Rover 600 : the bypassed future-classic…

Keith Adams

I know that I’m going to come in for a lot of flack about this, but I think that the Rover 600 is a bloody good car – possibly one of the best that Rover ever built. However, before you accuse me of being boringly predictable and saying ‘of course it is’, given the 620ti’s 200bhp – let me just clarify that I mean the standard unsung Honda-powered ones. Given that this was supposed to be the least Roverised of all the joint venture Rover-Hondas, it looks the most British of the lot.

That’s something of a miracle because the European Honda Accord upon which the 600 was based wasn’t exactly blessed with great looks. However, given Richard Woolley’s masterful reworking of the Japanese body – which was confined to door frames, rear and front wings, bonnet and bumpers – its undoubted elegance is absolutely astounding.

The 600 may have looked great at its launch in 1993, but how has the old girl aged? Surprisingly well, actually. Again, here’s an area that Rover scores massively over Honda, and not just because the classical four-light shape looks better. No, Rover’s colour and trim combinations were class-leadingly enticing during the early- to mid-1990s and stood head and shoulders above the rest. Where Honda’s interiors were all dowdy and grey, Rover’s were classy and biscuit coloured – as a result, the British car was a whole lot more enticing a place to sit in.

OK, so the 600 still looks great, but what’s it like in service? Well, as you can imagine (and as many of you know), it’s astoundingly reliable. In fact, even today, in cars that are 15 years old, the worst you can expect to find them suffering from are windows dropping out of their runners, rusting brake lines and sticking rear calipers. Oh, and a little bit of rust around the rear arches and sills. Hardly a catalogue of disasters…

A few years back, I ran a 620i for Car Mechanics magazine. It had well over 200,000 miles on the clock and had been given to the magazine for free. I was tasked with licking it back into shape and, although it initially seemed like a forlorn task given that it had endured a tough life, once I rolled my sleeves up, it was suprisingly easy to sort. With new brake lines on and the rear calipers sorted, it sailed through an MoT and, with a leather GSi interior fitted and 16in wheels on it, it looked smart and felt nice to sit in.

More than that, though, you’d never actually have known it had mega-miles on it from behind the ‘wheel. It felt, tight, modern and pleasurable to drive, despite having the low-powered 115bhp engine under the bonnet. Yes, it impressed me and I made a mental note to buy one some time soon.

Here we are four years on, I still haven’t bought one and, more to the point,  a 600 has still not been Car of the Month on this site – a shocking omission – but then that kind of sums up the 600 all over. We deal in underdogs and unsung heroes on AROnline and yet the mid-sized Rover was so good at what it did and simply got on quietly with the job in hand, that it’s been overlooked.

I guess I should alleviate that situation sometime soon, but for now, I’ll keep looking at the 600 as the car that – in the real world (that place where reliability and dependability count) – is perhaps the best thing ever to wear a Viking Longship on its snout…

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

47 Comments on "Rover 600 : the bypassed future-classic…"

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  1. Jack Yan Jack Yan says:

    I agree with you, Keith. I always thought Woolley was a genius to have done what he did with the hard points of the Accord (not a new car by then, thanks to Honda’s “three Accords” policy of the time) and having to use so many of the same panels. The low-slung looks of the car have dated well and, dare I say it, better than the 75.

  2. Lord Sward says:

    This was the best Honda/Rover JV model as it looked terrific and drove decisively better than the competition. It was also the most reliable car ever to come from Cowley. However, what let it down was a list price which was too ambitious, a spec-sheet which was Mercedes mean and an indifferent marketing campaign. According to my source (still within Cowley), it was the failure of this car that turned BMW’s attention to disposing of the Rover Group.

  3. Neil says:

    I do agree with you entirely. I had a P-Reg 623 GSI Auto (Honda engined) in Metallic Silver and near-perfect Grey leather interior. It had, incredibly, 225,000 miles on the clock when I bought it for £400 back in the winter of 2005. I actually bought it on the 23rd December, 2005 because I didn’t think my awful 306 Cabriolet would make it up to my (then) fiance’s parents for Christmas.

    In all honesty, I paid the £400 on the basis that it was cheaper and easier than paying for train tickets up to Northumberland and back (to Godalming in Surrey) over the Christmas period complete with presents and clothes etc. The thinking was that if it died on or after that journey it would not be the end of the world for me.

    The car itself had a full service history (two fully-completed Service Books and a few pages stapled into the second to make more room) and had been looked after meticulously. Everything in it worked, from the electric chairs to the electric sunroof to the electric mirrors to the cruise control. Put simply, I was staggered with it – it drove perfectly and it was an extremely comfortable and enjoyable to be in.

    I sold it a two-and-a-half years later with 260,000-odd miles on the clock. Nothing had ever gone wrong on it (though I did need a new rear exhaust section) and the engine had never missed a beat. It had never even got a warning on the MOTs. I was even given a Mercedes by my now Father-in-Law as a wedding present, but decided to sell it and keep the Rover as it was just a better car to be in and drive. The best bit: I got £650 when I sold it!

    Have to agree with you Keith – the car is wholly underrated aesthetically and mechanically. It is low-slung, almost coupe-like and, whilst the driver’s headroom is not great, it is just wonderful to drive. The only down-side today for the 600 is that the Rover 75 is so good to look at.

    I sold my 623 to get a 75 V6 and, whilst I thought the 600 looked good, it frankly does not come anywhere near the 75 in terms of looks. Richard Woolley did a great job of making the 600 look like a Rover from largely Honda mechanicals, but the 75 was designed and built as a Rover from the start – and you can tell.

  4. David 3500 says:

    What is the “best Rover ever” is, of course, rather subjectve. Focus on the collaborative years from the early 1980s and the 600 Series is right up against the likes of the R8 200/400 Series for this accolade; itself an impressive car where there was more obvious ‘Rover’ input in the design and packaging. Whether the 600 is as good as the 75 that superseded it is also debatable.

    However, in the post-SD1 era, the 600 Series is definitely within the top three of best Rover saloons produced and probably has the best reputation for reliability.

    It’s just a shame the restrictions of the licencing agreement with Honda meant that Rover Cars was not able to exploit its potential more in terms of the interior colour and trim packaging and developing a useful Tourer version.

    As for being a ‘failure’? Hardly, judging by the fact that over 230,000 examples were sold in less than six years of production and the fact that it raised the aspirational appeal of the Rover name considerably in image-conscious market territories such as Germany and Italy. There was even a special perfume made for affluent customers to buy in Italy in the mid Nineties, featuring a glass bottle shaped on the 600’s radiator grille. I believe that, in reality, it was more a case of BMW not liking paying Honda royalties for every example built and every Honda engine supplied.

    This is still a great looking Rover that offers so much in terms of quality and reliability and one that I hope will be embraced more by enthusiasts looking for a modern Rover.

  5. Adrian says:

    My uncle owned a late period 600, in bronze with a beige interior. The car lasted over 10 years after being bought used. The only problems it had were the aforementioned windows coming off their runners and the clock not working for some reason. The radio gave up the ghost towards the end but, apart from these problems, mechanically the car was faultless…

  6. Agreed-it is a super good car,but i prefer it with Rovers TI engine.

  7. Sam Skelton says:

    Keith,

    Having recently spent a week and over a thousand miles in £200’s worth of 620SLDi with 164k on it, I agree that they’re underrated. I was discussing pretty much exactly what you say here with the car’s owner – the owner that it’s reliable, dependable and not the old banger you expect a fifteen year old Rovers (or any £200 car) to be. It felt tight, if a little lethargic – but then the diesel has ten bhp less than the 2.0 petrol you had.

    The window runners, the clock failure and the rot on the arches were there but, otherwise, it seemed a faultless car.

    I also agree about it being the underdog. It’s part of the scenery rather than the main picture – because it’s so capable and lacks any real flaws, there are none of the issues there that personify a car and give it some character. It’s a shame but, for Bangernomics fans, that’s a bit of a blessing.

    Sam.

  8. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Chris Chapman :

    A nice car but please bear these in mind before buying:

    http://www.euroncap.com/tests/rover_600_1997/1.aspx

    http://www.euroncap.com/Player.aspx?nk=0780c48d-5730-47df-834f-f036accd35ce

    I’m afraid that marketing-lead rubbish is why a small car weighs 1300Kg+ instead of 700Kg and average fuel economy is still falling relative to the performance of the cars.

    Whilst a Renault Modus might wipe out a Volvo 940 when the contemporary Renault 5 would be little more than a bumper ornament, it’s not going to do so well against a new S80 and, in the meantime, both cars are delivering worse handling and fuel economy, using up more materials in production and have a shorter potential lifespan (a large reason why people replace serviceable old cars is this safety lobbying).

    My car has 9 airbags and is allegedly pretty much the safest car available. However, that’s why I find it terrifying to drive as the A-pillars block most junctions, roundabouts and oncoming vehicles… and why I expect side impacts are the main concern of the airbags. All new cars are the same, which is why I’m considering getting a classic for daily use next year and just sinking the money into maintaining it well.

  9. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    Sounds like you’re out of love with your C6, Richard…

    /K

  10. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Keith Adams :

    Sounds like you’re out of love with your C6, Richard…

    /K

    I’ve never been in love with it – compared to a BMW 5-Series or something like that, I think it’s a bit different and more comfortable but at the expense of handling feel whilst PSA have disconnected all the stuff that made a Citroën breathe and feel alive. However, the useless Dealer Network and attitude is doing a good job of pushing it from “acceptable” to “sick of it”.

    I wanted a car that felt like a new CX, something truly different. Now it’s had the firmware update it’s better handling, but the ride’s harsher even when not in Sport mode – and, despite having just been ‘fixed,’ the mystery balljoint rattle (on a 20K car) feels like it’s returning. Uncoupling the brakes from the HP circuit wrecks the feel on a 1975Kg car – and the suspension is not interconnected now. There are multiple spheres, but the front/back/left/right communication is by ECU and wires rather than fluid pressure as far as I can tell from all the diagrams/descriptions (even if I’m wrong about that it still doesn’t feel right to me).

    I think the C5 is a more competent car having driven one, but, given that no matter what you get these days they’re all bloated, thick-pillared mobile blockhouses, I think I was wrong in choosing a Citroën and should have taken the risk on the then new to the market XF 2.7 instead. Same price, same engine, probably a much better car, almost certainly a much better dealer experience. When I went to look at the XJ the dealer attitude was totally different and that’s when I was driving the £500 beater Xantia, not the C6 (and dressed accordingly).

  11. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    This is utterly disappointing and upsetting beyond belief. I can’t believe you’ve been treated so shabbily by Citroen. I mean, you were onside and they’ve alienated you. Idiots!

    /K

  12. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Heh, I wrote a long reply to this and your CMS ate it!

    You like the C6 and as a modern car, as a choice of what’s available, it’s still a nice interesting car – just very mundane compared to the cars it “replaces” and not as competent or as far ahead of the pack as it really should be.

    The dealer thing is a long, frustrating and infuriating story – if nothing else because, yes, I can be an arrogant and annoying customer occupying the mindset of “I’ve got the most expensive Citroën and I damn well expect good service.”

    However, really underlying all that, the service is disappointing whether it’s a C1 or, more crucially, the higher-end C5s which compete against the BMW 3 Series. I’m not asking for flowers on the seat and a washed car (it annoys me when they do wash it). I’m just asking for a Technician to investigate what is actually wrong, be honest about the time taken to fix it, to do all the operations to fix it and to own up if they’ve messed up that repair. That’s all.

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask from any garage, yet every experience I’ve had with Citroën UK-owned dealerships (surely the ones with the strongest backing) has involved me having to badger the Service Managers, several cases of raised voices and, indeed, outright lying on the part of the Service Receptionists plus a hell of a lot of wasted time.

    No one should have to deal with that – not a £3000, used-C1 buyer or a £38,000 top-end C5 Tourer buyer. C6 buyers are so few and far between that it’s not even worth mentioning. Citroen UK would probably be better off giving us all refunds and telling us to go elsewhere.

  13. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Oh, yeah, I also meant to say I pretty much agree with the 600/best Rover comment in that it’s the most competent, usable car ever to wear the badge – but surely cars like the P5 were really very good for their time? I know I’d rather have a 600 than a 75 (with the exception of the V8, which is flawed but lovely as a concept) or an R8.

  14. Jemma says:

    I have to say that I do like the 600 as far as styling goes but I have never been in one or driven one so I can’t say whether I would prefer it over what I have.

    Personally, I think my favourite will always be the SD1 with the XX 800 saloon coming a close second – even given the fact of its “Samurai of Darkness” electrical system.

    Re the Citroen disaster, as I said with the Safrane, find a good garage and you will be fine. However, to be honest, a lot of the techs can’t do better than push in two connectors and look at what the diagnostics say and that won’t solve most of the mechanical problems if there are any – it might be an idea to talk to other C6 owners if you know any and look into good garages they can recommend.

    My mother has had two of the C5 diesel estates and you could probably shoehorn the RMS Titanic in there with the seats down – and neither of them have ever had any problems. They ride better than my father’s Merc and are preferable to drive… I’m surprised the C6 is so much of a disaster since a fair amount of the electronics and suspension are shared between the two (although getting Citroen to admit that is akin to getting a VW salesman to admit that the Seat Leon exists).

    You might want to ask when you go back to the garage whether they checked the firmware numbers before they ‘upgraded’ it – it’s entirely possible that they have flashed the system to a previous firmware because someone who isn’t bright enough to check has flashed a previous version.

    My best suggestion is find another specialist or dealer – the smaller ones tend to care more since they need the business more. I agree you seem to have had pretty atrocious service.

  15. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    Sorry to disagree, but I can’t put the 600 ahead of the SD1, P6 or even the R8 – too bland on all fronts, however competent. That said, I was on holiday in Italy in the ’90s, sitting in a car park when a Metallic Turqoise 600 drove in. No badges, just the longship, it looked superb as it shimmered in the bright sunlight and the driver posed up and down, perhaps showing off the only classy Brit for miles around – to us in the only UK-registered Fiat Uno for miles around.

  16. Ianto says:

    600 was nice, but in my view the HHR saloon was even better.

    Re the Citreon issues, I have had similar issues with Renault dealers over the last five years, and was sorely tempted to part ways with the regie. However, the economic downturn has made dealers in this neck of the woods very accomodating, and I am currently experiencing much better customer service with some very accomodating discounts to boot.

    Just wish they had made a 600 and HHR estate.

  17. Craig says:

    The vast majority of taxis in Cardiff around 3 years ago were 600s. Many are still in use today, surely a strong sign of their durability and reliability. It’s a very handsome car and from my experience it’s very refined.

  18. David says:

    Being an American and mostly unfamiliar with Honda/Rovers, I have to say that you’ve, in fact, made a sadly good case for just buying a Honda to begin with.

    One look at that interior shot and I can’t divorce myself from the idea that it’s 100% Honda. From the funny square Honda gearshift knob, Honda airbag steering wheel, Honda steering column, and Honda dashboard vents, to the Denso gauges and Honda handbrake, I see nothing in the picture that is the least bit unfamiliar to the owners of American model Accords of the same time period.

    While the Honda/Rovers may have been fine cars, they failed to save the company. If they’re good now, it proves only that a Honda could be built properly inside Britain (the 800 failed to prove that in the US market). I don’t think there’s much point today in debating this car’s differences from the Accord. The 800 was awfully close to the Legend, but the 600 falls into the “near as makes no difference” category. It might be a good car or even a good looking one, but I don’t think much of it as a real Rover.

  19. pigeons99 Pigeons99 says:

    My dad had a bright red Rover 620sli (SI88 DRP please let me know if you find her, I know she is still out there). She was a beautiful, comfortable, reliable 2 litre and despite experiences with Rovers before in the family history, This car really kicked off my love of Rovers.
    The 600 is really unappreciated and I see quite a few with ladders atop and used as work vehicles etc. but I think they will become quite the classic in the coming years.

  20. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Jemma :
    Re the Citroen disaster, as I said with the Safrane, find a good garage and you will be fine. However, to be honest, a lot of the techs can’t do better than push in two connectors and look at what the diagnostics say and that won’t solve most of the mechanical problems if there are any – it might be an idea to talk to other C6 owners if you know any and look into good garages they can recommend.

    The C6 is still under warranty and, legislation aside: 1) my experience with specialists for non-warranty work has not been good in the past (essentially, with very few exceptions, I think the entire British motor trade needs a swift, sharp kick up the backside; if I listed the reasons why I find letting any car go to a mechanic a terrifying experience it would make a book, not a post on Blog) and 2) I’m not going to be taking it to a specialist for warranty work.

    The C5 suspension is similar, related, but not the same as the C6; the C6’s hardware is much closer to a Peugeot 407 but with electronically controlled spheres. The new C5 is closer to the C6, but IMO does a good job on steel springs; Keith’s had an excellent article with the New C5 featured on here in the past.

    It’s a two year old car. I don’t want to find a good garage; frankly, I think that having to find a good garage for a £38K car where the manufacturer is still in business is ludicrous and an immense waste of time given the potential spread of catchment area needed. A good garage is something you find for your Austin Healey, ideally in a quiet little village where metric tools are akin to witchcraft and you spend the day. This car is an appliance, a convenience, and, if the maintenance isn’t convenient, then the money is better spent elsewhere.

    The firmware is the one I asked for. It’s having the effect requested – that the effect is to sacrifice softness with a horrible diagonal wallow for slightly firm suspension with no wallow is disappointing only because in the Good Old Days, Citroën (not PSA) engineers knew how to get the dynamic balance right with mathematics, physics and fluid.

  21. Craig W says:

    I really loved my 1995 Rover 623GSi. It was fast, comfortable, luxurious, good looking and very reliable. It was thirsty though around town, and the insurance was a bit pricey.
    A relative of my wife had a 1995/96 Honda Accord which was all but identical inside (apart from the colour)& under the bonnet, but looked quite ugly compared to the very pretty 600.
    Having 3 kids, I sold it when I saw the Euro NCap test results. Also my youngest was about to out-grow the child seat which fitted into the centre lap-belt, and I needed a car with 5 proper seat belts.
    I replaced the Rover with a Citroen, a mistake I will not be making again in a hurry!
    Our other car is a British built Honda Civic (lesson learned), the generation after the Rover 400 shape, and is supremely reliable. I can’t help wondering what a “Roverised” version of that would have been like if BMW had not come onto the scene.

  22. Mike C says:

    I always thought that the 600 was a most attractive car, especially in maroon – has any car ever been so popular with one colour? It still looks smart, whereas the 75 looks a bit contrived now.

    The 600 was overpriced to start with and, unfortunately, it had the Ford Mondeo to contend with. The Mondeo was a duller looking but probably better car and that made the premium pricing hard to swallow…

  23. Jemma says:

    @Richard Kilpatrick
    True, it’s a nearly new car that cost you £38k but it’s also one of the most horribly complicated cars on the market and, from what I understand, it’s also a horribly complicated compromise in that it uses (if I understand this right) steel springs and electronics at the same time.

    I would, from my little expertise in suspension engineering, imagine this means the worst of both worlds – the C5 rode brilliantly because it was an infinately adjustable and interconnected system – much like the hydragas/hydrolastic suspensions – the C6 has the disadvantage that steel is not infinately adjustable (as bourne out by the Rover 200) so ride will suffer.

    By a good garage I mean a good dealership, because the one you are involved with now certainly isn’t. When my father had the Renaults 25 1a through to Safrane II he went to the same dealership in the backside of nowhere and they did a brilliant job every time. The one time we had no choice but go to a main dealer – and this was in France mark you – we had to wait 24 hours for a common part (alternator) when the 25 TXI was still being built – although to be fair I think this was more that he wanted to give all his dealer mates the time to look at a British version. It still cost us a day of the holiday though…

    There is always the option of saying flat out to the dealer that the vehicle is not fit for purpose if it’s come to that point and you are that dissatisfied with it – or ask to have another C6 for a period to see if that shows the same issues.

    My history with French cars has been good – we’ve had Peugeot 306 hatches and estates in the family, Renault 5s, 25s, the Safrane and the 2 C5’s and none of them has ever been a problem.

    However, I think quality has taken a real nosedive now and prices have gone sky high – so that’s what people end up with … indifferent cars at high prices.

  24. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Ah, perhaps I didn’t explain the suspension right – it’s still oleopneumatic and electronically controlled, but the linkages and arms are the double wishbone setup from the Peugeot 407.

    I’ve tried a few dealerships and it gets to the stage where you have to take four hours out to get to one – I can’t really do that. There’s one in Kidderminster, but it’s just opened (one day it was Hyundai, next it was Citroën) and it’s a franchise (All Electric).

    Citroen UK’s first British MD, with VAG/Audi experience, lasted a year before going to Mercedes. I would be surprised if the reasons for such a swift departure were anything other than being unable to deal with PSA’s corporate culture – the big claims for turning around the group never materialised.

    The fit for purpose option doesn’t really work when you’ve had the car for two years and it’s mostly functional – disappointment is not a valid reason – but I think that (based on my used car experiences) French cars are best bought simple and cheap – my 306 was a convertible one – partly influenced by the apparent reliability and popularity of the hatcback ones, but it was a disaster. A French car, built by Italians, was kinda asking for it really…

  25. Andrew Elphick says:

    Oh dear, Richard… I’m aware of your dealership frustration – it’s the reason why a member of close family isn’t replacing his Audi A8 like for like…

    In about a year’s time, I will be in the market for some new wheels and the other candidate (a Cadillac CLS, stop sniggering at the back) may now be the default choice.

    Is the C6 factory back-up that bad? I know my experience of Renault dealers stopped the trigger being pulled on a 3 year old Vel Satis in 2005 so is this more of the same French boat?

  26. Andrew Elphick says:

    Mind you, our 306 Convertible was good as gold! (and it’s been rather missed these last few weeks…).

  27. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    @Andrew Elphick
    Apart from the odd driver’s seat position (they didn’t have a convertible for a test drive so I drove a regular 306 and found it comfortable, only to discover the seat is offset on the cabriolet for the sill strengthening) which meant I ended up sitting partly on the bolster most of the time, I really enjoyed the 306 as a car to drive – lift-off oversteer, pretty good chassis rigidity, 1.8 engine was good enough and it was quite practical.

    Unfortunately, I ordered blue and got green, it had KMH on the dash when it arrived (from a main dealer, through Peugeot Contract Hire), the roof frame broke after 18 months (the replacement roof never worked properly), the driver’s door trim warped and fell off, the brake discs cracked, the dealer refused to change the coolant when I noticed it was black (I was offering to pay, not asking for anything daft) and the gearbox was rattling in idle at 33K. During the last few trips it also developed a bad misfire and lots of smoke.

    I thought the 306 was particularly nice looking as a convertible as well; they’re cheap now used but I wouldn’t risk it!

    Bear in mind my previous new car had been a Fiat, and I’d had pretty good experiences with that and the dealership apart from one issue when they left my car too near the paint booth and covered the bumper in primer overspray.

    The C6 backup… well, the firmware update for the suspension isn’t a field upgrade, it’s a “is the owner complaining” one and even then getting them to admit it existed took three phone calls including one to Citroen UK and one of the issues was that they apparently weren’t allowed to order a sphere on “next day” because of the higher cost (again, a call to Citroen UK seemed to imply that wasn’t the case and the sphere came in the next day).

    CLS? What about the VXR8? Same chassis, probably a bit easier to get bits for. Not as angular, of course…

  28. Paul says:

    The 600 was an excellent car but, as ever with Rover, BL etc., it suffered from a confused image. It was meant to be a posh alternative to the Mondeo, but it was almost as big as an 800 and had an engine range with capacities and power outputs that mirrored the larger car’s.

    It was also expensive relative to the Honda Accord upon which it was based. It didn’t help that BMW took over just after the 600 launch and Rover effectively lost interest in the car.

  29. Andrew Elphick says:

    People forget it wasn’t cheap though.

  30. David says:

    I remember that Car Mechanics article – the car turned out well by the time it was finished – was that really 4 years ago already!

  31. Hilton Davis says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: to me, the Rover 600 always had “that look” about it and Richard Woolley did a fine job in his adaptation of the Honda Accord.

    I had a company Accord 2.0iS in late ’90s with the 131ps motor. It went well and looked OK but the Rover’s grille, headlamps and rear lights looked superior.

    The 600 was very much an Executive-style saloon which was the aim – when I see one now, I still think they don’t look out of place.

  32. Ianto says:

    @Hilton Davis
    I have to agree both the 400 and 600 saloons were masterpieces and demonstrated the Roverisation process well.

    It was a great shame that the Honda deal failed as this was an alliance in which Rover understood it’s role well. I would much prefer the Honda Accord which featured in the famous “Cog” commercial in a Rover guise to the hopelessly outdated (and stone dead) Rover 75.

  33. Simon Woodward says:

    I always thought the 75 was a step backwards in the style stakes. The 600 still looks good and those that haven’t been turned into minicabs still turn up for a few hundred quid in very serviceable condition in the classified ads.

    I wish BMW had allowed a more aggressive looking ‘Ti’ version – there was a yellow concept car doing the motor show rounds which was ignored by the new owners. This would have done Rover’s image the world of good – it certainly did with the Vitesse versions of the SD1 and 800 Series.

  34. Ianto says:

    @Simon Woodward
    I agree with you – Honda and Rover had a good synergy and the Roverised Hondas were much more than the badge-engineered cars of the Stokes era.

  35. David 3500 says:

    Simon Woodward :I always thought the 75 was a step backwards in the style stakes. The 600 still looks good and those that haven’t been turned into minicabs still turn up for a few hundred quid in very serviceable condition in the classified ads.

    I wish BMW had allowed a more aggressive looking ‘Ti’ version – there was a yellow concept car doing the motor show rounds which was ignored by the new owners. This would have done Rover’s image the world of good – it certainly did with the Vitesse versions of the SD1 and 800 Series.

    I have never seen reference to a yellow Ti version of the Rover 75 before. This is very interesting.

    I do recall the 75 ‘Design Theme’ finished in Anthracite with 18-inch wheels, black interior wood trim and some woven mesh to the main grille and front air intake. This was previewed at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show at a time when the Rover Group’s uncertain future under BMW was being reported on a near daily basis and several publications were speculating that the Rover badge would be replaced by Triumph. It was a stunning concept that looked more like a ‘baby Bentley’ and would have done wonders for generating a younger, aspirational appeal for the 75 range and Rover brand in general.

    It’s a shame that neither BMW nor MG Rover Group gave it the green light – I did ask the latter owners on a number of occasions, even when the MG Z variants had been announced. A missed opportunity that would have been easy, quick and not that expensive to sanction.

  36. Hilton Davis says:

    I actually still do like the Rover 75 – especially with the square grille on the V8… However, had Rover continued as a partner or sub-division of Honda, I think the current Honda Accord saloon could have made a nice Rover 600/75 replacement, if given a Roverised look a’la Richard Woolley.

  37. @David 3500
    You have mis-read Simon Woodward’s comment – he was referring to a yellow Rover 600 Ti concept car and not to a Rover 75.

  38. Jemma says:

    Regarding fitness for purpose – under the rules for Trading Standards there’s a 7 year limit and, considering the amount of trouble you have been through and the fact you have given the dealer plenty of opportunity to fix the thing, I think you would have a good case. I suspect making the comment might get you another car to try out and see if that one is as bad.

    I have always liked the 75. However, there were certain colours that suited it – that blue they did the MG versions in for example – and some colours that didn’t. I know it’s the retro-mobile par excellence but it’s nice to drive and different to look at. The Rover 75 manages to combine old and new cues quite well. Amazingly, Clarkson actually liked the V8 version.

    The 600 is one of the best-looking Rovers – bar, oddly enough, the XX 800 – but I don’t think I have ever seen one that isn’t that same shade of red…

    The 306s we had were all good and caused no problem – even when they did 45,000 miles a year with 18 boxes of books in the back (I could barely lift a full box)- a feat not many larger estates could manage and still can’t (the C5 is about the only one even now).

  39. Ianto says:

    Hilton Davis :I actually still do like the Rover 75 – especially with the square grille on the V8… However, had Rover continued as a partner or sub-division of Honda, I think the current Honda Accord saloon could have made a nice Rover 600/75 replacement, if given a Roverised look a’la Richard Woolley.

    Absolutely, just imagine an MG with Civic Type R underpinnings or, for those with a more eclectic taste, a rebodied MG version of the Honda Prelude – the possibilities were limitless. Has anyone photoshopped any of this?

  40. @Ianto
    Yup, Honda have produced some fine cars – I owned a 99/V Honda Accord Type R back in the day and, for me, that should still probably be one of the benchmarks for any new C-segment or D-segment sports saloon. An MG6 X-POWER Saloon might just tick that particular box in 2012 or thereabouts!

  41. Ianto says:

    @Clive Goldthorp
    I agree, I too am very confident that SAIC can pull this off – we just need to get behind MG and buy the product once it is launched.

    Personally, I would love to see what Richard Woolley could do with an Accord Crosstour.

  42. Any AROnline readers unfamiliar with US-only Honda Accord Crosstour should view the Gallery accompanying this Autocar article from September, 2009.

  43. Mike Thomas says:

    @Jonathan Carling
    Hi. Well, I’ve owned a ’73 P6 2000TC, a ’94 620Si Auto and a ’97 623GSi Auto and I currently own a ’69 P6 V8 Auto and a 52 plate 75 CDTi.

    The 623GSi was a fantastic car and I would definitely rate it as a truly excellent car – up there with a P6 and 75. I do remember the reviews and I think Autocar put it above a 3 Series at the time.

    My two never went wrong, I put 95,000 miles on the 623GSi (from 45,000 to 140,000 miles) with only pads, service items and, of course, a broken driver window runner. I sold it for £1950 as an 8 year old with everything still working and until recently I saw it around as a local cab.

    Any 600 owner will swear that they were excellent cars because they were.

  44. Davie Christie says:

    I have owned a rover 600 for eleven years now with the Honda 1.8 engine which has now done 117,000 miles and never missed a beat,as for door Windows falling out the easy way to prevent this is to keep slides lubricated with silicon so that glass does not stick.in slides causing regulator arm to bend and is why window falls out bodywork is still good with only slight rust on lower edge of rear wheel arch ,leather upholstery is as good as new with only slight wear on side bolster on drivers seat great car for motorway driving and good on B roads as well also used it as a tow car for seven years and although a bit underpowered always got us where we were going ,apart from routine servicing I never need to put a spanner near it and still passes mot test with just the odd exhaust and other normal wear and tear parts required so here is one 600 which will be a future classic as it is a Keeper ! Brilliant Car

  45. Dave Dawson says:

    I’m always surprised at the seemingly small following the 600 has amongst BLARG enthusiasts. You never see many at POL. Compared to R8 I think it is unfairly ignored.

    Going back to 1994, I think BMW perhaps should have focussed first on replacing the Metro/100 and soon to be launched HHR. By 1995 when HHR hit the streets, the 600 style still had a longer term appeal. Both were subject to licensing arrangement costs, so this would not have been an argument against the 600.

    In 1998/99 would Rover not have been in a better position with a new Metro, HHR replacement and lightly revised, but still appealing, 600? The 800 probably pensioned off.

    Just a thought……

  46. Peter says:

    Fast forward to 2016. The R600 is. Ow a rarer sight on our roads like all Rovers. They change hands for pennies.

    I had my first 600, a 99 620ti in 2001 I loved it and only sold it when at the ripe age of 30 I needed an auto so bought a VW p’shit that proceeded to fall apart.

    I’ve owned lots of Rovers in my time. The 220 coupe, the 420 GSI, 214sei, my dad drive a 418gstd till it died and I have loved every one of them. All have been Rover engined and Honda bodied but I grew up on V8 SD1’s.

    2 weeks ago, just by chance whilst looking for a Rover 220 Coupe I came across a 620 ti. 99 plate 80k miles and the best thing I did was but it.

    The reason the car failed had nothing to do with its Honda underpinnings it was because River pitched it at a higher bracket than other cars.

    Like the bubble rover against the focus not the fiesta, the 600 was pitched above the Mondeo and was limited by its 3 box design against the hatch and estate mondeo and that is simply what killed its sales.

    Better trimmed and better to drive than a 90’s ford and Vauxhall with then a better image.

    I was once told that Rover had drawn up plans to build a hatch and estate, I guess the money never came.

    Sadly for the 600, the all new (but looked so old) 75 arrived, with the image of cord slippers. By the time the 75 came, Rover was in such strife that the 600 or any replacement was never going to happen.

    Even now, I’m angry about what happened to Rover… it could have carried on for years selling badge engineered product but that famous consortium ground it into dust.

    Back to today, the 1300kg 620ti can see off most modern heavyweights. Plenty safe enough, plenty fast enough and everything still works.

    Rover – a sad loss

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