Something Rotten In Denmark: 1996 Rover 2.0 Ti

How does Rover’s vanguard of 1996 look today?

1996 Rover 600 2.0 Ti diesel
1996 Rover 600 2.0 Ti

It’s hard to tell. The seller of this particular orphan has only just learned to use a camera. Two out of the three photos (twelve are allowed for free) at the car-sales website are taken with the sun light coming from behind the car. Thus in two out of three photos the image is mostly a Honda Accord silhouette with some Rover 600 chrome here and there. The third photo shows the front rear three-quarter with no shadow.

This says the owner a) knows nothing about photography, absolutely nothing at all and b) they couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way around the car. “Ah, the other view is the same as the one I just took….I’ll stop here.” Now, if the car was selling for say, 10,000kr (nearly nothing) you could understand a certain carelessness in the presentation. But this buyer wants 30,000 kr for this 255,000 km vehicle. For that kind of money you can buy any number of much less unappealing cars than this one.

Here is the car as Rover wanted it to be seen:

1995 Rover 600 in its supposed natural setting.
1995 Rover 600 in its supposed natural setting.

There were some aspects of the Rover 600 worthy of praise. At a time when most car interiors were rather drab and grimly modernistic (all the bad sides of modernism but none of the good parts) Rover threw a lot of leather and wood at their 600 design. In daylight it looked very clubby. At night it looked dark because few of the switches were illuminated.

Rover also reinstated chrome on the outside and decided a grille was needed to give the car the Roverness that was lacking in the Accord it was based on some style. I seem to recall Brian Sewell, the art critic, quite liking it. Rover were desperate for people to forget the car was not really a Rover. So for their adverts they chose the tag line “Above all, it’s a Rover.” The implication was that this vehicle would set you apart from the other reps in their chromeless, mundane Vectras, Mondeos and Lagunas. The tag line was as meaningless as “It’s the real thing”.

1996 Rover silhouette.
1996 Rover silhouette: from the advert.

Nearly 20 years on, this flashback to a flashback of Britishness is not looking so good, if only because the photos are so poor. We see aftermarket wheels and a high mileage and little else. Examples I have seen of this car at this mileage are almost always rusted in odd places. The base of the a-pillar is a popular site of infestation.

For lots of reasons I would veer away from this car, not least because its seller doesn’t care enough about the car to want to photograph it properly, I mean just walk entirely around the car. It’s also a 4-cylinder when it really ought to have a 2.5 litre V6 moving it along. Another reason is that if I really wanted a car like this I would buy the Accord and avail of solid Japanese construction or get a much older Jaguar.

If the seller really wants to get rid of this object they need to take photos that show car, not shadow and drop 50% off the price. And finally, as a general tip, take your unloved car to somewhere else other than your local area to photograph it.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “Something Rotten In Denmark: 1996 Rover 2.0 Ti”

  1. Rover’s TV advertising for the car involved the chance passing of two 600s on a lonely road presented as being almost as portentious as the production of a Higgs Boson. I can’t remember the actual strapline, but the implication was that they were ‘reassuringly rare’. If you’re selling Ferraris that might be an attribute, but the sort of people who’d buy 600s surely wanted to know that they were reasonably plentiful. If not, first, what is so wrong with them, second, who’ll know what to do when something goes wrong? Yet another example of quite how clueless Rover had become – which should have alerted BMW.

  2. The idea was to imply rarity and thus exclusivity which was a dig at the Cavalier and Mondeo driver. It was a good example of addressing head on the product’s weakness. Coke is nothing so “It’s the real thing”, Ireland’s Fianna Fail party has no aim other than to hold offics so it’s “People before politics” (deligitimising every other party) and the 600’s Roverness is skin deep so ” Above all it’s a Rover” as if it was like a P6 among Cortinas and Vivas.

  3. Well spotted Sam! I salute your observational skills. I can only say they looked a bit after-market to me and in Denmark people have a habit of fitting after-market wheels since the salty roads ruin OEM alloys with frightening speed. What did Car 1993 say about the 600? They compared it with the Citroen Xantia, BMW 3 series and Ford Mondeo. “It is not as roomy as appearances suggest. It does not perform with great distinction, and its no more fun to drive (arguably less) than the Ford Mondeo but it scores handsomely for comfort, refinement, quietness and build quality. Above all, it imbues the driver with a sense of it´s-good-to-be-here well being that its rivals cannot manage. It has style, it has image, it has class.” In the same magazine, Richard Bremner wrote “Adding a grille, a number plate plinth, still tread strips and slices of walnut does not a Rover make, even if the result is a nice car.” Bremner attributed 90% of its excellence to the Honda underneath. Quite like the Acclaim, I suppose.

  4. There is little doubt that these cars have not aged well, but then, neither have others of its ilk of the time. When launched, it was widely commented that Rover had achieved something in creating a car that looked a little classier outside and (in particular) inside than Ford and GME rivals. Underneath, it was a Honda, albeit one over which Rover Group designers had enjoyed some influence in terms of dimensions, stance, interior architecture, etc. Engines were Honda units, but there was also a Rover engineered diesel and, eventually, a 200 bhp 16v turbo T Series. The underlying Accord was a good car, and the Honda engines better than those of many rivals. The car’s main problem was a lack of range diversity (no hatch, no estate, no coupe, just a 4 door saloon), and poor development througth it’s lifecycle. I’d argue that, 75 aside, it was the best looking Rover since the SD1 and much more successful than other “Rondas” as they became known. We’re all a bit sniffy about this generation of Rovers these days, but, in many respects, they were far better engineered, tested and built than what came before or after. Honda was a good match for Rover and it was an interesting business and operating model that existed between them for over a decade. I am glad you found and dug out this one for review, even if it is not a pretty picture.

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