Jul 25, 2008

Caterham R500

Is the Caterham the biggest hit of bowel-slackening adrenaline you can buy on four wheels?
Probably, yes. The new Caterham R500 has a lot to live up to: the original version set acceleration records and scared the wits out of anyone bold enough to strap themselves into its anorexic structure. And yet this new R500 is more powerful, and more sophisticated than ever before, but it also aims to be more friendly - still offering the same thrills, but with a useable softer side.
The results are an emphatic success. With a 2.0 litre Ford Duratec engine tuned to an incredible 263bhp, and a chassis assembled from thinner gauge aluminium and carbon fibre, the R500 actually beats the 500bhp per ton ratio that provides its name.

You can order your R500 with a windscreen and a normal six-speed manual gearbox, but for the full sensory assault grab a crash helmet, order the tiny carbon aero screens that flip the air over your head. Fork out an additional £2,950 for the six speed sequential race gearbox: push the lever to go down the gears; pull back to go up them, all in an instant.

Driven 'normally' the R500 is an event: the heat, the wild sound from engine, exhaust and gears, the rush of air over you, the telepathic feel through the steering and chassis.

But really push the engine as hard as you can and the R500 is so fast you can hardly see; so manically accelerative that you'll be screaming profanities into your visor. Imagine what 0-60mph in just 2.9 seconds feels like.

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