The all-new Ariel Atom has appeared before its public for the first time at Goodwood. After 18 years of Atoms, the fourth-generation represents a back-to-the-drawing-board moment for the two-seat road racer from Somerset.
New tubular chassis, new aero, new 2.0-litre turbo engine, new bodywork and new suspension all feature. Not much else left to change then, and as Ariel chief engineer Tom Ward and Atom 4 lead engineer Sam Evans told GRR when we caught up with them on the Ariel stand at the Festival of Speed, only a handful of parts have been carried over from its predecessor.
The £40,000 rival for cars like the Caterham and BAC Mono is on static display and going up the hill, with Ariel’s test driver at the helm. A supercar? 0-60 is despatched in just 2.8 seconds and it will get to 100mph in under seven seconds…
“It’s a purer driving experience than ever,” Tom told us. “It’s still quite raw but a lot more friendly to drive and phenomenal now the way it pulls through corners.”
It’s the turbocharged unit from the latest Honda Type R, with 320bhp, so slightly up on the previous model. The first Atom in 1999 was Rover K-series engined but since then we have used Honda power and Honda has been very good to us.
Does the new engine change the car’s character?
It does. It’s still quite raw performance but the noise is new, changed from supercharged whine to lots of bangs and whistles for a very exciting sound. The engine doesn’t rev as far - 7200rpm is the limit now - but with 320 Nm there’s more torque than before. This engine is the future for us now.
Will you put this turbo engine into the Nomad as well?
No plans to do that.
The new pod behind the driver’s head looks a bit F1 car inspired…
We did a lot of aero work on the car and found we could generate a helluva lot more downforce at the rear with the roll hoop shrouded by that new air intake pod. The airflow is a lot cleaner now. The aeroscreens generate downforce too, but a normal screen will be available. The car is all about extreme power to weight but downforce has improved over the previous car.
No need for a big wing at the back?
That will be an option. Along with a front wing.
What other options?
Carbon wheels and a turbo boost upgrade are likely but no details yet.
How has the new car’s handling changed?
The car is a lot more friendly to drive, more balanced and phenomenally well planted. We worked on the handling massively. There’s new suspension points, new uprights and we have incorporated new anti-squat and anti-dive.
No electronic help?
We have traction control, which you can turn off, but no ABS or stability control. The Atom is about the purest driving experience.
Is the car new inside as well?
There are new seats and new instruments, and there’s more room. I am over 6ft and used to sit slightly off the seat with knees up, but now there’s no problem at all. It’s much better for taller drivers now.