On 2 March 1988, we drove the new 2.7-litre engined version of the Rover 800 Series executive saloon. It may have looked staid, but it was no slouch

When Rover launched its 800 Series executive saloon in 1986, its engine range consisted of 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol engines.

In 1988, along came a far more performance-oriented version – the 827 SLi, complete with a 2.7-litre Honda V6, “the engine it always deserved, giving the Rover 177bhp of power, 168lb ft of torque, a top speed of 131mph, and a 0-60mph time of 8.4sec.

On 2 March of that year, Autocar took one for a spin to see if Rover had built a car that could successfully take on sporty saloons, such as the Saab 9000 Turbo 16 and Vauxhall Carlton GSi.

Along with the new engine, the car had a four-speed automatic gearbox, while its aforementioned rivals were manuals. This gave the 827 SLi Sport and Normal shift settings.

“The new electronically controlled gearbox has closer ratios than before and at the same time, Rover has lowered the overall gearing from 25mph per 1000rpm to 21.3mph,” we said.

“Combined with the bigger engine this has made the car very quick off the mark for an automatic in this class – the 827 will spin its wheels easily on the throttle in the dry and reach 30mph in only 3.3sec.

“In the gears the acceleration is equally impressive, 60-80mph in third, taking 6.3sec against 8.9 for the [six cylinder, 2.5-litre-engined Rover] 825.”

It was just a shame that this knocked down fuel economy to an average of 17.9mpg in our test.

The gearbox was smooth shifting too, even when changing down, and gave “reasonable engine braking on the overrun.”

The Rover’s front-ventilated disc brakes, meanwhile, were also top notch. “They provide progressive and powerful retardation up to a 1.1g before the optional anti-lock comes into effect.” They came through fade tests with “flying colours,” too.

No changes were made to the 800 Series’ chassis for this bigger-engined model, but the car had inherent grip anyway, meaning you could “hustle it around with an agility that seems at odds with its size and 1400kg kerb weight. Pushed hard it can be made to understeer markedly, but lift-off the throttle in a bend and there’s not a trace of oversteer.

“Honda’s speed-sensitive steering gives the Rover good feel and excellent stability at high speed, yet it is much lighter at low speeds – perhaps, we suspect, too light for some tastes.” It had flaws, though: “It can still appear confused about the level of power assistance is required when the Rover is slowed rapidly from speed – the steering remaining heavy until the system has had time to catch up.”

Ride too was excellent, keeping firm on the motorway and isolating potholes well. It wasn’t as good as the Jaguar XJ6 in this respect, but equalled the German executive cars of the day.

Road noise was completely absent too, but the 827 SLi was let down by an “unacceptably high level of wind noise,” which was intrusive at 80mph and stopped any conversation by 100mph. This was something we suggested may have been down to poor build quality – the driver’s door on our test car required a good slam to close it properly. Ah, Longbridge. Rest in peace.

For a £17,878 car, you deserved better, we mused – that would be around £43,242 today, the equivalent of a new top-of-the-range 3.0-litre V6 supercharged Jaguar XE.

The interior was the same as the standard 800 Series’, bar a walnut veneer strip on the doors, dashboard and centre console. “We would rather the money have been spent on improving the unsatisfactory switchgear, in particular doing away with the fiddly little buttons on the end of the column stalks,” we grumbled.

Overall, though, we were impressed with the sporty Rover.

“The bigger engine, lower gearing and new gearbox have made the Rover 827 a real performance saloon,” Autocar concluded.

There was a caveat to that, though: “With its already capable chassis and fine ride, the big Rover is the car that always should have been launched – but Austin Rover needs to look hard at its quality control if it expects to compete on equal terms with its rivals.” Hate to say we told you so.

 

Our Verdict

Jaguar XE

Jaguar's first attempt at a compact exec saloon is good - very good. But can the XE hold off the BMW 3 Series and Alfa Romeo Guilia to retain its crown?

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Comments
15

3 November 2016
Had a go in my uncle's Sterling-badged equivalent in the States a few years back. Pretty sprightly to drive actually, with a lovely Honda V6 snarl.


3 November 2016
"When Rover launched its 800 Series executive saloon in 1986, its engine range consisted of 2.0-litre petrol engines – one new, and one a then eight-year-old British Leyland design first used in the Morris Marina". The car was actually launched first with a Honda V6 2.5, which was criticized for its lack of mid range torque. Also, the 8 valve 'O' Series was a later addition to the range long after the 16v M Series.
The car-buying public gets what it deserves, unfortunately ...

3 November 2016
If only they had spent some money on decent paintwork and rust proofing as well......

3 November 2016
Wow, what a badly written and poorly researched article.

Firstly the Rover 800 was launched with a 2.0 litre AND a 2.5 litre Honda V6. At the time, the V6 engine was criticised for low torque, and that led to the introduction of the 2.7 litre.

Secondly, "Road noise was completely absent too, but the 827 SLi was let down by an “unacceptably high level of road noise,” .

So did the car have road noise or not?

Seems that the Rover was not the only thing needing a bit more attention to quality and detail.

3 November 2016
"It may have looked staid" At the time the 800 looked far from staid, its sharp and clean lines standing out and IMO it's a good looking car too. Staid is what you would have labelled its sister car, the Honda Legend. Reliability wasn't the 800's greatest asset but the rest of the car was very good indeed and started a trend for excellent, competitive and properly priced Rovers through the R8 200/400 and the heavily revamped Metro and facelifted 800 in 1992. A shame this trend for excellence and competitiveness was short-lived though as it all started to go wrong in the mid-1990s.

3 November 2016
"Road noise was completely absent too, but the 827 SLi was let down by an “unacceptably high level of road noise,”"

Has my brain malfunctioned or something? I don't understand that sentence at all!

3 November 2016
Ahhhhh the Rover 800 series.
Reminds me of:
Persistently failing electric window switches (7 times in 18 months iirc)
Dashboard squeaks and groans.
Exhaust holes after a year.
Turbo pipes falling off on a 3 month turbo car.
Exhaust gasket failure at 50k miles.
Rear light bulbs failing every 4 months..
Total and sudden drive failure in my garage when the clutch drive plate sheared around the centre when I tried to drive it out.

Gross rolling around S bends .

Mobile cow excrement.

Mike

3 November 2016
thought the 600 and 800 were produced in Cowley, Oxford. Longbridge cant take the blame for everything.

3 November 2016
thought the 600 and 800 were produced in Cowley, Oxford. Longbridge cant take the blame for everything.

3 November 2016
So, I think we can conclude this to be a poorly researched article. Inexcusable given that a quick trip to the excellent AROnline.co.uk would have provided every detail required for just such a piece. Bad enough that it is published on a website - plain embarrassing that it will have been published in a magazine for which people are expected to pay a pretty significant sum.
The car-buying public gets what it deserves, unfortunately ...

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