Rover Ster­ling

David de­cided to bor­row an ex­am­ple of Rover’s V6-en­gined flag­ship while our £500 Chal­lenge Mercedes S-class was away be­ing mended. To be hon­est, it didn’t go well…

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News - DAVID SIMISTER ED­I­TOR

Have you ever no­ticed that it’s only in the depths of win­ter that your boiler – which has spent all sum­mer tak­ing it easy – sud­denly goes on the blink?

It’s only at that pre­cise mo­ment when a de­vice – in this case a Rover 800’s driver’s door win­dow mo­tor – is called upon that you dis­cover that press­ing the but­ton re­sults in pre­cisely noth­ing. In this in­stance while try­ing to get through the ticket-op­er­ated bar­rier at a Not­ting­ham mul­ti­storey car park, with four an­noyed mo­torists be­hind me.

The Rover in ques­tion was Justin Lazic’s 1999 825 Ster­ling, which I’d bor­rowed for a few days while our £500 Mercedes S-class was be­ing mended (p28). I didn’t mind a few lit­tle nig­gles to keep me en­ter­tained, in­clud­ing – this be­ing a 1990s luxo­barge – an alarm sys­tem so com­pli­cated that it can only be op­er­ated by Pro­fes­sor Brian Cox. Tak­ing Justin’s ad­vice, I just se­cured the car with the key…

I even­tu­ally es­caped from Not­ting­ham city cen­tre, pointed the Rover’s wedge-shaped snout at some proper roads and re­ally started to learn more about its char­ac­ter.

Reg­u­lar read­ers will know that I have a soft spot for 1990s Rovers. My dad had a suc­ces­sion of 400s and 600s as com­pany cars at the time, and some years later I spent three years driv­ing around in an N-reg­is­tered 214 SEi.

So I was look­ing for­ward to spend­ing some time with Rover’s leather-lined flag­ship. This was Bri­tain’s most lux­u­ri­ous mass­mar­ket car at the time – the V6 ver­sions of the 75 had yet to ar­rive in the show­rooms, and Jaguar had only just launched its S-Type. The ride was won­der­fully cos­set­ting on the A52, and the torquey quad-cam V6 made short work of the faster, flow­ing stretches. In fact, it was prov­ing to be so en­joy­able that I gave the A1 a miss and de­cided to take the scenic route back to Peter­bor­ough so I could make the most of the KV6’s muted growl on kick­down and the plush leather-trimmed seats.

But it wasn’t to last. As we headed on to Rut­land’s wind­ing roads, the warn­ing lights for both the ABS sys­tem and the airbags blinked on – an­noy­ing, but not cat­a­strophic on an 18-year-old car that still ap­peared to be run­ning beau­ti­fully.

Then the bat­tery warn­ing light flick­ered into life and pro­ceeded to blink on and off, de­pend­ing on the road’s in­cline. What had started out as a re­lax­ing drive in the coun­try­side was turn­ing into an Apollo 13-es­que mis­sion to nurse an in­creas­ingly sickly ma­chine home.

One by one the car’s elec­tronic func­tions dis­ap­peared, start­ing with the ABS sys­tem and stereo, then the speedome­ter, whose nee­dle be­gan to flicker er­rat­i­cally be­fore slump­ing to zero. More wor­ry­ingly, the V6’s oomph was cur­tailed when the four­speed au­to­matic gear­box sud­denly lost its abil­ity to kick down.

With less than 20 miles to go, I was pre­par­ing my­self for an easy­does-it limp home to Peter­bor­ough, where­upon the car cut out south of Rut­land Wa­ter.

The AA ar­rived within half an hour and di­ag­nosed an al­ter­na­tor that, while not com­pletely dead, wasn’t charg­ing the bat­tery. A sub­se­quent at­tempt to re­sus­ci­tate the car with power from the AA van didn’t help, ei­ther –a few min­utes af­ter fir­ing the V6 up again, the al­ter­na­tor be­gan to bil­low smoke, ac­com­pa­nied by the metal­lic whiff of me­chan­i­cal com­po­nents that have truly given up the ghost.

In the end, the AA man man­aged to get enough charge in to the Rover’s bat­tery for it to be driven back to Peter­bor­ough, al­beit now mi­nus its power-as­sisted steer­ing.

I ar­rived home three hours later than planned, and with a large V6 saloon that I now know will only limp short dis­tances if it’s spoon-fed some elec­tric­ity from my bat­tery charger in the ab­sence of its now thor­oughly de­ceased al­ter­na­tor.

Justin is plan­ning to have the tired com­po­nent re­built (re­place­ments are in­creas­ingly hard to come by), so I’m look­ing for­ward to hav­ing an­other crack at the 800 once its electrics are back up and run­ning.

My all-too brief af­ter­noon with the Ster­ling showed that it is a fine thing to drive – in fact, I’m putting my bad luck down to our S-class tak­ing um­brage at be­ing sent off to au­to­mo­tive re­hab and some­how curs­ing its fel­low six-pot exec ex­press saloon with the same sort of elec­tri­cal is­sues.

Not that I’m su­per­sti­tious or any­thing…

David loved the 825’s lux­ury and poise – but not its lessthan-im­pres­sive al­ter­na­tor.

V429 GPO needed a help­ing hand, and some more elec­tric­ity, to make it back from rut­land.

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