If you wondered why the British automaker Rover Group was offering $5,000 rebates on the Sterling, you need only drive one. Then you`ll wonder why they weren`t offering a $10,000 rebate and throwing in a premium, such as a car.

Actually, the rebates are on leftover 1989 models. The 1990s don`t carrya payback, at least not yet. But at $28,500, the 1990 Sterling 827SLi we droveis overpriced by at least $5,000.

Sterling is the Rover Group of Britain`s version of the Acura Legend. Itshares many of the mechanicals of the Legend, though not the quality. TheSterling is to the Legend as Pee Wee Herman is to Hulk Hogan.

At a time when the market is flooded with really good $20,000 to $30,000luxury cars, the world just doesn`t need another entrant, especially one with the shortcomings of a Sterling.

We drove the 827SLi 4-door sedan, one member of the Sterling line thatincludes the 827SL, 827S, and 827Si.

The annoyances started with the power-seat adjustments. You first have to push a button on the dash to turn the power on. That task done, you`re thenable to fiddle with one of two power-seat controls on the console, neither of which did any good or served any purpose other than to frustrate the driver.Two sets of controls for one seat?

We never were able to find a comfortable position for the seat or acomfortable way to position ourselves from both the wheel and the floorpedals.

The 2.7-liter, 24-valve Honda-built V-6 engine is smooth and powerful and the five-speed manual transmission shifted very smoothly. But you can`t reallyenjoy the performance when you move from first to second, pause to hit theseat adjustment, shift to third, reach back for the seat adjustment, and soon.

There were other little nuisances, such as the light control being a tiny button on the turn indicator stalk that you slide sideways to turn on or off; a heating system that wanted to cook the upper torso while chilling the lower extremities; and defrosters that really didn`t work all that bad providing youkeep hanky in hand to wipe off what the defrosters fail to erase.

The most redeeming quality of the Sterling was that it had antilockbrakes as standard.

Anyone who opts for a Sterling rather than spending a few grand less andgetting a Toyota Lexus ES250 should have his or her head examined.

Several weeks ago in the midst of its $5,000 rebate offer on stocks ofunsold 1989 models, Sterling said it would bring out a new top-of-the-linetwo-door coupe for the 1992 model year. We suspect the announcement was adeliberate attempt by the British automaker to convince people there stillwould be a Sterling after the 1990 model year.