Rover 800 (1996)

Rover 800

In early 1992, the Rover 800 was reskinned and re-engineered under the R17 codename This saw the re-introduction of the traditional Rover grille and more curvaceous bodywork. The scope of the design change was restricted by the need to retain the core XX structure, including the door structure and skin design.

The redesign was a partial answer to major press and market criticism of the 'folded paper' school of design and the quest for better aerodynamics that had led to many cars appearing very similar, especially from the front. The redesign found much favour and as a result the car's sales enjoyed a renaissance, the 800 series becoming Britain's best selling executive car in the early to mid 1990s.

Following concerted efforts to learn from the problems that had hit the early model years, especially under the more extreme American market and climatic conditions, quality in general had improved dramatically by this stage, but the decision to leave the US market had already fallen.

The 2.0L T16 replaces the M16 found in pre 92 cars and comes in NASP and Turbo forms, the 2.0 turbo was fitted to the "Vitesse" and the later "Vitesse Sport" (1994-1996)

Notable differences between the sport and non sport models were: Vitesse Sport came with 17" six spoke alloys (non sport was 16" 7 spoke), a power increase from 177 bhp (132 kW/179 PS) to 200 bhp (149 kW/203 PS) and revised stiffer suspension to aid handling.

A facelift in 1996 provided few exterior changes, the most noticeable being the painting of previously black rubbing strips on all models except the coupé and the revision of the suspension system. Grille fins became silver in colour, instead of their former black. Climate control, passive immobilisation and a passenger airbag became standard, and a 6-disc CD auto-changer was fitted to all models apart from the entry 'i' model. Security technology was upgraded with a change from infra red to radio frequency for the remote door key. Wood finishes were expanded, with a coachwork line and 'ROVER' on the door cards, accentuating the new, pleated seat finishes and deep pile rugs. Unusual pleated door card leather and fabric finishes capped off a comfortable interior, much of which was hand-made with what Rover called "the craftsman's touch".

Post 1996 Vitesses were all "Sport" specification so the sport badge was dropped, also from 1996 the 2.0L T16 engines used wasted spark ingnition instead of ditributor.

Although the 800 had fallen behind the opposition considerably (few mechanical changes were made, apart from the introduction of the Rover KV6 Engine which replaced the Honda 2.7 V6 in 1996), it was a steady seller until 1999, when it was replaced by the Rover 75.


A two-door ("three-box", booted) coupé version followed later that year. This had been originally developed with the American market in mind but was never sold there, Rover having pulled out of the US market before the coupé's launch. It was, however, sold to other export markets. Eighty percent of the interior and exterior of the 800 coupe was finished by hand.

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