Renaultsport Megane 275 Cup-S | Ben L
It never ceases to amaze me how much money people will pay for old tat. People probably say that about Renaults too. As I emptied my shed and prepared to take some old rubbish to the tip last weekend, I thought I'd chuck a few bits on Facebook Marketplace to see if I had any takers. Within a couple of hours, everything was sold or reserved.
This made me happy because I didn't have to go to the tip. It then made me even more happy that I could spend my essentially free money on car parts, which is something that hasn't happened for a long time. I've owned GJ65 BYO for almost nine months now, and I'm amazed it has taken me this long to start modifying it. I'm simply unable to leave a car standard but it's testament to just how incredible the Megane is from the factory that it has taken this long.
I've desperately wanted an ITG induction kit since day one, which is commonly touted as the only one worth bothering with on a Megane with performance gains of up to 10hp. The standard recirculation valves are prone to leaking, or at least that's my excuse for picking up Forge's uprated unit along with some K-Tec silicone hoses to brighten up the engine bay. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve today and can't wait to get it all fitted over the weekend before I go head-to-head with Matt's Civic next week, which I'm rather excited about.
Car: 2015 Renaultsport Megane 275 Cup-S
Run by: Ben
On fleet since: September 2020
Honda Civic Type R | Matt B
The Civic and I went on holiday last week. With my girlfriend and our dog, too, I hasten to add - our first family-grade break, and a markedly more interesting trip for the Type R than has become the norm.
Turns out mutts, even small and cute ones, needs lots of stuff for a few days away. As does my other half. Handily, the Type R remains just a Civic under all the shouty bits, which means it's absolutely enormous inside. Finally, I had a use for it beyond the tip. The slightly bizarre shape and sheer length - 4,557mm is more saloon sized, and almost 300mm longer than a Golf - means all manner of dog beds, toys and food can be crammed in alongside what my girlfriend required. Miraculously, there was still space for my bag as well.
The duality is perhaps the best bit of this Civic; typically, cars billed as do-it-all performance models can feel contrived, but not so here. It can be stuffed full of holiday luggage, trundled down the M40 at 35mpg and still entertain like little else when the roads are twistier. (And when the car was empty, honest - don't go calling Dog's Trust.) It was a great reminder of the Civic's talents - quite literally bigger and better than its rivals.
But more serious tests are imminent. Not only is a Type R Sportline due in at the start of June, with its new setup and more mellow look, Ben has also permitted me a go in his lovely Megane Cup-S. I'd expected the key to my hometown before being handed that one, so I'm very excited. Twin test coming soon...
Car: 2021 Honda Civic Type R GT
Run by: Matt
On fleet since: January 2021
Mileage: 5,758 (delivered on 2,945)
List price new: £37,170 (Type R GT at £36,320, plus £850 for Racing Blue Pearl paint)
BMW M340d | Nic C
I was vaccinated this week. This afforded me 15 minutes sitting in the M340d with nothing to do but wait and see if I turned blue. Rather than play with my phone, I thought I'd use the time to tot up the things about the cabin I don't like. Number 1 with a bullet, those dials. Quite how these made it through the exhaustive opinion vetting process that every new car is subjected to is beyond me. I've not met a single soul with anything good to say about them. Digital or not, BMW dials should be circular. Case closed.
I know the manufacturer's preference for chunky steering wheels is also on many people's demerit list, but I quite like them. The paddles, not so much. But that's okay because I can count on two hands the times I've been minded to use them. That's partly because 516lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm does most of the heavy lifting, but also because I'm a fan of BMW's stubby gear lever and its manual shift function. I'm less keen on the firm's prerogative for tucking drive mode buttons out of the way - although, again, the M340d has been left in Comfort for long enough now that they're somewhat redundant anyway.
The adjacent iDrive controller, of course, falls to hand like a pint glass adjacent to a plate of poppadoms. You can use the touchscreen if you prefer, but I don't think I've ever been moved to try it. From a functional perspective, BMW's infotainment system is probably unmatched. Which makes the decision to add gesture control all the more annoying. I don't need help changing radio stations or turning the volume up. Especially when it's possible - nay, likely - that the system will fail to recognise the required gesture, except, inevitably, by accident. And when the end product of a control surface is occasional angry swearing, that's a fail.
Finally, there's the car's wireless phone charger. This ought to be a slam dunk. Slip your phone onto the pad, and watch it suck up battery charge as if by magic. Except half the time all it seems to do is heat my iPhone 12 Mini up to roughly the temperature of magma. Or does nothing at all. Perhaps it's the phone - I suspect there's a reason why Apple has made its latest generation of wireless chargers magnetic; it reduces the chances of you missing the vital spot. But it does mean I have to carry a charging cable around, just in case. And in world capable of vanquishing disease with one mighty swipe of technological brilliance, that does seem like a shame.
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)
Renaultsport Clio 182 | Sam S
As of this month, I've officially owned the Clio for 10 years. The time has flown. It feels like only yesterday that I was waking up early on a chilly Sunday morning to head out of Leeds, where I resided as a student, along the Otley Road and into the Yorkshire Dales to stretch the legs of my new Racing Blue hot hatch. It had a blow in the original exhaust (practically a 182 default), and I hadn't yet discovered that the timing was off because the previous owner had the belts done at a non-specialist, but it was the car of my dreams, the 'giant slayer' that had adorned many magazine covers of the noughties and the base for the racing model of the Clio Cup series, which I so enjoyed following.
Truth be told, I wouldn't feel anywhere near as happy behind the wheel of performance cars now if it wasn't for the Clio. I learned about weight transfer (read: lift off oversteer), heel-and-toe downshifts and how bloody scary brake fade is. I should have crashed it about eight times, but luck was on my side and I always came out of the car feeling like I'd learned something. With little experience of other quick cars, I didn't fully appreciate it how representative it was of a traditional performance car at the time. Having driven a lot more cars since then thanks to this job, I now fully do. It is the palate cleanser.
The Clio was the rolling constant of my twenties, so now it feels only right I mark its ten years with a celebratory trip. I've mentioned my intention to do the North Coast 500 in previous reports but now the 182's trip is fully arranged, with my plan taking us - myself and the misses - around the coastline in a clockwise direction, starting with the Applecross Pass. The last leg will see us venture from Inverness down to the Old Military Road, which I've long wanted to drive for years. To say I'm excited would be understating it. The Clio, however, hasn't been in such good spirits; it went into the garage for a new air con rad but has ended up needing a new engine radiator as well, thanks to corrosion. Hence the strip-down birthday pic...
Car: 2004 Renaultsport Clio 182
Run by: Sam S
On fleet since: July 2018
BMW 550i | Sam L
The 550i had been sat in a dusty yard for quite some time due to a very leaky steering rack. After watching several YouTube video tutorials on how to fix the issue, I decided to get it booked into a garage. Yes, a substantial dent to the wallet, (£272 for the rack, £412 for the fitting, including new drop links and alignment) but some jobs are best left to someone who actually knows what they're doing.
The front discs were past their sell-by date, too; lipped and warped, so I asked the mechanic to change them whilst the car was in the air. I made an unsuccessful attempt to be thrifty by ordering parts online in advance, only to receive the inevitable call on fitting day that the discs weren't the right ones, which meant an additional £270 outlay for Brembo bits to go straight to the workshop. No idea what model/car the original ones were for, but as I'd ordered almost a year ago online there was no chance of a refund. They'll make for very good paperweights at least.
Still, the subsequent MOT revealed an almost a clean bill of health, the only advisories being rear tyres which isn't a huge surprise for a rather porky, rear-wheel-drive, 367hp car. Back behind the wheel I'd forgotten quite how luxurious the cabin was, and how good the Logic7 system sounded. Some little niggles, one being the head-up display projection mirror has peeled slightly so the display appears fractured. I think it might be an easy fix if I can get access to it. There is also definitely a flat spot on one of the alloys as had a slight motorway-speed vibration from the rear.
When the music wasn't turned up, the V8 sounded lovely, too, and even averaged a high 20mpg on a longer run which was better than the 16/17mpg I'd been seeing on the readout around town. So just over £1000 of expenditure this month but it was worthwhile to be back behind the wheel of the now 16-year-old almost super-saloon.
Car: 2005 BMW 550i M Sport
Run by: Sam L
On fleet since: April 2020
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