As editor of Classic FM magazine during the noughties, I ran a Rover 75 2.5 V6 Connoisseur auto for six months. The plan was to visit various cities in the spirit of a drive-time radio show, listening to classical music and reviewing CDs (remember those?).
It all seems very Alan Partridge now, but the 75 was actually the perfect choice. Its hushed cabin, refined powertrain and rich, full-toned music system provided the perfect listening environment as your editor adjusted the soft leather seats, calibrated the climate control and admired, where conditions permitted, the car’s polished walnut trim.
I think of those days when, looking through the used car classifieds, my eyes alight on the pages of Rover 75s at prices ranging from £500 to £3500. What bargains and what a choice! In the diesel corner are the tough and reliable 129bhp 2.0 CDTi (it makes a healthy 221lb ft of torque) and 114bhp 2.0 CDT (192lb ft). In the petrol corner are the 118bhp 1.8 and its rarer sibling, the 148bhp 1.8 T, a pair of V6s comprising a 148bhp 2.0-litre and a 175bhp 2.5 and, finally, a rare-as-hen’s-teeth 4.6-litre V8 producing 256bhp. We found a 2008-reg 4.6 Connoisseur SE with 150 miles on the clock (you read that correctly) for £39,995 (again, you read that correctly). It’s being sold by SMG Rover, a former main dealer that still specialises in the marque and knows them backwards.
The 75’s diesel engines, by the way, were BMW units and the petrols Rover, with the exception of the 4.6 V8, which was a Ford motor. Mention of BMW reminds us that the 75 was conceived under the guidance of the German manufacturer after it bought Rover. Remarkably, rather than reusing an existing one, BMW stumped up the cash for a new platform for the 75, which was launched in 1998. Even more remarkably, a couple of years later in 2000, BMW sold Rover to the ill-fated Phoenix Consortium.
This sort of chequered past usually spells disaster for a new model in terms of interrupted development and poor build quality, but despite the change of owner, the 75 has proved to be a largely reliable, certainly well-built and effortlessly classy model. The diesels will happily run for 300,000 miles without serious work; ditto the V6 petrols. Questions hang over the 1.8 K-series petrol engine, specifically a tendency to blow its head gasket. If you’re tempted by a 1.8, make sure you check for ‘mayonnaise’ around the oil filler, inspect the thermostat and inlet manifold for leaks, check the coolant is at the correct level and then, if all is okay, fit an uprated fan. Buy a sound one, and it will last well beyond 200,000 miles. The 2.0-litre V6 is a fine engine but the 2.5 is more powerful and as economical (around 30mpg for the manual and 26mpg for the auto). Equipment levels are high, even on the Club SE, but for the full drive-time experience, hold out for a Connoisseur.