A call to Ariel always yields interesting news, especially as it’s often the MD himself who picks up the phone. Today boss Simon Saunders had big news to share, so our timing was perfect.
We have known for a while that the good chaps in Crewkerne have been flat out on a load of new stuff for this year, including ways to keep the Atom at the top of its game. Now we know how. Meet the 3.5R, latest iteration of the lightweight road/track car that ramps up performance, and driver focus, even more.
The 3.5R stays with the Honda Type R 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that has put in such nuclear performance for Ariel in the past, but – in response to customer requests, they say – gets a sequential ‘box with paddle-shift of the sort that Ariel first used on the V8 Atom.
Simon tells us that with supercharger boost turned up from 7.5psi to 11psi power jumps to 350bhp at 8400rpm with 243lb ft of twist (at 6100rpm) “and with no loss of Ariel reliability”. That will be sweet news for the many Ariel drivers who use Goodwood on a regular basis and already know how reliable the Atom is.
Quick enough to keep hypercars honest
Quick? Of course. Good enough to keep your McLaren, Porsche or Ferrari hypercar honest, to 100mph anyway. Simon reckons 0-62mph in 2.5 secs and the ton in six.
That’s 350bhp in a car weighing just 550kg for you, but as well as the bald figures it is clear Ariel have gone to lengths to sharpen the whole driving experience. That new gearbox for instance offers clutchless changes, with no-lift-off upchanges going through in less than 40 milliseconds. The pneumatic paddle-shifters can make five downshifts in less than a second, says Simon. Slightly unnecessary at a fast circuit like Goodwood perhaps – there aren’t many first gear corners here after all – but impressive all the same.
The ‘box is a new Sadev six-speeder race unit. Different gearsets are available (we’ll have the tall one please) and the limited slip diff is adjustable – as of course is the wishbone suspension, newly equipped for the 3.5R with bespoke Ohlins dampers and a choice of Ohlins springs. All this and brakes too: 290mm vented discs with four-pot callipers front and rear.
There’s bit of a new look to the body, what little there is of it, but the new car is really set apart when it comes with the option of side pods. One houses the charge cooler, t’other the oil cooler. Simon says you could drive all day around Goodwood and inlet and exhaust temps wouldn’t flicker.
The 3.5R isn’t the cheapest Atom (that’s still the base model at £26,300 plus VAT) but then you already guessed that. Try £54k, plus VAT. That’s without options – and there are a lot of those available, making every 3.5R unique says Simon. You could still have a dozen 3.5Rs for one McLaren P1.
Ultimate track day weapon? It’s got to be up there. Wonder what this hypercar slayer will do in one of our Hillclimb Roadtests? Now that’s gotta be worth finding out.
The problem is though, when ours was delivered the hillclimb course was awash with various contractors preparing for the Festival of Speed. We had to find another venue where it could stretch its legs…
Photography: Nicole Hains