Although the Rover 75 was intended to be an updated version of the Rover 600, BMW’s takeover changed all that. The German company — following its promise to treat the Rover marque as the embodiment of traditional British automobile engineering —promptly decreed that the planned 75 would be an entirely new luxury saloon car. By coincidence, the Rover 75 was launched at the 1998 Birmingham Motor Show, which also saw the first appearance of the new S-Type Jaguar. The two cars had similar retro styling, and the consensus was that the Rover stood up well against its Ford-owned rival.
However, relations between Rover’s new owner and the British government became strained as the enormity of the task BMW had taken on struck home and no subsidies were forthcoming to modernize the Longbridge plant, intended home of the 75. So the first 75s were built at Cowley, appearing in 1999, though production was soon switched to Longbridge after BMW retained the Cowley facility to build Minis and transferred everything else to the embryonic MG Rover company in 2000.
After a slow start, the Rover 75 sold well, for this was a refined luxury car with a beautiful interior, classic looks, precise handling and great ride quality. There was a choice of engines over time — two 1.8 litre options (one turbocharged), two 2 litre straight fours, two V6s and finally an impressive 4.6 litre V8 liberated from the Ford Mustang. Following the exit of BMW a five-door estate car (developed but never authorized by the Germans) was added to amplify choice. In 2004 the Rover 75 was facelifted, with more contemporary styling, whilst a powerful V8 model and a stretched Rover 75 Vanden Plas limo were introduced. It was a gallant but futile effort — MG Rover folded in 2005.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1999 (until 2005)
1,795 cc or 1,950 cc Straight Four; 1,991 cc or 2,497 cc V6; 4,601 cc V8
With 2.5 I engine – top speed of 137 mph (220 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.8 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The 75 went east after MG Rover’s collapse in 2005, with two carmakers owned by the Chinese government picking up the pieces. The Rover 75 design was purchased by SAIC (the Shanghai Automotive Industry corporation) whilst its tooling went to NAC (the Nanjing Automobile Corporation.