BMW M340d | Nic C
I’m starting to like the attention the M340d gets. This is unusual. Too much head-turning is toe curling. The Alpina XB7 was a recent guest at PH, and it attracts notice like a falling meteor. That grille. Those proportions. And the sound it makes. All grist to the affronted passerby mill. But the M340d is different. Most of the time no one notices the diesel grey 3 Series at all. It is just another oil-burning BMW wagon among many. And yet every now and again, at pleasing intervals, a pair of discerning eyeballs swivel round. They are usually accompanied by the nudge: ‘look - that one’.
Anecdotally, it suggests word about the M340d has got around. PH has not been alone in proclaiming the car’s virtues. And, of course, it is the latest in a long, big-selling line of seriously rapid BMW-made diesels. Affection for gravelly-toned thrust has evidently not evaporated with shrinking sales; the legacy of enormous, distance-shrinking real-world performance is too long-standing. Too likeable, frankly. I dwell on it frequently. Typically, in the nanosecond between 30 and 70mph.
On top of all that, the M340d is rare. Possibly exceptionally so. I haven’t encountered another one yet. And were I to do so, there is a fair chance it will be being driven by another ham-fisted motoring journalist. Which is a pity, because it means everyone else is likely denying themselves the pleasure. That’s understandable, given the size of the price tag and the subsequent depreciation it is likely to suffer in today's market. It’s just a shame that more of those covetous stares seem unlikely to turn into sales. Because take it from me, the M340d deserves all the attention it gets.
Car: 2021 BMW M340d Touring
Run by: Nic
On fleet since: December 2020
List price new: £54,325 (on the road, as standard; price as tested £62,615)
Honda Civic Type R | Matt B
To the astonishment of many, I enjoy cleaning a car. Those who disagree say it’s tedious and pointless - “it’ll only get grubby” again and so on - but I get great satisfaction from car washing. There, said it.
Like so many even humdrum pastimes nowadays, it doesn’t take long on the internet to feel inadequate about your cleaning skills. I’m no detailing expert (nor do I want to be), and the Civic was certainly not perfect after some wash ‘n’ wax, but it looked considerably better with its coating of winter crud rinsed away. As did those fabulous front seats, with the crumbs of all too many sandwiches vacuumed away. The achievement of seeing something grubby made nice again never fails to delight this particular saddo.
I also enjoy a car wash because it gives you time to really appreciate bits of a car you don’t normally look at. And, well, there’s definitely plenty to take in with the Civic. I’m still not entirely sold on its appearance - especially as the Sportline suggests not all the aero add-ons are necessary - but I’m even keener on that awesome trio of exhausts and the Racing Blue paint after an hour or so up close. Furthermore, though I can’t put my finger on why, I prefer this new front-end design to the pre-facelift. It’s quite obviously still busy, just a bit… better.
The Civic isn’t actually with me at the moment, residing at Sam’s while I’m driving other stuff, most notably the latest Golf R. Though I’ve enjoyed it in newly Performance Pack'd format more than expected, I can’t wait to drive its front-drive nemesis again. Hopefully it might even need another clean…
Car: 2021 Honda Civic Type R GT
Run by: Matt
On fleet since: January 2021
Mileage: 4,933 (delivered on 2,945)
List price new: £37,170 (Type R GT at £36,320, plus £850 for Racing Blue Pearl paint)
Renaultsport Clio 182 | Sam S
If you read our recent i20 N review, you’ll know that I’m a rather smitten with Hyundai’s new Fiesta ST rival. It’s punchy and playful enough, but what really had me sold is how communicative and mature the platform feels, with a plumbed-in, track-ready personality that makes it more serious than the Ford. In more than a few moments the pre-prod i20 N reminded me of the 182, which was a good thing both for the Hyundai’s review and my affection for a Racing Blue oldie.
With that comparison in mind, I’m not exactly going out on a limb in suggesting that the new model will be a big hit with us Brits. We loved the 182, after all. Although to call the Hyundai a spiritual successor to the Clio is probably a bit far-fetched, because no hot hatch since the Trophy has done the over-engined, small hot hatch thing so authentically. Where the Hyundai and its modern ilk have vacant crumple zone, the Clio has F4R. Technically speaking, the i20 N is a world apart from the simpler, cruder base of Renaultsport’s noughties three-door.
And that’s exactly why I love it so much. It’s been a road tester’s pallet cleanser for a few years now, since the march of turbocharging changed the character (and sound) of cars, so that I’ve a newfound desire to see the 182 in the modern classic sense is only natural. My efforts to ‘bring it back’ a bit have included the dashtop flocking, and more recently new interior mats and some extra bits of hand-cut (by me) carpet to cover the formerly visible seat subframe bolts. I clean and cover it more regularly now. But that doesn’t mean the Clio is going to become a garage queen anytime soon. It’s far too rewarding for that, especially on the limit. Normal duty hasresumed.
Car: 2004 Renaultsport Clio 182
Run by: Sam S
On fleet since: July 2018
Renaultsport Megane 275 Cup-S | Ben L
You know those jobs that you get halfway through and wish you’d just paid someone else to do? Changing the thermostat on a Renaultsport Megane is one of those. Having done it a few years ago on my old 250, I clearly didn’t make a mental note not to bother tackling it again.
The thermostat is a common failure on the Megane. Luckily the part itself is only £30 and simply requires a great deal of patience to change - something I don’t have in abundance. Unfortunately, the Renault workshop manual massively overcomplicates the task; it’s actually not that bad. It certainly doesn’t need the front bumper, wheels and undertray removing as the manual suggests.
With just the battery and its tray out (which is not as simple as it sounds) you can just about access the three bolts holding the thermostat housing in place - i.e. you can manage a quarter turn on a ratchet spanner at a time, if you’re lucky. After some swearing, I had the foresight to remove the throttle body and intercooler inlet pipe; thoroughly recommended if you’re tackling the job on your own car.
After two hours, with scuffed knuckles and sunburn down the left side of my face, it was done. I’ve barely driven the car since the old one failed, but it’s remarkable how much power it restricts until you fit a new one. Afterwards, it felt like I’d just driven out of RS Tuning again after mapping on my old car. I still need to get the Ohlins removed and rebuilt, but other than that, I can’t wait to get a track day booked over the summer.
Car: 2015 Renaultsport Megane 275 Cup-S
Run by: Ben
On fleet since: September 2020
1 / 4