Despite its class-leading noise insulation and refinement – you show me a quieter diesel upper-medium saloon and I'll show you the nearest hearing aid specialist – the sprightly acceleration we now associate with most modern-day diesels was more or less absent.
That engine, the 2.0 CDT, is still available, but for the past few months MG Rover has been offering a more powerful version, badged CDTi.
Power is up from 114bhp to 129bhp and torque is increased from 192lb-ft to 221lb-ft and the difference, as illustrated by our latest Rover long term test car, is very clear. Fleet News spent a year with a 2.0 CDT Club – from April 2001 until April 2002 – and for part of that time we also had a 2.0 CDT Tourer Club with automatic transmission on the fleet.
These cars are the perfect antidote to road rage – handsome, supremely comfortable, refined and built to the highest standards – there is no point in rushing because they are not keen to press on.
This is partly due to the lack of torque but also because it is quite a heavy car. Our new Rover is well-equipped in Club SE trim and was virtually run in by the time it was delivered to us with more than 3,000 miles on the clock.
Standard equipment includes electric windows and mirrors, climate control, four airbags and lumbar support and height adjustment for the driver's seat. Extras fitted to our test car include a driver's intelligence pack (comprising trip computer and parking sensors), folding rear seats, an electric sunroof, curtain airbags, clear-lens headlamps and, best of all in this current cold snap, a fuel-burning parking heater.
The parking heater can be programmed with a timer or simply started and stopped by remote control, and soon warms the car up on cold winter mornings. So you can heat your car up for a few minutes while it sits on the driveway and once you climb in to drive to work, the cabin is already snug and warm and the windows are not covered in ice.
Unlike its predecessors at Fleet News, the 129bhp diesel is eager to accelerate but has lost none of its refinement and good manners with the power boost. The trip computer is also showing lower readings for fuel consumption than the previous Rover 75s we have had – does this mean the more powerful engine is more economical in real world driving?
Whereas our previous saloon was typically showing 42mpg and the Tourer auto struggled to reach 40mpg, our new car has achieved 48mpg. The interior is the epitome of decorum and good taste. Real lacquered wood adorns the dashboard and doors and the contrasting colour schemes have been meticulously chosen.
The supple suspension flattens the bumpiest roads – or what passes for roads in Fenland country. You really feel special when driving the Rover 75 – and there are not many cars at this price you can say that about.
Company car tax bill 2003 (40% taxpayer): £123.49 per month