1996 Rover - Austin 800 Vitesse Coupe 2.0 turbo from UK and Ireland
Fast, fun and a beautiful interior but very costly in repairs
Rear shocks needed replacing (wear and tear)
Steering rack failed.
Studs snapped off in the exhaust manifold, so it started to blow. These had to be tapped out and the head heli-coiled.
Air con condenser failed.
Clutch slave cylinder failed.
Electric window cable snapped, window fell into the door.
Gearbox developed disturbing whines and had to be rebuilt.
Head gasket went at around 100k.
Steering rack failed again.
Power steering pump failed.
Warped brake discs between every service due to hopelessly undersized brakes.
Most of the wheel nuts deformed and had to be replaced.
Many, many creaks from the interior.
Fore-aft electric adjustment mechanism on passenger seat seized.
Filled with water every time in rained, both the boot and the rear drivers side footwell.
I had wanted one of these cars for a long time, and bought it against the advice of many and by own better judgement.
The looks of the coupe seem to be a love it or hate it thing, so you can decide that for yourself. The quality of the paintwork was extremely good, and even at 10 years old it looked fantastic when properly cleaned, polished and waxed. The car felt like a quality product, from the weight of the doors and the feel when the closed to the little touches like the hydraulic rams to hold the bonnet open.
The interior of the car was also a very nice place to be, with high quality leather, with the seats being among the most comfortable I've sat in. Rear accomodation was also excellent, with plenty of room even for tall adults and very comfortable individual buckets. The interior wore very little in the time I had it, and stil looked almost as new when I sold it on with little effort on my part beyond cleaning and conditioning the leather every 6 months.
The switchgear is often criticised in the 800, however I found it to be logically laid out - in particular the climate control panel falls easily to hand and is sensibly laid out.
The climate control system was very effective once regassed, and didn't struggle even during the hottest summer on record. The car was generally extremely well equipped for it's age, and most of the toys operated without issue during the time I had it. The in car audio system was particularly good.
The engine was plentifully powerful, with such a flat torque curve that as long as you were over 1500 rpm you had good acceleration in every gear. Sadly it was also extremely unrefined, which was particularly jarring in a luxury car. Vibration through the wheel and gearstick at idle was significant, and the engine always made it's presence known. With the windows down the turbo whistle was quite nice though!
Gear change action was very good, and the torsen diff in the gearbox was fantastic, allowing all sorts of foolish driving that would have landed you in a ditch or sent the traction control crazy in a modern FWD car with this much power. It also made the car surprisingly useful in the snow. Sadly, the gearbox didn't seem to be built to cope with the power and developed worrying whines at around 110k miles. Both the mainshaft bearings and diff output bearings had to be replaced.
Handling was very good indeed, and miles ahead of the similar aged Sterling that I had for a while. For such a large car it was particularly impressive, and was extremely enjoyable even on very twisty B roads. the ride was much firmer than a standard 800, but compared to a current Audi it was very good.
The biggest let down dynamically was the brakes. I cannot stress how poor they are, particularly on such a powerful car. The car is easily capable of getting up to 140mph without fuss, but getting back down to zero is far more of an adventure. The tiny 262mm discs fade to almost zero braking after taking you back down to 60 ish, and after one high speed trip will usually be warped. Even in relatively mild driving on a twisty mountain road it is possible to fade them into uselessness. Expensive aftermarket discs and pads did improve this, however they were always decidedly 2nd rate.
Fuel economy varied between teens and low 30s depending on how it was driven, like all turbos. Average in the time I had it was around 27mpg. It chewed through front tyres every 10k or so, and didn't appreciate having budget tyres fitted to the front at all - it became extremely wayward indeed. Goodyear Eagle F1-GSD3s worked very well in my experience, and were about £100 each.
Sadly, the car proved to be extremely fragile and in the 2 years I had it I spent over twice the purchase price in parts and repairs. I did this because I loved the car, however a less commited owner would doubtless have given up long before I did. As much as I enjoyed driving it I have never had a car develop so many faults.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 16th November, 2008