What’s It Worth? 1988 Sterling 825SL ..An Uncomfortable Marriage Produces A Cranky Kid
Back during the days of Reagan-Ism and Yuppie’s if you were a European Car Company you wanted a slice of the Big Apple Pie known as the American Car Market. BMW, Mercedes and even stogy Volvo were whomping the tar out of Crap-A-Fied USA makes like Cadillac and Lincoln. Sales for these Euro offerings in the USA would reach all time records as our roads would be filled with Teutonic Torpedo’s from across the Big Pond.
Even Uber Careful Toyota got in on the Luxury Road Rocket bandwagon introducing the very slick Lexus line in 1987. Other luxury offerings from The Land Of The Rising Sun would follow such as Infiniti and Acura. Seeing the trend and wanting to get in on the action the Brits wanted yet another piece of the pie.
Still reeling from being ‘Run Out Of Town On A Rail” the British Car Industry was far from welcome here in the US. Not since MG was sent packing in the early 80’s no mid-priced English Cars were sold in the USA. Sure if you were a Wall Street Raider or James Bond you could plunk down big bucks to listen Bananarama in your Rolls or Lotus, but very few had that kind of Ultra Bucks.
Despite its horrid reputation in the USA Rover had a plan. Benefiting from a merger of sorts with Honda the crisp handing Rover 800 Series Sedans were darn good cars..sort of. Touting Blimey Luxury with a silky smooth Acura Legend Drivetrain the Rover 800’s on paper looked like a winner. In fact trying to make it more “Euro” the 800 Rover’s were fitted with a more sporty tighter riding suspension to distance itself from its Japanese Sibling.
Rover briskly set up in late 1986 a dealer network in the USA and starting selling the 800 series from Sea to Shining Sea badged as a new make called Sterling for model year 1987. Only one model and body style was offered. The Sterling 825 came in a four door sedan. Two trim levels were the Base 825S and slightly more upscale 825SL.
The styling of the front wheel drive sedan was handsome and crisp. The interiors were very Brit Like. Fine wool carpets, burl wood throughout and velour or leather seating. Most Sterling’s left the showroom floor loaded with soon to break Lucas sourced options. Something that would haunt Sterling because of the 5 year 50,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty they offered to help with customer confidence. Imploding electronics and peeling wood trim would be only a few of the problems. Many dealers would have piles of peeling wood and fried radio’s filling the warranty department.
The best part of this Uncomfy Joining was the least Rover part of it. The Acura Legend drivetrain. The 2.5 Liter V6 was smooth, peppy and frugal. Unlike other euro offerings of the day you could even get your Sterling with a Teflon shifting 5 speed manual. Making it one very Sporty Sleeper indeed. Even Car and Driver Magazine gushed over it (kinda) in a 1987 Road Test saying “It’s one heck of a Euro sedan if the Rover Bits don’t fall off”
With good incentives and fun advertising the 1987 Sterling 825 sold well in the US with over 14,000 finding new but soon to annoyed owners. Sales every year would go down to a dismal 2100 in its final year here 1991. Sterling could never iron out the bugs, scooting swiftly from the USA like Rosie O’Donnell escaping a Weight Watchers Meeting. The sudden escape by Rover aka Sterling left most owners with no service or parts network. Thus explaining why most Sterling’s ended up a recycled Hyundai Fenders. Kinda sad cause it really wasn’t a bad car.