Last but not least is my current steed, which is that very car in the picture above.
The teg was very much an impulse buy for me, at the time I was driving a Clio 182, but somehow, I was bored with it as it just didnt feel special enough. I had test driven a variety of machines, and none of them really lived up to expectations or could surpass the clio. One option indeed was to modify the clio to my standards, and I had lots of things planned for that if I did it - Recaros, new steering wheel (momo), lightweight alloys, coilovers, remap, induction, brake upgrade etc, suffice to say it would have cost a few quid.
One day bored I decided to go to Tyneside Autoparc, a large car sales place in newcastle. I didnt go specifically looking for anything, but when I got towards the back, I spotted the DC2.
I'd heard a lot about the DC2, and how it was reported to be the best FWD car ever made. Moreover, I almost fell in love with it straight away on sight. Plus it had all of the things on it that I was going to do the clio, it has the momo wheel. It has as much power as I would have got out of the clio had i remapped it. Its got the lightweight alloys, the double wishbone suspension, LSD, decent brakes. More to the point, it looked a lot better than the clio ever would. And it wouldnt really cost much to swap into it.
So I thought, lets see if it lives up to the hype.
The rest is history.
Looks wise, well its a pretty marmite kind of car. Many people think it looks boy-racerish, but then a lot of enthusiasts really like it also. I personally do think it looks a bit boy racerish, but I dont really mind that. One thing it does do is attract attention (hello girls ).
When you sit in it, you become aware of the very low seating position in comparison to many more mundane machines, you almost feel like you are just about sitting on the floor. The car just seems to wrap around you, almost like you are wearing it. Plenty of space though, and the seats are comfy.
The dashboard looks very dated, and the fake carbon fiber trim is naff, but everything you need is there and right at hand.
The Momo steering wheel and titanium gear knob and recaros help lift things though, and as these are the main things you interact with, then these alone are enough to rescue it and make it a reasonably pleasant place to be, although make no mistake, when you sit in it, you are reminded that you arent here to look, you are here to drive.
Turn the key, and the engine zizzes into life with a tappy metallic sound. It sounds rough, unrefined and mechanical. The sound is undiluted due to the lack of soundproofing and thin windscreen glass this car has got.
As soon as you move off, you can feel just how rigid this car is, no flex, no give. The suspension is very firm, and the car has virtually no body roll at all. Even driving at normal speeds, you are well aware that this is a car with some serious talent.
The gearshift is slick and precise, and the gears are very short. Even normal driving sounds like you are going for it a bit, even when you arent. Its a frantic, raw experience.
Every bump, and rut is transmitted through the cabin and through the steering wheel. The brakes are sharp and responsive.
Once its warmed up, you can unleash the furious B18C6 engine, and once you take it beyond 6000 RPM, boy does it sound angry. The gruff, somewhat tinny sound at low revs disappears and is replaced by a hard edged howl which increases in volume and intensity as you home in on the 9000 RPM limiter. Seriously, this may be a 4-pot engine, but its one that you will love to rev over and over again, it just sounds that agressive and that intoxicating.
Although not known for their torque, I have found that the ITR is not too bad even at normal driving. Its quite a light car at 1090 kg and it has short gearing and a very crisp, keen throttle response, so the engine is actually very tractable. However, you would be right in your assumptions that you dont get real performance from it unless you give it a good spanking. And trust me, spank it you will.
How fast is it? Well when it was first released in the UK in 1998 (twin headlight model), it was ballistically quick compared to most of the competition. The UK one has 187 bhp where as mine, a Japanese one has 197. Nevertheless, by todays standards, its still quick, but only about as quick as a modern hot hatch such as a Focus ST. It will do 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds, 0-100 mph in approx 16 seconds, and then on to a top speed of 145 mph. However, when you consider that it does this with a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated engine, that is really quite impressive, when modern equivalents are often requiring 2.0-litre turbo engines to deliver the same performance.
More important though is how quick does it feel, and it does feel and sound quick simply because it is so raw. You can have an absolute riot just maintaining about 70 - 80 on the clock on a country road (equating to around 60 - 70 mph in real terms).
The handling is superb too. The limited slip diff means you can pile on the power out of bends. The grip levels are still very good even by modern standards when driven correctly, despite wearing thinner rubber than most modern machines. However, its what happens when you go beyond the limits of its grip that seperates it from the competition. It lets go in such a progressive, benign manner that its just so easy to catch, and slide around. Understeer is simply not present at all in this car except on very low speed, tight corners if you are ham fisted and generally only if its wet / slippery. If anything this car has a slightly oversteer biased response. Not like a 205, where it tries to kill you, it doesnt want to do that, but nevertheless, if you really provoke it you can get some really rather mad angles out of corners and still keep it in control (deserted large roundabouts are best for this). Although you can have fun at legal speeds, if required this car can cover ground at a truly astonishing pace. At high speeds, the rear spoiler gives the car extra downforce and the car feels very planted at high speeds.
Another thing I have noticed is that the car feels very balanced, and does not feel like FWD particularly. There is no excess weight in the nose and the car feels particularly well balanced. On slippery roundabouts you notice that the car seems to have the ability to "rotate", imagine having an imaginary pole right through the centre of the car, which allows it to turn freely, thats how it feels. Really nicely controllable and fun in the wet (though it can be a handful if you arent careful).
Thankfully all this power and handling is backed up by excellent brakes. Fade is not a problem in this car on the road, might want to get upgraded pads for the track though, but other than that they are fine. Responsive and powerful, and the car remains stable under hard braking.
All of these things combine to make the ITR feel like a road going race car. Every drive is an event, and in some ways, the ITR almost feels like affordable exotica. It really is in a different class to the hot hatches of this world, even though it mightnt be any quicker.
And yet, the teg is even affordable to run. I pay £486 insurance (I am 29 with 6 points), it returns an average of 28 MPG around town and up to 40++ on a run (although it does like SUL), and the road tax is £185 a year. Some parts can be pricey, but other than that, the teg is often cheaper to run than a lot of modern stuff, and far cheaper to run than your Scoobies and Evos of this world.
Quite practical too - its roomy, has a decent sized boot and can get 2 adults in the back, albeit with not a lot of head or leg room.
Before I drove it, I was sceptical about the praise that had been heeped upon it, but now that I have even after well over a year of ownership, I really do think it deserves the praise that it gets. Whatever happens in the future, I will be very happy that I got to own one of these cars.