In-house designs : Rover 425KV6

Sporting Rover

Rover 425

ARGUABLY, the Rover 400 was viewed with disappointment among buyers and certain elements within Rover itself. That said, the Richard Woolley penned saloon version was a huge improvement over the five-door hatchback, and Rover admitted as much, when at the launch of the five-door hatchback, they told us that the “Real 400” would be with us within months when the saloon broke cover. From an engineering standpoint, the 400 was mainly Honda, and in the suspension department, that was no bad thing. It meant that the 400 was blessed with a sophisticated multi-link set-up that gave many possible ride/handling choices. Unfortunately, Rover (constrained by BMW?) chased ride comfort, and as a result, the handling was a little bit flawed as a result.

Be that as it may, many people within Rover had faith in the car – and together with the engineers that cooked up the fabulous K-Series and KV6 engines, they came up with this concept.

Since the KV6 had been placed under the bonnet of the Rover 800 in 1995, it was an inevitability that it would find its way under the bonnet of other products of the group. Whilst the HHR was under development, hacks with the KV6 engine were put together and seriously evaluated – there were some installation problems, notably KV6 failures, but in time, these issues were surmounted, and support for the vehicle mounted within the company. Rover finally produced a version for public consumption in 1998, and the press gave it a warm welcome. As Rover at the time were majoring on comfort, rather than performance, the emphasis was placed firmly on the 425 being a refined “compact express”, but there was a sporting car waiting to break cover…

Rover 425

As can be seen, the interior was treated to a green/tan colour scheme, and it worked surprisingly well. The exterior detailing was also re-thought, as well – the addition of chromed Rover 75 door mirrors and chromed door handles previewed the 1999 Rover 45… a car which, finally, was offered with the KV6. However, it was initially the 2-litre version that was offered, and again, the set-up of the car was biased towards comfort… So why was the 425 not launched as a fully-fledged production model – and why did we wait until 1999 before we were offered this engine in this car? It would seem that internal politics between BMW and Rover stood in its way – and although the Group’s problems were deep by this time, it did not stop the German parent company vetoing the potentially interesting package.

It could be said that the concept did come of age after the creation of MG Rover. However, the car would not wear a Viking badge, it would be called the MG ZS.

Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created 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.

9 Comments on "In-house designs : Rover 425KV6"

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  1. Hilton Davis says:

    A Rover 425 would have been a useful addition to the range back then and could have continued with the 45/KV6.

    Am I right in thinking that the Rover 45 KV6 which appeared was a 2.0-litre with the Steptronic gearbox? I believe that there was never a 2.5-litre-engined Rover 45 until the MG ZS180 surfaced.

    I guess BMW were not in favour as a 425 2.5 litre car might have drawn some sales away from their 3 series?

  2. Gareth says:

    That really is a mix of all various models and cars. The side indicators are orange just like the first Rover 400’s (HHR)45/75 wing mirrors, 45 door handles and a different grille.

    Wonder what ever happened to the car in the photo?

  3. Matthew says:

    I used to see a Rover 425 parked in Leamington back around this time when I lived there. I presume it had escaped from Gaydon. It was fitted with 425 badges but not those terrible chrome wheels and it was silver or gold rather than a dark colour. Unfortunately because used to see a lot of unusual Rovers at time, I didn’t take a lot of notice.

  4. David 3500 says:

    I am glad this almost forgotten design concept has been given some coverage as I was rather fond of it.

    Sadly the Rover 425 V6 Limited Edition was only ever a design concept because no serious engineering work beyond simply installing the engine into the HHR’s engine bay had been carried out prior to its exposure at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1997. Indeed, it was a rather late decision to create a design concept for the 400 Series range, to complement similar design concept propositions for the R3 200 Series and 800 Series.

    There were one or two examples built as running prototypes, although the reality was this proposition was at least a year away from entering any form of production schedule because of the ongoing production engineering that was required (even more than what was required for the 200 BRM LE unveiled at the same Motor Show).

    By the summer of 1998 (when it was originally mooted to have gone on sale), Rover Cars was preparing for the unveiling of the new 75 model. As a consequence, from early October 1998 there was some generous discounting on the 800 Series (which had ended production the previous month) and the soon-to-be-discontinued 600 Series. For a few thousand pounds more than the anticipated on-the-road price of a production ready 425 V6 Limited Edition you could have had a more superior specification 620/623 GSi, 600 Ti or even an 800 Vitesse or Sterling. Remember also that it was at this time the press were rumouring that the 200 and 400 Series were due to be facelifted in 1999. This would have likely had a negative impact on selling examples of the 425 V6 Limited Edition in the same way as it did on the 200 BRM LE, with sales of the latter being stimulated by healthy discounting.

    Add in the fact there would have been a ‘performance’ association of the 425 V6 Limited Edition (which would have been perceived as a sales threat by BMW), and the proposal really did not have a sound enough case for being built at that time, even as a limited production model.

    A shame really as I loved it and thought it conveyed more aspirational ‘Rover’ attributes in an otherwise rather dull model range.

    In late 2001 I did suggest to MG Rover Group a limited production model based on this very proposal for the Rover range, albeit with a different exterior colour and a different finish to an existing wheel design. However, there was no enthusiasm for such a model, particularly for enriching the Rover brand. At that time the focus was strictly on turning MG into a global brand again, not looking to create new ‘halo’ models for the Rover range.

    The nearest the 45 range got to the 425 V6 Limited Edition was the 2-litre V6 powereed Club and Connoisseur saloon with Steptronic transmission only. The 2.5-litre version with manual transmission only was strictly reserved for the MG ZS180.

  5. Nate says:

    Assuming the MG-badged versions of the 200 and 400 were produced around the time the 200 / 400 was on sale (instead of after BMW sold MG Rover), would it have been better for the 2.5 KV6 to have powered the Rover 425KV6 instead of the MG ZS (that would have received the 2.0 T-Series Turbo)?

    Given the MG ZS’s reputation as a driver’s car, how much of a revelation would the HHR 400 have been if it received the former’s modifications and would have gone some way in making the HHR a worthy replacement to the R8 (if the HHR 400 was targeted against the Astra / Focus instead of the class above)?

  6. Nate says:


    I meant to say:

    “Given the MG ZS’s reputation as a driver’s car, how much of a revelation would the HHR 400 have been if it had received the former’s modifications and would it have gone some way in making the HHR a worthy replacement to the R8 (if the HHR 400 was targeted against the Astra / Focus instead of the class above from the start)?”

  7. David 3500 says:

    @ Nate:

    Some good ideas here: the 2.5-litre KV6 for the Rover and the turbocharged T Series engine for the MG ZS, even though thoughts of using the Rover range as the basis of more hard-core MG saloons did not emerge until the final chapter of BMW’s ownership of the Rover Group.

    The obvious downside to this was that there were plans to discontinue the T Series engine anyway, with the last cars to feature it being built in the summer of 1999. A real shame to lose this engine as it would have delivered some interesting high-performance versions of the Rover 400 (if BMW had been more flexible to such an idea).

  8. Nate says:

    @ David 3500

    I seem to recall reading on here that the T-Series had the potential to last a bit longer with some modifications in order to pass the Euro III emissions regulations at that time, though BMW’s unwillingness to adapt the T-Series to comply with them was what ended the life of the engine as well as plans to replace both the K-Series and T-Series with BMW engines.

    The idea is that the Rover-badged range-toppers would focus on Refined Performance (i.e. including auto versions), while MG-badged range-toppers would centre on being “Driver-focused Performance” cars with higher performance compared to the Rover-badged models but more hardcore.

    So it would look like the following:

    Rover 200Vi – 150-160 hp / MG ZR 180 – 180 hp (both with 1.8 K-Series)

    Rover 425KV6 (2.5 K-Series) – 180-190 hp / MG ZS Turbo – 220-250 hp (2.0 T-Series Turbo)

  9. Paul says:

    I think the politics referred to was more likely BMW being aghast at the idea of wasting valuable development resource on a car that was likely to make the MG6 look like a run away success. Still a few years later free from their teutonic chains, MGR manged to do something similar with the MG-T V8 – a few months before they went bust………

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