Car of the Month : May 2005

Bought last year for motorway cruising, the 75 is proved to be impressively capable of covering long distances. Not only is it quiet and refined, but it is also relatively economical – and when you’re clocking up a high annual mileage, isn’t that all one needs?

Well, not really – power would be nice. Still, after a session with CCC Technology, the car’s weedy 115bhp has been uprated to a more acceptable 160… Progress is no longer frustrating; in fact, it is effortlessly quick and there doesn’t seem to be a price to be paid at the pumps.


A chip makes all the difference…

NOT so long ago, I used to find driving the 75 a rather frustrating experience. Don’t get me wrong, it is a mostly fantastic car to drive on motoways and A-roads, thanks to its smooth and well-controlled suspension and impressive brakes – but get it on a B-road, and I used to find its lack of urge when exiting slower corners frustrating to say the least. Okay, I hear you cry, one doesn’t buy a diesel to have fun, but at the same time, drivers of BMW, Audi and Volkswagen diesels always seemed to be able to hustle along quite quickly if they felt the need.

Given that the 75 has a BMW lump nestling under the bonnet, it seems daft that MG Rover supplied it in such a soft state of tune. Relaxing, it may be, but very rarely will you know the standard car has a turbo bolted on to it, such is the subtle nature of that blower.

Soon after buying it, I decided enough is enough – and thought it was time to give this car a little more in the way of power. Directed by a few people I know, it seemed the preferred option for 75 owners is to go to their local dealer and specify the XPower upgrade. This is a simple ECU upgrade, which re-maps the turbo and fuel settings, netting an altogether more impressive 135bhp. From the reports of those people who have had the conversion done, such as Tim Burgess, it is a very worthwhile upgrade… especially when one considers that it didn’t invalidate MG Rover’s warranty (at the time).

I considered this route myself, until I started ringing round dealers for a quote. Quite simply, I was shocked – for one, there seemed to be no standard price, and I was quoted anything between £400 and £600 for the job. Without putting too finer point on it, I thought that was scandalous, for a simple re-map.

The towbar is not an elegant upgrade, but it is handy for those inevitable tow-jobs I seem to get landed with...

The towbar is not an elegant upgrade, but it is handy for those inevitable tow-jobs I seem to get landed with...

So I started to look around the alternatives. The obvious first choice for most people looking for ECU work is Superchips, but a quick ‘phone call soon elicited all I needed to know: 145bhp and 250lb/ft was all I was going to see, and it would cost me a not-inconsiderable £511. Better than XPower perhaps, but not enough ‘bangs for your bucks’, if you ask me…

Thumbing through the back pages of Autocar, I came across Tunit. What this company sells is a black box, which plugs into the fuel rail, and alters the fuelling and mapping. At £398, the price was more acceptable, but when I looked at the specification tables, the company stated that the 115bhp Rover 75CDT could be upgraded to 140bhp, whereas the 135bhp XPower version could go all the way to 160bhp. Curious considering (as far as I know) there is no hardware difference between the two flavours of 75CDT.

I called Tunit and put it to them – can I upgrade my 115bhp car to 160? The answer was ‘no’, as only the 135bhp version could be upgraded safely…

Don’t ask me why.

Notice the black sills - I always preferred the look of the early Cowley-built cars, so ended up spraying mine to match. Time will tell as to how effective the job was...

Notice the black sills - I always preferred the look of the early Cowley-built cars, so ended up spraying mine to match. Time will tell as to how effective the job was...

After not seeing a satisfactory price/performace ratio from the firms I checked to this point, I put the idea to sleep for a while. After all, I wanted to get the best value for money that I possibly could…

Some time after, I was idly chatting to Neil Turner, who I know used to run a chipped SEAT Leon. I asked him the question – how much did the job cost, and was it worth it? He told me, his upgrade came from the German company Upsolute and he had been delighted with his £300 job. Impressed at the cost and the conversion, I decided to look into it.

To cut a long story short, the firm has a few UK distributors – I chose CCC Technology, after explaining that the process involved removing the ECU (something I wanted to anyway, to check those vitally important drain holes), extracting the controller chip and and blowing it with a new ROM image with a more aggressive engine map on it. Total cost would be £305, and I would see 160bhp and 251lb/ft…

Oh, and they would come to my place to fit it…

Okay, so no Sat/Nav or leather, but the Club offers all the equipment that is really necessary - including that all important split-zone climate control...

Okay, so no Sat/Nav or leather, but the Club offers all the equipment that is really necessary - including that all important split-zone climate control...

The job was completed painlessly (within an hour), and after the car was put back together, we took it out for a quick test drive.

To say that the difference between before and after was like night and day is no exaggeration. Even on the first, short test drive after the job had been completed, it was obvious the car a real spring in its step. At the exit of the first roundabout, I put my foot down and after a momentary period of lag, the car surged forward with real conviction. In the past, the CDT needed to be worked hard to go quickly, it if I needed to overtake an meandering truck, there needed to be a lot of room before considering the move.

Now, you put your foot down, and as long as there is 1500rpm showing on the tacho, it surges forwards in a very pleasant manner. It also seems to have lost the breathlessness it suffered from over 3000rpm – instead, the tacho surges towards the red-line very convincingly indeed. No more, can the car be criticised for lacking go.

Admittedly, it isn’t ballistic, but it is very pleasant indeed – and on my local test route, there is a long uphill stretch I use to test the
straightline performance of any car that passes through my hands, and the 75 is now in the same realms is a Rover 827 auto. Impressive indeed. And all from one chip.

It makes one wonder why the car wasn’t sold in this form from the start – with similar performance to the all-conquering BMW 320d, the Rover 75 CDT becomes a compelling choice in the market place. Especially at current second hand prices…

If you own a 75 CDT, and find yourself frustrated by its lack of go, do consider chip tuning – it certainly seems money well spent.

Now I’ve decided I’m keeping the car (trade values being what they are), the 75 will be receiving chrome mirror backs and Union alloy wheels, during the next couple of months (the current 15-inch wheels look rather undersized).


Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
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.
Keith Adams

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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.

1 Comment on "Car of the Month : May 2005"

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  1. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    I see what you mean about the wheels looking undersized!

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