Sure, the modern bare-bones open sports cars like the Ariel Atom and KTM X-Bow get all the attention these days, but some of us here at Autoblog still think that the 50-year-old Lotus Seven design in use by the speed fiends at Caterham is the way to go. After all, you simply can't argue with the performance the automaker regularly delivers to its customers.
Further proof arose this week with the launch of the astounding Superlight R400. Sporting a more rigid frame and a 2.0L Ford Duratec four-cylinder tuned in-house by Caterham Motorsport, the car has 210 horsepower on tap. Don't sniff at it. The R400 weighs in at a paltry 1,157 pounds and races to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. Shifts come courtesy of a six-speed manual, and the car's race-inspired themes are reinforced with features such as carbon-fiber fenders, a quick-release steering wheel, and 4-point belts. Does it look old? Yes. That's part of the attraction. Well... that and the fact that this simple, decades-old design is still capable of taking on the best modern automotive machinery out there and leaving it in its dust.
Full details and UK pricing can be found in the release after the jump.
[Source: Caterham Cars]
MOTORSPORT INSPIRED R400 UNLEASHED BY CATERHAM
Fifty years after Colin Chapman unveiled the first Seven, Caterham launches the latest in a long line of pure racing-bred British sportscars, the Superlight R400.
Inspired by the track, and designed for the road, the R400 packs a mighty 400bhp per tonne punch thanks to the introduction of an engine tuned in-house by Caterham Motorsport.
The new heartbeat of the legendary R400 is a 210bhp 2.0 litre Ford Duratec based unit that delivers a perfect balance of power and effortless performance. From a standing start, it will reach the magic 60mph mark in less than 3.8 seconds, well into supercar performance territory.
But it's not just about power.
The Caterham Motorsport badged powerplant, incorporating a bespoke plenum chamber, achieves excellent reliability, good fuel economy, smooth running at high engine speeds and a strong torque output, all of which combine to unlock an adrenaline-fuelled driving experience.
The all-alloy unit produces a staggering 152lbs ft of torque at just 5,750 rpm. Even at 4,000 rpm the R400 will transfer an impressive 140lbs ft to the rear axle – that's a full 16 percent more than the outgoing K-Series powered model at the same level.
The Seven design may be celebrating its 50th birthday this year, but the level of ride and handling in the R400 has been further honed from its already benchmark status.
Mated to the all-new robot-jig welded chassis, the R400 provides the driver with even more confidence to plant the legendary sportscar into corners. The rigidity of the spaceframe has increased by 12 percent and the greatly reduced flex provides improved grip, improved feedback to the driver and ultimately more speed on the track. This chassis performance gain is delivered with no weight penalty and the R400 retains its featherweight 525kg overall mass.
The torque characteristics of the R400 powerplant provide instant performance, and more than ever before there is an emphasis on ensuring all the messages from the road are faithfully transmitted to the driver through the suspension and steering.
An improved progressive feel to the rear suspension has been achieved through no fewer than 30 changes to the dampers, including improvements by Bilstein to reduce rod to guide friction levels, plus optimisation on the anti-roll bars and road springs (front 170 lb/in, rear 140 – 250 lb/in).
Sitting purposefully on bespoke Avon CR500 tyres and 15" Caterham-designed alloys, the new R400 is fitted with a limited slip differential, 6-speed gearbox, wet sump and composite bucket race seats as standard.
For those venturing regularly on the track, the R400 will also feature the option of an exclusive Caterham-designed dry-sump system to provide added protection from oil surges at high speed.
The Superlight engineering team, which includes Dave Minter, the man responsible for ride and handling development for the Lotus Elise, and David Taitt, a world renowned powertrain expert, have remained true to Chapman's design philosophy of performance through low weight and superlative ride and handling.
Carbon-fibre front cycle wings are matched by a carbon-fibre dash, Momo quick-release steering wheel, road 4-point harness, gear change lights, ventilated front discs and 4-point callipers plus Caterham's legendary Superlight suspension to present an undiluted racetrack inspired package.
Prices for the R400 start at £25,995, which is over £1,700 less than the out-going K-Series powered model. On sale now.
Engine 2.0-litre Caterham Motorsport Ford Duratec
Max Power 210bhp @7800
Max Torque 152lbsft @ 5750
0-60mph 3.8 secs
Top Speed 140mph
Overall length 3100mm
Overall width 1575mm
Ground clearance 80mm
1. 2.0-litre Caterham Motorsport Ford Duratec
2. 6 Speed Caterham Gearbox
3. Limited Slip Differential
4. Superlight Suspension (wide track front and de Dion rear with Watts linkages)
5. Carbon front cycle wings
6. Carbon dash
7. ACES change-up lights
8. Black pack
9. Ventilated front brake discs with 4 pot calipers
10. 15" Anthracite Alloy Wheels with Avon CR500 tyres
11. Composite interchangeable wind deflector
12. 4 point Road Harnesses
13. Quick-release Momo Steering Wheel
14. Composite seats