ROVER’S 620ti is currently the best-value used performance saloon you can buy.
Thanks to contributions from Matt Hicks of the MG-Rover.org and various members of the AROnline forums, we have been able to piece together the pros and cons of buying one of these Q-Cars.
|Body style:||4-door saloon|
|Engine options:||1994cc T-Series Turbo, 197bhp|
|Transmission options:||5-speed manual|
In 1993, Rover lauched its Honda-based mid-liner to fight the likes of the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz. Initially the engines offered were Honda’s 2.0- and 2.3-litre single-cam 16v engines as found in the Prelude and Accord. The following year, Rover introduced two new versions of the 600, both turbocharged and both featuring engines that were British in design.
The first, the L-Series Diesel version, and this, the 197bhp T-Series powered petrol turbo. Originally found in the 820 Vitesse in 177bhp form, the T-Series Turbo was uprated and by 1994 had found its way into the 820 Vitesse Sport and, this, the 620ti after making its debut in the 220 Turbo Coupe in 1992. The 620 shared the same gearbox and trick differential with its cousins – and was standardised throughout the range once the original 800 Vitesse was dropped.
Principal features of the 620ti over the rest of the range were a more sporting interior featuring charcoal half-leather interior, 16-inch alloy wheels and a TorSen differential. Unlike the 820 Vitesse, which it closely mirrored, the 620ti retained the speed-sensitive Honda-based power steering.
In 1997, the 620ti was lightly facelifted in line with the rest of the 600 range, and can be instantly identified by its body coloured sills, doorhandles and mirrors. Most of the later models featured air conditioning, and all came with ABS as standard. A welcome change was a switch to the Rover 200/400/800 Positive Centre Feel (PCF) steering system, which improved driver interation with the car no end.
The car remained in this guise until it was phased out in 1999 – replaced by the 75.
THE 620ti is a very effective performer. You’ll initially jump in and put your foot down and wonder what all the fuss is about. The torquey nature of the engine and the smooth delivery of turbo boost effectively disguise it’s near-200bhp potential and more often than not, the only indication you’ll be accelerating quickly is by looking at the speedo or watching other road cars reversing towards you very rapidly.
Steering on the pre-facelift models isn’t anywhere near as good as the 820 Vitesse Sport set-up, but it is far better than the Honda-derived system in the V6 800s. It’s a Honda system in the 620ti, and speed sensitiive, so don’t be too put off by the initial lightness – although at no time will it deliver loads of feel. Later models with the PCF system were much improved in thise respect.
Despite what you may have read elsewhere, the 620ti is no power-understeerer. In bends, a trailing throttle can see you ploughing on, but the very effective TorSen diff works best when under power, so if the car starts to push in corners, put your foot down, and it will tuck in nicely. Of course, this behaviour wears out tyres (and gearboxes) very quickly, so play carefully out there…
What to look for
Engine & transmission:
The first is the head gasket design, which incorporates an oil way at the front corner near cylinder number four – as the miles mount and the gasket weakens, the oil way will start to leak, and you’ll spot this around the area of the distributor. This can be solved in one of two ways, both involve removing the cylinder head. First is to replace with a standard head gasket and insert a copper pipe in the oil way to lessen the load on the gasket, and the other – preferable – way is to fit a ‘Klinger’ gasket, as fitted as standard to later cars.
The camshaft seal can also leak, so if you’re looking at a 620ti which is oil stained on the nearside corner of the engine block, closely examine the source.
Engines are very strong if well serviced. Should be quiet from start up. Rev engine and check for any rattles or taps on acceleration, static revs and on way down to indicate shot pistons or pins/rods. Start from cold and listen for any misfires at idle as it warms up, which could indicate sticking/burnt valves. Give the throttle a few prods and check for smoke, which could indicate a failing turbo. Do the same when you boot it later on when warm.
Cooling is generally trouble-free although radiator condition should be minotored and turbo intercoolers aren’t really up to the job. Thermostats in the top hose (on A/C models) and a known weak spot. It will simply start leaking, meaning when going down a hill the temp will go down to cold and when you throttle again, it will rise to normal. This is a £10 fix (new thermostat).
The PG1 gearbox is a known weak link and may whine a little in first, but this is quite normal. However, it should not not be noisy in other gears, and if there are whines at constant cruising – say 70mph in fifth – then potential trouble looms on the horizon with the differential bearings. Get under car and check the differential oil seals and the selector rod where it goes into the gearbox. Leaking diff oil seals are a sign of worn diff carrier bearings, and a rebuild will be inevitable. If the gearbox has been rebuilt already sheck to see if steel caged bearings have been used, as these are significantly stronger than the standard plastic items.
Check for play when in gear. The linkage has little support and over time, they become sloppy when in gear (lots of movement on the stick left to right when in a gear) and this usually indicates a worn linkeage. Also, buzzing noise through gear stick at high RPM at first, but will eventually do it all through the rev range, another sure sign the linkage is on its way.
Clutches should last over 100,000 miles if well driven, but if the pedal is high, then it is getting to the end of its life.
The revised version of the 620ti featured many detail improvements in the engine bay. ‘Klinger’ gasket and better block and head tolerances, carbon brake valves, updated MEMS engine management featuring no distributor and radiator fans controlled directly by ECU.
Cambelt should be replaced at 60,000 miles and the VEE belt should be done at the same time.
Garrett T25 Turbos are reasonably reliable and easily sourced second hand. Service kits are available cheaply from Garrett. Turbo wastegate arms can rattle at idle, meaning a worn actuator spring, but rectification is easy. Avoid the temptation to pick up one of the many chipped and tuned cars you see on eBay claimed to be putting out 230bhp – if there is no evidence of replacement pistons and conrods, walk away. 200bhp is the effective upper limit of this engines. So live with it…
The maximum safe boost to run on a T25 with the standard intercooler is between 11 and 12psi. On a hot day, even at this boost the intake temps will be very high. The turbo is too small for any more power, as is the intercooler. Winding the boost up simply heats the ingested air more, hence the same oxygen to burn at 11 or 13psi, as at 13 the air is less dense.
Front discs and tyres wear very quickly if the car driven hard and thrashed. Front discs are a pain to renew, as they are mounted from behind the hub. A good garage should split the bearing with a slide hammer to replace, because if you try and press them off the hub, it can shatter – leaving you looking for a replacement assembly.
ABS faults are not uncommon on older models, but are easily rectified by sensor replacement or cleaning.
Alternators are not up to the job on the A/C models (£150). Listen for whining, flickering charge light or squeeking to indicate a duff unit nearing end of life, often at only 50,000 miles or so.
Air con system is pretty robust, but cars by now may need condensors, so check the system chills by turning it on (listen for the compressor to engage) and feeling the larger diameter pipe, it should go cold within 8 seconds or so.
Check all the windows. The regulators (especially on the front) have a habit of failing, if the rubbers are not lubed. Look for struggling windows (rubbers need lubing) and especially if the window starts to tilt as it rises.
Steering and suspension:
Suspension does not wear much but over 100,000 miles, re-bushing and new dampers sharpen it significantly.
Small power steering leaks are common, and most can be repaired with a bit of time. Check the rack end seals, as failure here will mean a new rack is needed. It is possible for the rack to start leaking from the union, where one of the pipes enters the rack; all it needed was a tweak, but the fluid was running down looking like a rack end seal.
Standard wheels are 16-inch alloys as shown in the pictures – although some have been upgraded to 17-inch 800 Vitesse Sport spec. Remember that these cars chew through front tyres so if they look low, be prepared to buy sooner rather than later. Tyres for 16-inch wheels are obviously cheaper, and by a considerable margin. Also be aware that ride degradation is quite high on 17-inch wheels as the 620ti was optimised to run on 16s.
Body is generally very resistant to rust, but a known weak spot on earlier cars is around the rear wheel arches, so don’t be afraid to prod around, and make sure all the arch liners are still in place.
Check for inferior body repairs. Check that the number plates match front and rear, door welds and rear panel welds are as they should be. Boot well should also be nice and clean, and any signs of carpets dangling about may indicate a bad repair.
THE 620ti was a well-made piece of kit when new, and even with 100,000 miles on the clock, should look clean and tight if well-maintained. However, the build quality of the interior and bodywork is ahead of what is found under the bonnet, so make sure to check the engine and gearbox thoroughly before parting with your cash.
The bottom line is if the engine and gearbox are sound, any other problems should be cheap and painless to put right, and with such a plentiful supply in the scrapyards, you can’t really go wrong.
We can’t advise too strongly to steer well clear of tuned cars, especially if the owner doesn’t really know too much about the modifications, or quotes crazy power figures without backing it up. If you take care and buy wisely, the 620ti can be a fantastic bargain for those looking for 140mph performance in a car that looks like it wouldn’t say boo to a goose.
With thanks to Matt Hicks for his assistance in compiling this article.