Honda Civic Type R | Matt B
There aren’t many drive modes that I think really improve many fast car experiences. Sorry to start off in a grump. But short of the Ferrari manettino dial (and the separate bumpy road switch), the ‘Nurburgring’ mode on some VWs and the Yaris GR’s settings that really alter behaviour, most of them seem a bit contrived - and not all that beneficial. Of course, most have an individual option, but even then that’s seldom configured away from comfortable suspension and noisy exhaust.
The Civic, unfortunately, doesn’t help the cause. Firstly, because it doesn’t offer a configurable option, meaning the driver is stuck with the fixed parameters of Comfort, Sport or +R. Which seems a bit of an oversight, given how much variance there is in throttle response, damping attitude and noise. The second problem is - whisper it - the Type R works best just left in Comfort all the time. The noise is at its least irritating (and occasionally enjoyable), the ride is at its most accommodating (yet still impeccably well controlled) and the softer throttle response actually lets you anticipate the imminent turbo rush a little.
The time spent in Sport (the default mode) and +R only serves to reinforce how much more preferable Comfort is. Maybe I’m getting old. But I also can’t help feeling that the Civic would be better with a little more configurability - an exhaust button, one for the dampers and so on - as opposed to the rigid strictures of its pre-set modes; sometimes literally, in fact, given the suspension in +R…
Car: 2021 Honda Civic Type R GT
Run by: Matt
On fleet since: January 2021
Mileage: 4,212 (delivered on 2,945)
List price new: £37,170 (Type R GT at £36,320, plus £850 for Racing Blue Pearl paint)
Last month at a glance: Comfort mode in a Type R? You better believe it
Renaultsport Clio 182 | Sam S
Within 48 hours of the Clio waking from its winter kip, its cam and aux belts service occurred. The once-every-five-years, day-long job was done at Beaniesport, a Clio race team that really knows its stuff when it comes to the sensitive F4R. It’s probably (definitely) the placebo effect, but since the new belts, water pump and dephaser pulley were fitted, the car feels sprightlier than ever. Or maybe I’m just giving it more than normal, safe in the knowledge that nothing should go snap ahead of the bulkhead...
The car then flew through its MOT (somehow, there are no dash lights on at the moment), and was promptly rewarded with a thorough clean. I’d long put the job off, because I prefer driving to cleaning. But with newfound love for the car, I set out to clean all the nooks and crannies my amateurish spongework had neglected over the years. I even gave the coilovers a scrub and covered them in waterproof protectors, supplied by Motamec. Dare I say it, for a 17-year-old car that’s spent much of its life on three wheels, this one doesn’t half scrub up alright.
Next, I’ve ordered some Miller’s triple-ester synthetic 5W-40 for the oil change, because – and this was news to me recently – non-ester oils apparently aren’t ‘proper’ synthetics (this thread explains more). Plus, the bottle said “competition fully synthetic,” and if it’s good enough for hill climbs, it’s probably good enough for my jaunts on the lanes up the road. I expect placebo gains of around 10hp when it’s in. Just in time for spring.
Car: 2004 Renaultsport Clio 182
Run by: Sam S
On fleet since: July 2018
BMW 340i Touring | Pete D
Man maths is a wonderful thing, especially when it comes to the old adage that the correct number of cars to own is n+1 where n is the number of cars currently owned; I even have the t-shirt (link to shop). Taking that formula fully to heart I have “invested” in another car to the RacingPete fleet – a 2017 BMW 340i Touring M-Sport.
In truth, I have had alerts set up across PistonHeads classifieds for around 12 months as I have been after a set of specific requirements: tow bar, pano roof and adaptive suspension, which usually resulted in an empty inbox given the rarity of the combination – although I’m not sure why the £515 option of adaptive suspension is not specced more from new; I find the slight 10mm drop in ride-height looks more aggressive and its nice to have additional comfort when not pushing on.
Still, last week an alert popped up, exact spec, with some additional features such as HUD, innovation pack, M Sport Pro Pack and low 20k mileage for a 4-year-old car, sweetening the appeal. Deal promptly done with our finance partners Charles & Dean, and for £334 PCP a month the car is mine! First impressions are that the exhaust is noisier than expected, especially the impression given from those with the MPPSK fitted, and it is surprisingly pointy at the front-end – although, granted, I’m only 100 miles of mainly motorway driving into my first 2 days of ownership.
Of course, with a drive, a double garage, and a shed full of fleet there is some careful avoidance of the other formula for car ownership: s-1, where s is the number of cars owned that would result in separation from the wife… might be time to hit the classifieds ‘sell’ function and move on some of the stock for once – though only to get some more space, n+1!
Car: 2017 BMW M340i Touring M-Sport
Run by: RacingPete
On fleet since: March 2021
Land Rover Defender | Matt D
It would be remiss to not mention this is my wife’s car, but it is certainly one that is enjoyed by the both of us. Owning a Defender is never a choice lead with the head, but instead by the heart. Unless you’re a sheep farmer in Scotland, of course, which I certainly am not. No, I am one of those Defender owners who smiles and nods politely at the Land Rover garage when the other Defender owners mention how cold and soggy the seats have been lately when waking up at the crack of dawn to do the lambing.
Speaking of soggy seats, our Defender has had a rather sedentary lifestyle since this Coronavirus pandemic. It being a second vehicle and us having little reason to leave the house, it has meant we haven’t put many miles on him lately. The lack of warmth and fresh air coming into the cabin, combined with soggy seats due to recent weather and Land Rover’s, erm, ‘build quality’, has meant he’s been a welcome host for mould. I’ll spare you the photos of the Petri dish interior, but it has meant we’ve needed to pay a man £150 to come round and decontaminate him.
Even with the low miles this year, we weren’t excused from the annual MOT and we have never had one less than £2,000 in 3 years of ownership. This year is no different, with the big ticket items being new brakes, fuel pump, springs, shocks, on top of the annual service. It is tempting but I don’t dare calculate how much we’ve spent per mile running the thing!
Of course, despite it being a soggy, mouldy, and expensive bucket of rust, the sheer joy of driving it around like a road tractor and being part of a club of friendly waving Defender maniacs could never lead us to contemplate giving up and selling it on. Here’s hoping for more driving opportunities in 2021.
Car: 1999 Land Rover Defender
Run by: Matt
On fleet since: October 2017
BMW M340d | Nic C
The last couple of weeks have been less about the M340d itself and more to do with the wealth of options around it. Not long after we drove the Alpina D3 S Touring, we had the new M3 to get to grips with. And then Pete bought his 340i - for much, much less than what the M340d retails at. Thinkers, all.
Based on its overwhelming similarities, the D3 was obviously the standout comparison. Making its cars better than the ‘stock’ BMW offering is at the root of Alpina’s business model, so you expect to encounter familiar enhancements - yet improvements made to the ride quality still confounded expectations. I had no real qualms with the calibre of the M340d’s comfort or refinement until I drove the D3. Afterwards I thought of little else.
It made so deep an impression that I spent most of my (admittedly brief) time in the M3 mentally comparing the two. The latter is terrifically firm and very well damped - and hugely fast, of course - but would I really sacrifice the Alpina’s road-biased suppleness and all-round usability in a one-car garage situation? Factoring in Grillegate and the increased cost, possibly not. Definitely not if it were the B3 Touring being offered in exchange.
Which brings us to the 340i with its petrol engine and wallet-pleasing price secondhand. Pete is keen to bring the car together with the M340d in the near future for a spot of friendly comparison. And, I suspect, to reassure himself that he plumped for the right car. It’ll be interesting to see what he makes of the diesel-powered competition.
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)
Mercedes CLK280 | Sam L
Due to a badly timed building project at the house my Zoom calls are now accompanied by the hum of a jackhammer, much to the delight of fellow participants. As a result I've been spending a lot more time in the CLK, albeit statically in the passenger seat, using an open glovebox as a laptop stand. Being a PistonHeads employee working from the 'car office' is at least on brand and it's in fact not a bad place to be with heated reclining leather seats, radio and a cup holder - and a home wifi signal that just about reaches the driveway.
Elsewhere the car came into its own recently during my lockdown garden project when I had to transport a 2.7m Fence post because my father-in-law’s Fiat 'dump run' Doblo was not long enough for the task. Meaning the CLK has played office and van in the same week. Beat that for usability, lads.
On the expenditure front, I had a spare key programmed to the tune of £125 by a local locksmith who had to close his shop due to the pandemic and has now switched to mobile jobs. All done on the driveway in 40 minutes and for a fair bit less than what Mercedes would have wanted alongside the unwanted trip to the dealer.
However, I’m still no closer to addressing the dented wing. I may have to resort to getting one painted which I was trying to avoid, but it seems like nobody is breaking them in Palladium Silver. For now though I'm happy to live with it; no one can see the outside on Zoom calls anyway.
Car: 2009 Mercedes CLK280 Sport
Run by: Sam L
On the fleet since: February 2021
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