In-house designs : Rover 425KV6
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…
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.