if you're picky and want the best spec, you can find a 75 for very little. I found six 2.5 Connoisseur SE autos for under £1500 with just five minutes on Auto Trader's website. Search around and one can be yours for under a grand - a further five minutes turned up a few low spec cars and high mileage cars starting at about £800. For that sort of money, find me something better.

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