The Knowledge: The Rover 620Ti is a bargain sleeper you won't want to miss
It was essentially a fourth-generation Honda Accord wrapped in a British suit
Alex has been a road tester and motoring writer for more than 10 years, and has written on new, used and classic cars for What Car?, Autocar, The Daily Telegraph and PistonHeads, among many others.
Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. If it were, the Rover 620Ti would be one of the best-known and most sought-after performance saloons of the 1990s. As it is, it remains little more than a footnote in the story of the decline of Britain’s car industry.
Born of the fruitful tie-up between Rover and Honda, the 600 Series was essentially a fourth-generation Honda Accord wrapped in a British suit, and trimmed out with the sort of wood and chromework that Rover’s buyers at the time expected.
Such a foundation might not sound like the ideal basis of a sporting saloon, but Rover managed to turn it into one that went on to beat its rivals in magazine group tests – and become something of a cult icon in its time.
At the heart of the 620Ti’s talent was a potent pairing of Rover's 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine with a TorSen limited-slip differential, which had already seen service in the 220 Turbo and 820 Vitesse Sport.
But while these earlier performance Rovers’ blistering pace had always been hampered by their wayward handling, the 620Ti had a chassis that could cope with its power. Granted, it didn’t quite have the delicacy or involvement of a BMW 328i, but the 620Ti still had handling chops, with a secure, neutral setup that complemented the enormous traction delivered by that diff.
And of course, the 620Ti was genuinely quick – on a par in performance terms with the Audi S6 of its time. In character, though, it was more like a Jaguar XJR-lite – blending its cracking performance and slick handling with a wood’n’leather-lined interior and a lack of external fripperies that made it a superb sleeper.
Why you should buy one now
The 620Ti might deserve greater recognition, but the fact it hasn’t received it is a boon for us seekers of performance car bargains. Prices are distinctly attainable, with even good 620Tis fetching little more than £1,500 these days, and the very best struggling to achieve more than £2,500.
Image: Zozzie 9t9 / Wikimedia Commons
The downsides? Well there are two. The first is that plenty of 620Tis have been messed around with, either cosmetically or mechanically – so finding a good, unmolested example is incredibly tricky. Especially so given the second downside, which is that, at last count, there were just 78 620Tis in regular, road-going use in the UK. All the more reason to buy one before numbers dwindle even further.
What to look out for
The biggest issue to keep in mind with the 620Ti is the gearbox. Whining in first is normal; whining in other gears is not, and suggests a costly rebuild with stronger, steel-caged differential bearings is coming down the line. Find a car that’s had this done, though, and you’ll be laughing.
620Tis do suffer from head gasket issues, but in nowhere near as catastrophic a way as in other Rovers. They weep oil around the oil gallery on the front passenger-side corner of the engine, so check for fresh oil here; replacement with a stronger Klinger item (standard on the 1997-on facelift cars) will solve the problem.
Image: Zozzie 9t9 / Wikimedia Commons
A sloppy gearshift suggests a worn linkage – another common issue – while leaks around the camshaft area suggest the seal is on its way out.
Find yourself a well-maintained 620Ti that’s free of these niggles, however, and you’ll be lucky enough to enjoy one of the performance bargains of the moment – and one relatively few people will have heard of.