Motoring review: Caterham Seven Supersport R
'Enough poke to give Mr Toad a heart attack'
Engine capacity: 2.0 litre 4 cylinder petrol
Power output (BHP @ rpm): 180 @ 7,300
Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 143 @ 6,100
Top speed (mph): 130
0-62 mph (seconds): 4.8
For a car that will do 0-62mph in less than five seconds the latest Caterham Supersport would be a surprisingly poor choice of getaway vehicle. Let me explain. I'm just under six foot and getting in and out of it is something of a challenge.
First up, you have to climb in without catching your trousers on the exhaust that runs down the right-hand side of the car. Then you have to squeeze yourself into the narrow plastic seats, where the lever to move it forward is helpfully tucked away underneath your bum.
Once in position, you then only have to struggle with the four-point racing harness. By this point you are sweating and will curse like a sailor when you realise you're so tightly strapped in you can't actually reach the canvas door to shut yourself in.
Worse still, you'll have left the detachable steering wheel (to stop pesky scamps pinching the car) back indoors. Spare a thought for my lofty co-driver Sam who is 6ft 4in and helped to put the Supersport R's dimensions to the test.
Thankfully, once you're packed in as snug as a bug in a rug, well, you'll cease to care about all that hassle. You'll be too busy trying not to smash it into a wall, off the road into a ditch, or even worse. That's right, the Caterham Supersport R is an absolute beast. She doesn't want you in her and she will try and kill you.
The original Seven wasn't best known for its pace. Sure, it was quick but it was most famous for its engaging handling and Heath Robinson charm (you can still opt to build this car yourself). Whereas the new Supersport R is very fast. In fact, it's blisteringly quick, kicking out a monstrous 180bhp. That might not sound like a lot to modern petrol- heads, but in such a lightweight car it fires along like a Bugatti Veyron speeding to a Louis Vuitton sample sale. And believe it or not there's an even more powerful Caterham – the CSR260, which gets 260bhp and will set you back close to £45k. What on earth is going on here? Mr Toad would have a heart attack.
All this poke means that earplugs are essential if you even want to think about putting the canvas roof on – somehow the roof works to blast the engine noise deeper into the vortex of your brain than you could ever imagine. It's little better with the roof off but what am I complaining about? With the wind in your hair on a crisp morning and an empty road ahead of you this car is a joy. It takes some commitment and actual driving skills – not just electric inputs – but thrashing along in this car is about as fun as it gets. Yes, the line between visceral thrills and outright terror is often blurred if you push it too hard but even at 30 miles an hour, there is fun to be had playing with the limits of traction.
There is a problem with all this fun though; it doesn't come cheap. And at £24,995 the Supersport R simply doesn't offer the affordable route to performance that Caterham has long been loved for. Really, you should only buy this car if you're a track-day warrior and are going to spend your Saturday mornings chasing other speed freaks. If you just want a weekend special for a morning blast on empty roads, the standard Seven will do just fine. It won't scare the bejesus out of you – or Mr Toad – either.
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