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The Gymkhana Slalom Test

Our second, and last, activity in the 2015 Club Le Mons mini-gymkana was a test of our car’s handling ability. As mentioned previously, a nice skid pad and some proper instruments to measure G forces would have been good, but all we had was a bit of airfield and some cones. So a slalom it was to be!

And fun it was! Anyway as they say, a picture tells a thousand words..

Bruce having fun on the slalom course

Bruce having fun on the slalom course

Bruce taking the slalom course very seriously

Bruce taking the slalom course very seriously

Angela giving it all she's got!

Angela giving it all she’s got!

Neil trying really hard in the SLK

Neil trying really hard in the SLK

The GT86 on the slalom course

The GT86 on the slalom course

The RX8 coming up to the end

The RX8 coming up to the end

The Z3 showing off some bodyroll

The Z3 showing off some bodyroll

The FTO going round for another go

The FTO going round for another go

The MR2 caught mid slalom

The MR2 caught mid slalom

Can you believe the G forces?

Can you believe the G forces?

Getting ready to go. Concentration faces on!

Getting ready to go. Concentration faces on!

 

So, what were the results?

Slalom results

Well, in the absence of the S2000 and MX5 – two very strong contenders – it looks like the FTO, with its sticky tyres and handling focused chassis takes the win.

Considering the SLK’s performance in the brake test it did surprisingly well here, but once again the Toyota GT86 was disappointing.

 

The Points

So, what does this mean for the overall points?

Well..

Brake Test Driver Car Distance Rank Points
Bruce RX8 29.70 1 100
Alex FTO 30.00 2 90
Angela Z3 30.30 3 80
Simon MR2 30.40 4 70
Adam GT86 30.90
Becky TT 33.80 5 60
Michelle MGF 35.75 6 50
Neil SLK 38.30 7 40
Steff S2000 Joker 30
Duncan MX-5 DNF 20

 

Slalom Test Driver Car Time Rank Points
Alex FTO 33.61 1 100
Simon MR2 34.56 2 90
Neil SLK 34.67 3 80
Bruce RX8 35.77 4 70
Adam GT86 37.00
Michelle MGF 39.78 5 60
Angela Z3 40.15 6 50
Becky TT 48.55 7 40
Steff S2000 Joker 30
Duncan MX-5 DNF 20

 

And with the May points awarded the final drivers leaderboard stands at:

Driver Car End of Month Points Difference
Simon MR2 1524
Bruce RX8 1425 -99
Alex FTO 1395 -30
Steff S2000 1320 -75
Neil SLK 1287 -33
Angela Z3 1218 -69
Becky TT 1099 -120
Duncan MX-5 1055 -44
Michelle MGF 944 -110

 

Simon still leads, but Alex manages to claw back a place from Steff, and Bruce is closing in on number 1!

 

And The Best £2,500 Sports Car is?

So, after 11 challenges and 12 months of ownership we decided to have a look at how the cars have done, points wise.

As you know some of our challenges have been based on the drivers (driving test, etc), so if we take all of those out and leave in just the points awarded to the vehicles, we *could* say that this point, that the best £2,500 sports car is:

 

The Mitsubishi FTO

FTO Review

Driver Car Points
Alex FTO 925
Angela Z3 899 -26
Steff S2000 842 -57
Simon MR2 835 -7
Bruce RX8 788 -47
Neil SLK 711 -77
Becky TT 705 -7
Michelle MGF VVC 677 -27
Duncan MX-5 654 -24

 

 

 

And Don’t Forget..

Our gymkhana will be best experienced in an upcoming episode!

 

Video Coming Soon

The Z3, by son of Newbie

It was with great anticipation that I dragged myself out of bed on that fateful Sunday. It was early, but my laziness had already cost me time for cooked breakfast, and I wasn’t going to let it cost me the track day by missing registration. When we pulled into Blyton Park, I was in awe of the many cars gathered waiting – but was quickly ushered into the registration hut for a briefing.

When asked who was on their first track day, I raised my hand, and was surprised at how many others did the same – it was slightly comforting knowing I wasn’t the only newbie on the track.

Up first were a couple of laps to familiarise ourselves with the track. Following the car in front, I almost felt that this was fast enough, but knew the cars were capable of so much more. When it came to my turn, all briefings and safety messages done, I was nervous as I sat in the pit lane. The engine sat patiently, purring at the red light, yellow light, green! My foot kicked the floor and tyre squeal echoed across the track, traction kicked in and off I flew, down the track toward the first corner. Approaching wide and giving a quick stomp on the brakes, the Z3 glided through the first and second turns. Now I’m on the straight (albeit featuring a gentle left curve) and building speed fast – as I approach the third turn, the chicane, I realise at the last minute I’ve come in a bit hot. With the car in third, I fly through the chicane and, just as I think I’ve pulled it off, I hear that familiar tyre squeal and all of a sudden the scenery is a blur. I spun.

To say that I learnt from my mistakes would be a lie. While I did complete many successful laps following the spin, it was not my only twirl. Throughout the day I clocked a total of 4 spins, I told myself that, since they were all on different corners, I was simply finding the cars limits on each corner.

Overall, it was a day of excitement, learning, speed and burnt rubber. The Le Mons cars were as impressive as Neil’s SLK interior is unsightly, and the drivers themselves are very welcoming and cheerful.

– Adam

Blyton Track Day Cars

The Z3, by Newbie

I couldn’t wait for our track day!

I’m new to this. OK, I have been taught to drive professionally at high speed on the public road, and I have been behind the wheel in many high adrenalin situations. That was then, in a previous life, BC.

More recently, AC (after children), I have driven round Castle Combe circuit to learn racing lines, but the speed limit was 70. I have played on my daughter’s Forza 4 game, but I spent most of the time bouncing off the barriers. I have, of course enjoyed the F1 Simulator challenge with Club Le Mons, but – let’s be honest here – with the exception of Becky who bailed out to find a suitable bucket, I was last (I did laugh a lot…. and turned the air blue at times… and it’s just as well the pit man was virtual as I ran over him! I also spent a substantial amount of time on my roof and even re-entered the circuit driving in the wrong direction – but don’t tell the others cos I don’t think they noticed!). SO, that’s my previous ‘on track’ experience, but this was a REAL track day, with REAL cars… or more to the point MY real car!!

My son, Adam, loves my Z3 so much he bought himself one – and then another three weeks later! Apart from the engine size (his is a 2 litre facelift vs my 2.8), I will admit I’m a little envious of the recent acquisition as she is a bit of a beauty. Anyway, Adam had just turned 21 and we knew he would love to take a decent 2.8 round a track so for the princely sum of around £30 he was added to my insurance for the weekend and we shared the driving up t’North – which also proved handy as we had a rather good social on the Saturday evening, courtesy of Cook Caribe, and I didn’t have to drive – hoorah!

I digress.

We arrived at Blyton in gorgeous sunshine, which was a relief as I didn’t fancy spending my first track day in the rain. I had little idea of what to expect but briefing and helmet distribution over, we headed out for a conga line around the track. Sorry – getting muddled again, the conga was the night before (great fun, btw – highly recommended!).

I had a lesson booked as I wanted to make the most of the experience and the rest of the team are mostly lotus owners so they have all the t-shirts for this activity. I was assured it’s very safe – “That’s why we picked this venue – there’s plenty of run off so you won’t hit anything if you spin”, said Alex. Hmm, not quite the right thing to say but hey, he was trying to help! And I did note in the briefing that a car had been written of just the previous week. Hmmmm again!

Neil kindly took the bull by the horns, donned his fail safe undies and agreed to take me out for a spin (stop – please – not that word!) before my session with the instructor.

Now a track isn’t really the place to ‘go slow’ as there are other vehicles out there but I doubt I was impressive on my first voyage into the unknown. I have no fear of putting my foot down hard, whether on the brake or the accelerator, but I wanted to master those lines. I wanted to get them right. I don’t like ‘being a girl’ when it comes to driving and Alex had already dubbed me ‘Miss Daisy‘ after the MPG challenge (which we won’t talk about). My ride out with Neil was very useful, not least for getting the hang of what was required, but for me, just learning the layout of the track before instruction was a good.

Instruction time! Well, I do trust Neil but here was an expert so I felt more confident with the Lotus-on-Track instructor next to me. Once I got the hang of how close I could get to a bend before braking, and the lines became logical, I felt on top of the world!

Back to the paddock for a rest, and to let the car cool down.

I went out with Duncan, Neil, Alex and Duncan’s 18 year old son, Fergus. Now, Fergus only passed his DSA test a month before but he threw that MX5 round the track like a demon, yet I felt totally safe with him at all times. Credit I think, not just to his understanding of vehicle handling, but also testament to the benefits of playing a decent computer game. He uses iRacing and I, for one, think it’s a great shame that more isn’t made of the opportunity to manufacture great games from which real skills can be learned.

I will make little comment about my darling son, and his first trek out, I also won’t make comment on his second. After that I refused to accompany him but he continued true to form and can honestly say that he learned about the limits of MY car that day. I still let him drive home afterwards, and may even have fallen asleep at one point!

Neil again accompanied me for my final drive and commented on how I had grown in confidence over the course of the day. On one of my trips I was rather pleased to see, on my return to the paddock, that my brakes were smoking. Now, I’m not saying that’s a good thing (apparently I should have done a slow lap to cool them off – hey, I’m learning, guys!) but I think Miss Daisy was definitely hiding in the boot!

Suffice to say that, by the end of the day, I felt I knew my BabyZed far better. I felt more at one with her, like I used to with my beloved racing bike in my teens, only faster, and more funnerer! Please can we go again, Alex, please, please pleeeaase?

– Angela

Aviators on, let’s hit the road!

 

At the start of this challenge, the S2000 was the only car in the group that even slightly turned my head, and for good reason. They are well respected and pretty cool cars, even if they do have a bonnet as big as Bruce Forsyth‘s chin.

Santa Pod - Steff S2000 Prep (3)

It was the one car I fancied having a drive of, and a car, I myself, considered a few years ago but was disappointed by the poor headroom with the roof up. It’s inclusion in this challenge has always been a contentious one amongst the other drivers with the £2500 budget seemingly unobtainable, but Steff seems to have managed to swindle some old lady in to letting him have it for a steel.

Turing up at Loomies cafe, and being told that the S2000 would be my review car got me, well, a little excited if I’m honest. It was sat there with its roof down, chin pointing out proud glistening in the sun.

Sitting in the car was just as I remembered, it’s pretty comfortable, and this time no worries of head room troubles, but my hair would definitely take a battering for sure. Aviators on, let’s hit the road!

Pulling out of the carpark, and on to the main road found me pleasantly surprised by how tight the car felt after almost 100k miles on the clock. I’ve no idea how much work Steff had put in to this behind the scenes, but first impressions were positive, although the steering felt a little wooden and quite disconnected from the feel of the road.

There were a few of us in convoy at the start of the drive, with both Neil and Alex in their respective cars behind me. At the earliest opportunity I decided to overtake the slower cars ahead and see what the old girl could do, and see what the 9k red line really felt and sounded like….

Well, all I can say is holy fudge…..

Unfortunately that’s not a positive holy fudge by the way, which is what I was expecting and hoping for. I was looking forward to planting my foot to the floor, pulling out and swiftly passing the traffic ahead, then continuing along with an overly enthusiastic test drive….

Instead of this, what I got was, Holy fudge I’m going to die….!!!!

Quite how the car didn’t either smash in to the cars I was overtaking, or barrel roll through the hedgerow on the other side of the road, is a complete mystery to me. Now I’m a keen driver, with a foundation based in stage rallying, so I like to think I’m above average behind the wheel.

Giving the car the benefit of the doubt, I thought I’d have another go a little further down the road, and the story was exactly the same. Having subsequently spoken to everyone else who’s driven the car the story seemed to be exactly the same, so that rules me out as being the problem. Maybe on track it’d be a different story, maybe it was the road surface that we were driving on, who knows? None of the other cars suffered from this problem!

The sound of the engine was also a big disappointment. Yes, it’s,a screamer, and 9k is a big number on the rev counter, but the sound was rather dull. The exhaust has managed to extract every ounce of excitement from listening to what should have been a great little tune.

Next up was the brakes, a simulated emergency stop from 60mph. Again I expected great things, and the first time I pushed the middle pedal hard the initial bite was pretty good, not anywhere near modern standards, but not the worse I’ve ever felt, the smell from them was significant and towards the end of the stop they seemed to start to fade a little. A subsequent hard brake confirmed that the pads were mostly ok for one stop, but after that they were past their best and overheated. Not something I’d like to be faced with on track on a car that quick!

It’s such a shame, on paper, this should be the most capable car in the field, but what’s the point in having a car that’s so good on paper, but so dire out on the road? Yes it’s nice to poodle around in at 30mph, but it’s a sports car, and this is a sports car challenge, and unfortunately on that basis it fails miserably. Honestly it was the worst car I drove on the day, which was such a huge disappointment, especially as I was so looking forward to my time with her!

My one memory of all cars, save the RX8 and MR2, was how bad the brakes were on them all. Seriously, every single other car either struggled with serious brake fade, a very soft pedal, or just simply no brake confidence whatsoever. The RX8 is understandably very modern and must still have a decent set of pads, the MR2 despite being old, is also fitted with decent pads by the looks of it. I tried hard to induce some fade on the journey home, as a fair comparison, but the pedal stayed firm, they never faded and were always consistently good. Please guys, check and replace your brakes before you go anywhere near a track day!!!

The other good thing that came from the day, was the reassurance, that by a country mile, I’ve chosen the best car in the group, bar the notchy gear change. Although a new clutch should sort that out easily enough and I mentioned that from day 1 of picking the car up. Until it fails however, it will be staying in the car. Even as it is, it still managed to top the charts at Santa Pod!

– Simon

I rather like this shade of blue

 

If you expect a short, hard facts review filled with techie car jargon, you’re out of luck. Sorry….. I love driving but I don’t do the techie under-the-bonnet-stuff. Not because I’m not interested, I just have other things occupying my mental space.This is one area where I am content to fit the blonde stereotype and mutter about how much I can fit in the glove box – which reminds me – I dont think I even looked in the glove box!

ClubLeMons SLK Review

The Glovebox. And the infamous ‘blue’.

There is one wheeled member of the Le Mons fleet that has been the focus of much ridicule in recent months, maligned for the 80s style vivid blue leather interior.

ClubLeMons SLK Review ClubLeMons SLK Review
I’m reliably informed the Le Mons’ blue was chosen to reflect this interior purely to wind up those who have made unfavourable observations from the outset! Now, I rather like this shade of blue and have oft come to the defence of said vehicle but I didn’t expect to be allocated the job of reviewing her overall appeal.

First, yes I do like her general appearance, though closer inspection did reveal the odd rust bubble under the paint but hey, she’s not the girl she used to be and we have the odd bubble to hide! I love the wrap but actually, yes – once seated that interior is a tad ‘in yer face’! (Soz Neil).

ClubLeMons SLK Review ClubLeMons SLK Review ClubLeMons SLK Review

She has an air of maturity about her which is suitably matched by the gentleman’s flat cap, goggles and scarf I discovered in the boot… and I must say that I look forward to seeing the ‘Berk in the Merc’ sporting this wardrobe set in the near future! I long for a long shot down a wet but sunlit road, slowly zooming into a be-goggled gent sitting in the road, muttering softly “Parp, parp”. Not that I remember Mr Toad sporting a dark beard but I guess we cant have everything!

Moving on….Having had an interior dampness issue with my ageing soft top, I like the idea of a hard top convertible but the old lid does occupy a fair bit of boot space. Having said that, even with the roof down there is considerably more luggage room than in my baby zed. I also wonder what would happen in the case of mechanical malfunction. My soft top is easily disconnected from the electric motor leaving me to protect myself from impending precipitation with limited manual effort.

ClubLeMons SLK Review

Then there’s the fact that she has an automatic gearbox. I appreciate that automatics have vastly improved since I was last regularly driving one, but I’m not a huge fan. I like to feel in control of the vehicle I’m driving and associated response from the right pedal. I will admit, my initial minute in the driving seat was spent mentally reminding myself to keep my left foot out of the way and, oh yeah, I need to find D (for Derrrrr, in my case!).

ClubLeMons SLK Review

So, away we go. She creeps nicely out the parking bay and we enter the road. She reminds me of learning to drive in my mother’s Nissan Bluebird. A tank rather than a go-kart, but well behaved and sedate. Stopping for the traffic lights gives me the opportunity to see how she pulls away and, while trying not to act like a hoon, I took advantage of the approaching national speed limit to put her acceleration and gear changing abilities to the test…… and tried out a button clearly marked with an ‘S’ – I was pleasantly surprised! Actually, I think ‘WahOOOO’ may have been my chosen expletive as she took off!

So, I like the acceleration and the gear change didn’t prove sluggish as anticipated.

Our resident cameraman, Andy, was riding shotgun with me as we put the SLK through a few paces. We both felt that we could give a better review without the restrictions of being on a public road with its associated legal obligations. She turns nicely, she accelerates nicely yet not with the thrust in the lower back that I enjoyed in the TT, she has a great turning circle and she brakes confidently. I should love the opportunity to give the Merc a really good blast.

Given the inevitable constraints, the drive left me with the frustrated conclusion that the Merc fulfilled my expectations of being a middle aged driver’s car, out to enjoy the Sunday sunshine. She certainly has poke, but there’s not the scope to make the most of that. She is a very comfortable, sturdily built lady and would be ideal to take my octogenarian mother out for a summer drive in the Dorset countryside, followed by a cream tea in a some village garden.

I returned to Loomies, comfortable, warm, yet a tad disappointed.

“Neil, I think you need to take me out and show tell me all about her. I know I’m not getting the best from her on this road and I dont feel I can be fair unless I keep her for a month, and that ain’t happening. I’ll drive, you instruct then we’ll swap. Is that ok?”

So, I now have a new perspective on the Mercedes SLK. Yes, she is a sturdy mama, with an air of sedate safety but, boy can she let her hair down in the right hands! Neil showed me how a simple knock of the gear stick left or right gave me manual control at the tap of my hand – oh, that is so cool! Suddenly, I had the best of both worlds!

I saw a side to this car that I wouldn’t have guessed from my initial drive but delights I, perhaps, would have discovered if given the opportunity to take her long distance on a variety of roads, not least a decent stretch of motorway, over a period of days or weeks.

She reminds me of myself – classy (or is that ‘old’?), yet a bit worn around the edges and maybe a little too ‘comfortable’ for a sports car, she doesnt invite me to throw her around corners, she doesn’t feel, to me, like a sports car. She feels like a saloon but she hides a sense of fun and adventure which transforms her into a feisty fun loving pal, when in familiar hands that know how to get the best from her. I think we will get on well and I do hope that Neil will let me take her for a spin on our forthcoming track day.

…. now then the way to Neil’s heart….ummmm….he’s a bloke….. food should do the trick…. I wonder if he likes cream cakes?…… Sam?……Alex?…. track day…diary….

– Angela

The brakes were definitely on their way out

 

I have always thought that the Audi TT is one of those “parenting isn’t a lifetime job” type of cars, where Dad (or Mum) trades in the comfortable estate car for a two-seater sports car a couple of months after the children leave home. It has a distinctive look and there is no doubt that the car is popular and successful, having been in production since 1998 as a coupé and 1999 as a roadster. However as soon as you sit in, and drive, the car, it is plain that much of this success is probably down to the fact that it is based on the VW Golf in the same way as early Audi A3’s and the Skoda Octavia. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

TT Review TT Review

Researching a little more, I found that the Audi TT takes its name from the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) motorcycle race where NSU, taken over by the VW group and merged with Auto Union in 1969 under the name Audi, had a fair amount of success since starting to compete in 1911.

Digging deeper I discovered that NSU were the first manufacturer to build a production car with a wankel engine back in 1964 called the “wankelspider” and it was the intensive cost of this and the bad press on rotor seal failure that eventually led to the VW group takeover. Obviously my car, the Mazda RX8, has a wankel engine and after the rolling road challenge, we know, not an awful lot more horsepower than the last NSU wankel engine car in 1977 which had 113bhp (although they may have lied about BHP back then as well!). It seems even Mazda have given up on the concept of a wankel engine, perhaps finding that they too could not justify its shortcomings!

TT Review 8 TT Review 7 TT Review 5

Anyway – enough about the RX8, Becky’s TT is a 2003 model with over 140,000 miles on the clock, but amazingly looks fairly tidy on first inspection with the exterior and interior showing little sign of age. Rather like any photo of a car you buy unseen and subsequently find isn’t quite as good as you first thought (just me then?), the TT soon started to give away its little secrets and on closer inspection the bodywork wasn’t quite as good as I thought. The TT has a rather clam like look to it, that many say confuses whether it is going forwards or backwards and I have to admit it is an acquired taste.

TT Review

The cockpit was roomy and had excellent headroom and legroom and it was nice to drive a car where your left leg didn’t have to go round a corner to depress the clutch. I did find the gear stick too far away from me when I drove, although that may be due to my normal length legs and long body (people in cinemas hate me!). I found the fact that looking out of the wing mirror you saw a fairly flat horizontal surface a novelty but found the A pillar in a bad position in terms of visibility but that may have been due to my having the seat all the way back. The seat position also meant that when I reached to find the seat belt it was in fact behind the seat and needed some gentle coaxing to come out of its hiding place.

The brakes were definitely on their way out with a double pump necessary to insure the pedal felt firm, something that made the initial minute of the test drive interesting approaching the first set of traffic lights having sped out of the car park.

TT Review

The TT managed to put the power down well and progress was smooth through the gears. I drove the car with the hood up and there was very little excess noise and scuttle shake was not noticeable, although I have to be honest, I didn’t really push it out of respect for Becky (and with the brakes being so bad!).

I do like the TT and can see why it appeals to its buyers and has done so well in a competitive market. It has a quirky, unusual style to it and this makes it stand out, something that most likely appeals to its owners and as with all of the LeMons cars – you certainly get a lot of car for £2,500!

– Bruce

It’s just not a true reflection on what a 18 year old FTO is really like

 

I know the FTO well. It’s no surprise to me when I sit in the drivers seat. Unlike others who’ve had the opportunity to write on a brand new car, I feel like I’m writing about my own car so it feels a bit weird. As a driver or passenger, I’ve probably done 1000 miles in the FTO. There are some amazing moments whilst driving this car. It’s nimble, it certainly doesn’t feel like a four seater. It’s low and gives a great sense of speed. It’s fun to drive without having to hit S2000 type revs. The car feels great, but it should, it’s probably the one that’s had the most spent on it prior to purchase…it’s almost a new car!

FTO Review (4) FTO Review (11) FTO Review (9) FTO Review (6)

I hate the dials, it’s proper Fast n Furious neon blue, pumping out loads of useless information that nobody really understands. The steering wheel feels too thin and weedy to give you immediate confidence to throw it round, and it cheapens the driving experience.

FTO Review (1) FTO Review (5)

I almost feel that the car is too good, it’s not like really experiencing what others experience when buying a £2500 car. Alex just lucked in, right time, right place, for the right car for him. It’s better put together than when it left the factory, but it looks too plastic inside for me.The saviour are the seats, that had no expense spared when they were re-trimmed.

FTO Review (8) FTO Review (12)

But that’s the whole point. This isn’t really an FTO. It’s somebody’s vision of an FTO. 99% of FTO’s in the UK are close to being MOT failures…they look tired, old and quite frankly, they look ugly. Alex’s is saved by fresh white paintwork, a retrimmed interior and a complete suspension overhaul. So I can’t judge this as an experience in driving an FTO. But after all this, it still leaves me cold.

The other problem is that I drove the MX5 today too, and for all it’s faults the MX5 is a more acceptable car as a drivers car. It’s more compliant, it’s more nimble and actually it’s more fun than the FTO. Maybe it’s something to do with being a convertible, but I see the cars in a very similar light and the one I’d drive home is the MX5! It’s just more accepting, easier to live with, and ultimately less ‘chav’.

FTO Review (10)

As for the FTO. We’re lucky to experience driving this bastardised version that Alex has…but it’s just not a true reflection on what a 18 year old FTO is really like….and I feel cheated. Finally though, it looks ace with all the Club Le Mons stickers on it! …that’s something to like about it!

FTO Review (3)

– Neil

It was a lovely sunny day so the roof was down when I climbed in.

I’ll openly admit that I started my drive in Angela’s Z3 from a good place – I’ve always liked the look of them and although not a BMW fan, it’s a car I’d consider owning.

Z3 Review (3) Z3 Review (2) Z3 Review (8)

First impressions were as expected – it’s an old design now and the cabin layout is starting to look dated, albeit not a bad-looking dated. My only real gripe was legroom. I’m 6’3 with a 35” inside leg and I found it hard to get into a good driving position. That said, the seat was supportive in the right places and all the controls fell nicely to hand.

Z3 Review (6) Z3 Review (7)

The engine started on the first turn and sounded lovely at idle and even better when under load – the 2.8 litre straight six is definitely the highlight of the car. It picked up willingly, had plenty of grunt and with the traction control switched off easily overwhelmed the grip available from the rear tyres.

Z3 Review (1) Z3 Review (4)
The area that most readily demonstrated the car’s age was handling. The suspension is an old design carried over from previous models and, depending on your view, it’s either the Z3’s Achilles heel or its salvation. It doesn’t have the delicacy or precision of an MX-5 for example, but with the TC off it does allow you to treat it like a muscle car and steer it with the throttle. Great fun!

– Duncan

 

Not every day you get to drive 8 different cars in one day!

 

I was looking forward to driving all the other cars, especially the S2000.  For some reason in my head it was the best of the bunch and the rest of us had no hope.  So the experience of driving all the others cars was exciting!  Not every day you get to drive 8 different cars in one day!

So with the preparations done, we arrived.  By preparations I mean the MGF was cleaned inside and out.  Lovely drive to Loomies Café, had good weather compared to some other drivers.

 

 

I guess I could use 200 words on talking about the weather rather than the RX8, there’s probably more to say about the weather!

I must admit I was a bit disappointed when I was given the RX8 to review as I drove it a while ago. I picked it up after it had been wrapped and took it to Brands Hatch and it didn’t leave a lasting impression.  Maybe this time it would change my mind.

Angela and I decided to tackle this task together.  While one was driving the other would take notes, and then swap on the way back.  So off we went in the RX8.

It is a reasonable looking car and is all that more impressive with the CLM wrap, which definitely turns people’s heads!  Sitting in the cockpit, I felt claustrophobic.  The big black strip running across the top of the windscreen had a lot to do with that I thought. It has the most ridiculous gear knob, teeny tiny or what!!  And yet a huge handbrake?  Proportions all wrong there in my opinion.  Dashboard felt a bit like a space ship and a ladies voice spoke to you when you turned the ignition on and off.. not quite sure what she said [Editor: that’s the built in camera system].  Angela and I went down a lovely country lane and ended up down a dead end leading up to a huge house with impressive wrought iron gates, a dog wandering around and flowers starting to emerge from the ground…..aaaahhhhhhh it was lovely!

RX8 Review RX8 Review RX8 Review

Anyway, back to the car. We swapped over and it was my turn to give it a test drive.  Put my foot down straight away.  It had good acceleration.  Felt very solid and safe.  If I were to crash I felt I would be safe as it has a significant bonnet!

Not a very practical car for families I thought as the back doors are a bit pathetic.

Maybe I should have asked Bruce to show what it could really do as maybe I missed something amazing.

All I know I had a huge grin on my face when I was driving the Audi TT.  I didn’t have that in the RX8.

– Michelle

The original MX5 of the ’90s was a hit from day one!

 

And, to me, is still is a great car!

Some might say it’s just a copy of Lotus’s Elan of the ’60s, and being both a Lotus specialist and having owned a mk1 myself, I was looking forward to testing Duncan‘s later mk2 to see if it brought back some fun memories of those cool little cars.

I’d driven a mk2 before, but never felt it delivered quite the same small, light weight sports car feel of my then mk1. But times change, and as modern cars get ever heavier and filled with ‘must have’ luxuries, gadgets and increased safety features, the mk2 MX5 now still feels like a light and nimble car.

My first impression, as I pulled away, was what a great driving position it had; you sit nice and low, with the gear stick falling directly to hand. It has good pedal placement but unfortunately a far-too-big steering wheel for my liking, an easy thing to change. However, once you’re under way the steering feel more than makes up for the bus-size wheel.

MX5 Review MX5 Review MX5 Review MX5 Review

The other thing that immediately struck me was that with the hood up it was surprisingly quiet. Considering there is not much in the way of sound proofing it was a pleasant place to be; no major wind noise or drafts.

That’s not to say it was all perfect! I did notice over, say my Honda S2000, that it fell down in a couple of areas. First was the chassis flex or scuttle shake. It felt more like a coupé that had been turned into a cabriolet rather than a purpose made convertible sports car. The actual handling and ride were great but you notice a distinct lateral movement over bumps in the road, and pot holes are to be avoided!

My final grumble was with the engine. It revved happily enough and pulled well in lower gears, but once you pushed on above 4000 rpm it just needed more. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt with my S2000’s VTEC kick, but a little more top end power would definitely give this little car a real edge.

All in all a great little car, better than the mk1 I had all those years ago, but not quite what I’d want.. sometimes you can’t improve on the original, and for me, now, I’m more than happy with my S2000, even if it does try to kill me on a regular basis!

-Steff

 

 

As part of our Concours d’Loomies we had each driver assigned to a particular car, so they could write a mini review. Here’s the first..

The MGF, to me, has always screamed British.

Becky Drives the MGF

I actually choose an MGF as my first choice for the Club Le Mons challenge but I just couldn’t get to grips with the drive style. So my first challenge was, could I drive this one without stalling every time I stopped? Tick. Yes I found the gear and clutch control much smoother than my own MGF.

No longer Hop along Annie, I’d become a smooth operator.

Next was the car itself. Yes it’s a few years old with a bit of wear and tear, the odd bit of rust and a dent or two. But hey, have you seen some of the drivers? I could say the same about them.

Neil Gets Interviewed

(I just know I’m going to pay for that comment).

It certainly didn’t smell like an old car, in fact 10/10 for such a clean interior Michelle. I didn’t count the dirty footprints the boys with clumpy boots had left in it.

I love the sticker on the front side of the car, might have to get one of those for mine.

Firstly, my naughty sticker!

For me, the width of wheels still makes the car feel like it has less grip on the bends than other cars I’ve driven.

Would I buy one? It would not be my first choice of cars but I certainly wouldn’t discount the newer models. I just prefer a car with wheels that feel like it’s wearing Timberlands rather than stilettos.

Becky