Rover 75 (1999)
The Rover 75 started life as a project for the complete re-skin of the Rover 600, under the control of Rover Group designer Richard Woolley, but following the BMW takeover it was quickly decided that the Rover 600 would not be re-skinned but replaced by an entirely new model. Work on the new model, codenamed "R40" progressed well with little operational interference from BMW, with the basic design having received an enthusiastic response from BMW management and both BMW and Rover believing that a retro design would be the ideal choice for Rover. At the same time it offered a distinct marketing separation from the E46 BMW 3 Series in the executive segment.
Under the skin, there was a first attempt at considerable component and concept sharing with BMW to replace the input of the previous partner Honda. To replace the previously employed Perkins-developed engines that were efficient, but noisey, BMW provided its own common rail motor (known in the Rover 75 as the M47R). This diesel engine was a mildly de-tuned BMW 2.0 litre turbodiesel, the same core engine being used at the same time in the 3 & 5-Series, and the Land-Rover Freelander.
Petrol engines provided were Rovers own K series in 4 cylinder form, of 1.8 litre displacement, with DOHC 16 valve form with Rover/ Motorola MEMS engine management. The quad cam KV6 was provided in 2.0 and 2.5 litre displacement with 24 valves and Siemens engine management. The 2.0 litre was dropped on introduction of the 1.8 litre turbo as these were more favourable to the UK company fleet market (company cars are taxed by the UK Government according to carbon dioxide emissions). Gear boxes on all manual cars were Getrag 5 speed fed via a hydraulic clutch, and automatic cars were fitted with a 5 speed Jatco unit.
Press speculation at the launch that the 75 was based on the BMW 5 Series thanks to its large size and especially the central tunnel in the chassis (normally only found on rear wheel drive cars) and the BMW Z-Link suspension from the rear wheel drive BMW 3-Series, was misinformed. The central tunnel was built into the chassis to increase structural rigidity, using a BMW-developed floorpan concept that had explored front wheel drive but which had been rejected and remains unused by the BMW brand up to the present day. As the 75 took shape, this core engineering was passed over to Rover and evolved into the Rover 75 structure. The tunnel concept with a front wheel drive chassis & Z-axle was subsequently also used by BMW for its new Mini, and remains in production, due to its extreme stiffness and resultant excellent chassis control.
The car quickly attracted praise for its characteristics, including its ride quality, interior, and traditional looks. Critics of the car labelled its styling too "retro", suggesting it had been designed with an older buyer in mind, was not 'sporting' enough when compared to the competition. However, the 75 won a series of international awards including various "most beautiful car" awards, including one in Italy.
Assembly originally took place at Cowley, but in 2000, following the break up of the Rover Group and the split with BMW, production was moved to Longbridge. 2001 saw the introduction of the Rover 75 Tourer (developed alongside the saloon but never authorised for production by BMW), swiftly followed by the MG ZT and MG ZT-T, more sporting interpretations of the model, differentiated by modified, sporting chassis settings and colour and trim derivatives. Between 2000 and 2003, there were few changes to the range, the biggest being the 2.5 litre V6 engine being joined by a low pressure turbocharged 1.8 litre, 4-cylinder engine. The introduction of the "greener" 1.8 litre turbo greatly benefited British company car drivers who are taxed on carbon dioxide emissions. A customisation programme, Monogram, was launched, allowing buyers to order their car in a wider range of exterior paint colours and finishes, different interior trims and with optional extras installed during production.
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