In-house designs : Rover TCV

The Tourer Concept Vehicle

In the months following the formation of MG Rover in May 2000, many changes were quickly put in place that affected the make-up of the product range. Rover’s range was split in two, and the immediate marketing focus was shifted away from the existing brand in an attempt to establish MG as a dynamic brand that younger people would find little difficulty relating to.

So throughout 2000 and 2001, MG received the majority of the limelight, while Rover continued on its merry way, looking a little neglected. However, that all changed at the Geneva Motor Show in 2002, when they unveiled their radical TCV (Tourer Concept Vehicle).

Penned by Peter Stevens‘ team at Longbridge, the TCV marked a new direction for Rover styling. Gone were the “retro” styling cues, and in was a sharp and contemporary look… the grille moved away from the Auntie shape as developed in later years on the 600 and 75 – and towards an entirely new interpretation of the theme.

The five-door model was designed with a verstile interior, which Rover were at great pains to demonstrate: the boot was opened at the “reveal” to show a washing machine, which was stood upright! I am not sure what they were trying to say about anticipated buyers, but it was a very potent way of demonstrating a well-shaped boot!

The official line was this car was form the basis of the Rover 45 replacement, and in the end it became very obvious that the look being chased for RDX60 was one derived from the TCV. Given the excellence of Rover 75’s chassis, which the RDX60 was be based upon, and the originality of the styling, there was real confidence within Rover that the RDX60 could have been a hit…

That was until the delays took hold.

Any resemblance between the TCV, RDX60 and the R30 final prototype was unintentional. A senior stylist who worked on the R30 relates it this way: "When I saw TCV, I did make some visual comparisons between it and the R30, but that was probably more to do with 'style fashion' similarities than anything else. The TCV was developed entirely by MG Rover after the split. Although they were not directly involved with R30, many of the people who subsequently joined MG Rover were previously working in the Gaydon studio where R30 was initially developed."

Any resemblance between the TCV, RDX60 and the R30 final prototype was unintentional. A senior stylist who worked on the R30 relates it this way: “When I saw TCV, I did make some visual comparisons between it and the R30, but that was probably more to do with ‘style fashion’ similarities than anything else. The TCV was developed entirely by MG Rover after the split. Although they were not directly involved with R30, many of the people who subsequently joined MG Rover were previously working in the Gaydon studio where R30 was initially developed.”

TCV at Geneva

Rover TCV concept: By Sam Livingstone, Car Design News

THE TCV is the first concept car to bear the Rover badge since the CCV concept in 1986. It is a strong design statement that Rover is moving on from its current heritage laden design identity that the face lifted Rover 800 introduced exactly a decade ago.

First acquaintance with the car is dominated by the contemporary sheer surfaced and hard edged aesthetic, and the strong face incorporating a larger, cleaner interpretation of the classic Rover grille that originates from the 1949 P4 and 1958 P5. This grille is recessed into the hood but has depth that is easily read, and a prominent ‘T’ motif from a broad upper edge and similarly broad central vertical bar. It also is more of a trapezium (as opposed to rectangle) shape that tapers downward with more acutely angled sides than before.

The tapering is accentuated by nearby tall angular lights, and by the line and surface running parallel to the grille sides that traces all the way through hood, A-pillar, cant rail and C-pillar to the rear window. This integration of line and surface elements around the car give the car an ‘all of a piece’ strength and quality which are intrinsic Rover characteristics.

A falling feature line that runs the length of the car is the one exception to this, as it fails to link with any of the other lines and surfaces on the car. It look likely to have been added at a late stage to break the sheerness of the flanks that are more akin to the cold teutonic form language of an Audi A4 or Opel Signum, than the warm voluminous form that the P5, P6, SD1 and 75 Rovers exhibited.

Beyond the confident new aesthetic design of the TCV, is the conceptual design of a ‘lifestyle estate’ based crossover that shows Rover’s intent to capitalise on the increasingly image leading ‘lifestyle estate’ market in the future. It also demonstrates that Rover recognises the need to be among the early adopters in reacting to the effects that SUV and MPV vehicles have had on the market.

With the stance and wheel arch treatment similar to that of the Audi A6 All-Road, the TCV has adopted some SUV toughness. And with apparent interior versatility, and the capacity to load a washing machine upright into the rear, (they don’t like to be carried any other way) the TCV has adopted some typical MPV traits in a similar was to the Chrysler Pacifica and Mercedes-Benz GST concepts shown at Detroit.

Rover has changed ownership and design identity many times during even the youngest lives of its customers. Although it desperately needs to become a brand that a broader, younger minded audience can identify with, it also needs to be seen to connect with its heritage – to show some sort of consistency despite its capricious recent background. The TCV shows how this might be achieved but its translation into a production car (to replace the Rover 45) shall walk a fine line between modern relevance and historical reverence.

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.

22 Comments on "In-house designs : Rover TCV"

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  1. ben says:

    It looks like a vectra crossed with a tacky chinese limo

  2. JagBoy says:

    Where is the TCV now ?

  3. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    In the basement of the roundhouse in Longbridge…

  4. keithb says:

    That D-pillar treatment is heavily copied ten years on, the new Astra in particular.

  5. Will M says:

    A cross between a Vectra, a Vel Satis and a disAstra.

  6. Paul says:

    How on earth would this have replaced the 45? Its massive. It may have measured up as some sort of lifestyle crossover/SUV thing spun off the 75 platform, but not as a compact hatch – Focus/Golf/Astra competitor. That strangely calibrated measuring device of Longbridge, first used on the Marina strikes again.

  7. maestrowoff says:

    The Lancia/Chrysler Delta is similarly larger than most of its rivals, better looking but not a million miles away

  8. David 3500 says:

    Despite its rather harsh-looking lines and angles, it seems more cohesive than the final rendition of RDX30 that was being shown to SAIC in early 2005. This latter design concept was truely awful, as it looked contrived and had a low rent-looking interior. Time did nothing to enhance the desirability of any future new Rover to replace the 45 with.

  9. David 3500 says:

    On another subject, I hope that washing machine in the back of the TCV is a British assembled Hotpoint or Creda, and not something make outside the UK. When they’re on full spin, particularly the Hotpoint WMA66, its like listening to a Rover jet engine at full chat.

  10. Hilton D says:

    It has to be said that like it or not, the TCV at least showed forward thinking from Rover for a next generation car that was moving away from a standard re-hash of previous designs.

    Looking at the TCV now against current competitors products, I think it could have “cut it”.

  11. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    @ Paul

    It would have fitted in rather well, after all, the 45 was dwarfed in class they initially tried to market it in.

  12. didierz65 didierz65 says:

    Vauxhall signum looks quite similar, it would have had a good chance against other medium sized cars.

  13. Ezeee says:

    This could have been a great way to push the brand more upmarket, create a unique niche and command a decent list price to maximise the profit per unit. A shame then that it was never pulled off. Funny how lots of other manufacturers have copied the styling (particularly the rear), since.

  14. Paul says:

    @11, but in 2000 the benchmark cars in the C segment where the Focus Mk1 and Golf Mk4. Both would have been dwarfed by this thing thats seems to have Ford S Max dimensions. As I said, fine as a sporty people carrier – like the S Max, but not as a 45 replacement.

  15. David 3500 says:

    Whatever happened to both the full-size and scaled models of TCV? Surely the full-size model unveiled at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show, and which also appeared at the British Motor Show later on that year, was not used as the basis for the RDX30 model of 2004/5?

  16. Ezeee says:

    To be honest that 75 Platforma had a lot of potential in it… shame they didn’t make the most of it…

  17. Marinast says:

    It’s a shame Peter Stevens never got around to designing a new MG Rover model from the ground up as I think it would have been outstanding.

  18. Ezeee says:

    *Would have made sense. Squeeze more out of an existing platform at the higher end with new models and a new design language: MPV Crossover, Estate car (using the Estate platform), and sedan and GT Coupe or a fastback (using the the saloon platform).

    *Use the MG-TF platform for a new sports car program – Again using a new design language.

    Both these programmes could have been profit maximisers.

    Additionally, they should have

    *Grabbed hold of TATA’s Indica V2 sooner and used the R3 platform and created a trendy budget brand out of the two.

    *Re-jigged the K-Series (especially the turbo) to a much more durable and ‘eco-friendly’ state of tune much more sooner.

    If only they’d have acted sooner and with much less fuzzy logic.. oh well

  19. James Riley james says:

    Saw this flesh at the 2002 Motorshow, I thought it was a fina looking thing and could have sold easily, and given how all cars of that size ended up being styled, this was ahead of it’s time by some years. Later versions shown to dealers looked horrific IMO and none bettered the original TCV variant.

  20. ian says:

    This looked great in 2002, was really exciting. Still is a great piece of design now.

  21. Ol says:

    That’s a fine looking car, it still looks modern and contemporary now.

  22. Dave Dawson says:

    Again, an amazing achievement. Massively ahead of the 45 and leading the way in how this class of car was developing. Almost hard to believe it was created by a company in MGR’s perilous position. You would think such an innovative proposal was supported by the financial strength of VAG or similar.

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