MAR 20th 2015

Review ‑ Radical RXC500, We Drive The Future Nurburgring Record Holder

What do you think of manufacturers endlessly spouting Nurburgring lap times? I think my Fonzie jumps the shark moment came earlier in the year when Porsche announced its two tonne Cayenne had lapped the old Nordschleife in under eight minutes. Next there’ll be a lap record for people movers driven by left-wing pantomime horses on a Tuesday.

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But one record still counts in the road car arena: the fastest lap by any car entitled to wear a number plate. And for these last ten years, despite all the increasingly hyper cars that have been there, that record has been held by Radical. Six years ago, Michael Vergers broke his own record by lapping an SR8 in 6min 48sec, since then nothing road legal has gone any faster. Of course those who’ve failed to get near this mark have sniffed and dismissed the Radical as a racing car made road legal for the attempt. But they won’t be able to say the same about the car in which Radical will drive out to Germany this summer to put the record even further beyond reach. The Radical RXC500 you’re looking at now is Type Approved for sale throughout Europe.

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Essentially the car is the RXC coupe introduced a couple of years back with its one weakness removed. For the balance of its chassis and, more particularly, the downforce of its bodywork, the RXC had the potential to be one of the most remarkable road cars ever created – were it not for the wholly inadequate 350bhp of its normally-aspirated, Mustang derived motor. Well that’s now gone and in its place sits another V6, this time a 3.5-litre, twin turbo Ford Ecoboost engine giving, wait for it, 530bhp. If I tell you Radical claims a 0-60mph time of 2.6sec, you’ll have an idea of the level of available performance.

‘The engine becomes merely the vehicle to get you to the speeds at which the Radical does stuff which, for the money, is simply unfathomable.’

But while it looks like a racing car and broadly goes like a racing car, in certain key respects, it’s not like a racing car at all, and not just because its allowed on the road. Most notably it’s extremely comfortable. All 6ft 4in of me slips behind the wheel with space to spare, even with a helmet on. There’s an equally comfortable padded chair for a passenger too, and you don’t get too many of those in racing cars. And yes, bizarre as it sounds, there’s air conditioning in here too.

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The acceleration is encouragingly brutal, but after a few laps of the wide open spaces of the Silverstone GP circuit it’s curious how fast you get used to it; because the engine doesn’t sound that great, and develops peak power at just 6100rpm, it becomes merely the vehicle to get you to the speeds at which the Radical does stuff which, by the standard of any road car available for remotely similar money, is simply unfathomable.

Its brakes are amazing, but you need them less than you think because the car’s apex speed through Silverstone’s many quick turns is almost unbelievable for a road car. Most of the time you just don’t need to slow that much: even at the end of the Hangar Straight where the car is showing better than 160mph in fifth, you need merely one short, sharp stab at the pedal and one flick of the downshift paddle (no need for the clutch in either direction) before flinging it in. The only road car I’ve driven with downforce like it is the McLaren P1 and while that’s far more powerful, so too is it also perhaps a third of a tonne heavier.

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In slower corners the RXC is less pulverisingly quick because it relies more on mechanical than aerodynamic grip, but whether it feels inclined to over or understeer will depend largely on how you choose to set it up.

The bad news is the RXC500 is priced at £143,500, placing it far out of the reach of most of us. But given the resources it places at your disposal, it’s hard to quibble the cost. I think it will be provide more than adequately civilised surroundings in which to travel to the Nurburgring and if the weather and track conditions are right, I expect it to not merely break Radical’s own record, but smash it to pieces.

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Also hot off the Radical presses is the new Spyder – the fastest racing car this manufacturer of conspicuously fast racing cars makes. It uses the same spaceframe chassis as the RXC but is powered by Radical’s own 2.9-litre V8 race engine, giving 440bhp at 10,000rpm. It may be less powerful than the 530bhp RXC but so too at 900kg is it a quarter of a tonne lighter. And, with no need to set foot on a public road, it can be set up for track work alone.

Even in a straight line, it’s quicker than the RXC because it actually has a better power to weight ratio, and where the RXC’s turbo motor wheezes and whirrs, the Spyder’s howls, screams and shrieks its way to 10k in gear after gear. While ultimate downforce levels are not that much greater than the RXC’s, that has to be put in the context of how much less weight there is needing to be persuaded to change direction.

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If you drove the RXC and someone told you there was another car built on the same architecture that could actually make it feel a trifle cumbersome, you’d laugh until your head fell off. But the Spyder does. It turns in like a slot racer and if you’ve not got a proper insert moulded to the shape of your body, the force with which you are slammed into the side of the seat will mean you’ll hurt for days. I know I did.

Like most of us I am not keen on having pain inflicted upon me, but on this occasion, getting out of car feeling like I’d been given a light going over in a dark alley by a bunch of mildly psychotic ne’er do wells actually felt a price well worth paying.

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