Let’s say that you want a very fast car. What might be the move? For most people, a BMW M3 qualifies as very fast, as does a Dodge Challenger Hellcat, as does a Chevrolet Corvette. But what if your brain looks like a friction circle? What if you measure tire life in days rather than miles? What if, whenever you approach a window, you’re overcome with the urge to lick it? If you’d rank setting a record at your local track above your wedding day on the ledger of life’s important moments, Ariel now has the car for you. It’s called the Atom 4R; it was unveiled at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, and it’s definitely not for casuals.
Under the, hmm, well it isn’t a hood per se, sits a K20C1 two-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine from a Honda Civic Type R boosted to 400 horsepower. That’s a big figure, so here’s a small one for contrast: 1,250. That’s the weight of this Atom in pounds. Divide one by the other and you end up with a mere 3.125 pounds per horsepower. That’s more power-to-the-weight than a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. If you’d expect that to require some serious supporting hardware, you’d be absolutely right.
A Quaife six-speed sequential gearbox lets a keen driver bang off supersonic upshifts without using the clutch and can drop five full gears in less than one second. Öhlins TTX36 dampers forged by Swedish wizards take the place of standard units. Optional wings the size of park benches look set to epoxy this minimalist machine to the track, never mind standard glue. If that all sounds impressive, wait until you hear this: Ariel has somehow managed to shave weight from the Atom, which is a bit like drawing water from an empty glass.
Yes, the Ariel Atom 4R comes with carbon fiber wheels and carbon ceramic brakes that shave rotating unsprung mass, 57.3 pounds of it to be precise. That might not sound like much, but we are talking about an intercontinental ballistic piece of scaffolding here, rather than a comfy cushy road car with air-con and all that.
As for straight-line speed, zero-to-60 is claimed to come up in 2.7 seconds, good enough to keep up with most supercars. Find a stretch of tarmac without limitations, and you’ll leave pretty much any comparably-priced car in the dust with a zero-to-100 mph time under 6.5 seconds. Phenomenally quick figures, but what did you expect from half a ton of boost, grit, and speed? If, for any reason whatsoever, you want less speed, Ariel will kindly let you dial the boost back to lower power levels, which seems unusually sensible for such an unhinged machine. I guess you can’t become a repeat customer if your insides end up spattered across three counties like a Jackson Pollock painting after misjudging a corner that definitely shouldn’t be taken flat.
So, the Ariel Atom 4R is obscenely fast, unbelievably light, and packs hardware grassroots racing teams would dream of. Did you really expect anything else? However, what you might not expect is the price tag. This hardcore skeletal monster doesn’t cost $150,000. It doesn’t even cost $100,000. It will only set you back £64,950 before VAT, or $85,030 at current conversion rates. That’s Porsche 718 Cayman S with a handful of options money. Sure, you aren’t getting a windscreen, respect from aspiring laymen, or anywhere at all without being at least a bit sweaty, but you also aren’t getting much faster for the money. Are you brave enough?
(Photo credits: Ariel Motor Company)
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