Results 1 to 10 of 10
Like Tree1Likes
  • 1 Post By Atommatt

Thread: Motor Trend comparison Ariel Atom 3.5r vs 2017 Caterham 620

  1. #1
    Lepton cvjoint's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    487
    Country
    United States

    Motor Trend comparison Ariel Atom 3.5r vs 2017 Caterham 620

    What are your thoughts on the comparison?
    https://www.motortrend.com/news/2017...-caterham-620/

    I simply don't understand why the Atom is not coming up as a winner in all the comparisons with the Caterham. It's a superior machine through and through in attaining speeds and smiles.

    To make things even more obscure, I simply did not hear any detail as to why they picked the Catherham. All I see is that the Atom matched P1's time even in semi damp conditions which is utterly extraordinary.

    I can venture a guess that the front engine design of the Catherham makes it easier to drive at the limit. But what is that limit and how does the Atom drive if you slowed it down enough ~10 frikking seconds a lap to go at Catherham speed?

    My 2013 chassis does have a bit of understeer with most wheel/tire setups but that's fine by me. I try to get max G out of every turn and I'm not afraid to push it because of it. It allows enough confidence to focus on the slip angle. After all the rear engine is an ace coming out of turns where you apply power and feel how nicely it loads the rears.

  2. #2
    Lepton Atommatt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    430
    Blog Entries
    1
    Country
    United States
    The Atom looks like a nice expensive running shoe compared to the Caterham which looks like a old worn out boot.
    sector: 4 likes this.

  3. #3
    Electron
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    113
    Country
    United States
    Having never driven a Caterham its hard for me speculate but I'll bet they are a ton of fun, especially the 620 - its a bonkers machine. I'm biased and thus prefer the Atom but either car is the essence of light weight fun and world class performance. I'll take one of each please.

  4. #4
    Lepton cvjoint's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    487
    Country
    United States
    I've seen one at our track events. Maybe the owner would want to swap so I can drive it.

    Have you seen an Exocet yet? It's a Miata underpinnings based light weight car. Everyone says it's a budget Atom but given the front engine orientation it strikes me more as a budget Caterham.

    If the mechanics are similar to a Miata, I would think the Catherham is instantly rewarding. It's easy to drive a Miata well over the limit of its grip. It makes you feel like a hero driver. You can have really sloppy corrections but the Miata gives you plenty opportunity to adjust. But in reality, an Atom actually requires a hero driver and when one is at the wheel you get to see some hero laps as well.

    So is it that Caterhams are rated really high because of how it makes the driver feel despite the fact that in actuality the Atom is the one that rewards the most?
    Last edited by cvjoint; July 31, 2018 at 11:04 AM.

  5. #5
    Electron
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    113
    Country
    United States
    As a matter of fact I saw two Exocets this past weekend at Summit Point in West Virginia. They were in different run group so never got on track with them, nor did I get a chance to talk with the drivers. I did look one over when it was parked near classroom and it was done up very nicely, builder really did a clean job. Unfortunately one of them stuffed the front end into the tire wall, ending his day early.

    Having owned a Miata, I agree on the easy to drive - combo of light weight, great balance and low horsepower makes even rookies feel like track day heros. You have very little worry about the rear end swapping places with the front (unlike our beloved Atom). Wet skid pad is a blast, simple to do a tail out drift all the way around, way easier than most other cars. The Excocet is probably just like it.

    Matt Farah (Smoking Tire on YouTube) does 'One Takes' (a series of videos where he drives a car up and down a canyon in California). He did a video on the Exocet. He has also driven the Atom (I can't find the vid now on YouTube but I remember him driving an Atom 2 on track). In the Exocet video he talks about how he prefers it over the Atom - saying how much more stable and easy to drive it is. LOL. Its funny: for you and me and probably most track junkies - the hard to drive nature of the Atom is exactly what makes us love them so much. It feels like taming the beast. There is a certain pride and feeling of accomplishment in being able to do it well.

    This past weekend I let a good friend drive my SRA while I sat right seat. He's a good driver - owns both Vette and Miata. An instructor who has done performance driving for years. His initial impressions were pretty funny and probably echo mine from the time I first drove one. Didn't really like it. Throttle is an on/off switch. Brakes require tremendous effort. Pedal box is very narrow. Extremely twitchy as if it's saying: "faster, faster...I can't stand this slow stuff". I had to laugh.

  6. #6
    Lepton cvjoint's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    487
    Country
    United States
    There was an Exocet last track day here as well. Same deal though, they never run in advanced/open passing. The only time I was on top of one was in autocross. Even on dead cold R7s in autocross the Atom was untouchable. I like the idea of the Exocet. Though if I was going to build a steel frame for a production car rolling stock, I would start with something like a Cayman. Executed properly I guess it wouldn't be that different than the Atom would it?

    I did this back to back Autocross day with one of my ex's. She had a Miata auto at that time and I had a C7 Z06 M7. I would drive the vette then she would, then we'd jump in the Miata. It's incredible how easy it is to go fast even in an auto Miata at intricate cone courses. In fact, she was faster in the Miata than in the 'vette. I had the Vette basically optimized for autocross by sheer chance. First gear went to 70+mph on some 60 thread 345 section Corsas that heat up fast. I beat the Miata time, but not by more than 3 seconds. Sure a lifetime, but I would have expected at least 10 seconds. I was 4 car lengths farther along just by launching the Vette to the first turn. The ex said she has a new found passion for Miatas after that, and I see the appeal.

    That said, yes a true junkie should like the Atom more than anything that drives as easy as a Miata. It's the tradeoffs in design that make the Atom faster but also a bit more challenging. That to me is nirvana, because when you do tame the wild horse it does not compare to the domestic counterpart. You sort of have to grow with it.

    The first session of every track day is calibration time. It takes some getting used to converting from the experience of driving a heavy street car with soft everything and pedals not spaced for heal and toe to the tip of the needle Atom. But come second session, the Atom is like a Valerian steel armor that covers only your privates. It's the quick and agile warrior that can win every battle against giants but you can't lose focus!

  7. #7
    Electron
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    113
    Country
    United States
    I re-watched the Motor Trend Head to Head episode of Atom 3.5R vs Caterham 620. The episode starts out with Johnny L. driving the 620R on the street, in rain and hail. No windscreen or roof. Sequential shifter. Totally bonkers car. At the end of that sequence Johnny pretty much hates the car and is saying how much he hates sequential shifters and how the close ratio box required constant shifting and made his hand sore. The 3.5R, by the way, has paddle shifters. Then they go to the track. But now they compare the Atom to a different Caterham - the 620S. Same engine but with windscreen, H-pattern shifter, wider tranny ratios, softer suspension. Both Johnny and Jethro agree that the 3.5R is an awesome, beastie of a car and complete track weapon but they pick the 620S as the winner of the head to head. They really don't give much reason one way or the other but I was left thinking they prefer the 620S precisely because its the more classic option - especially with the windscreen and H-pattern. They never mention the Atom as being more difficult to drive than the Caterham. They really loved both cars but had to pick a winner and classic won out over freaky science.

  8. #8
    Lepton cvjoint's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    487
    Country
    United States
    So what you are saying is that it was the option list that made the 620S a winner. I'm pretty sure you can get an Atom 3.5R with windscreen and H-pattern stick! Shame on Motor Trend.

  9. #9
    Electron
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    113
    Country
    United States
    Yep - the 'comfort' options seemed to be what swayed their opinion. They didn't make the same concession for the Atom. Thats ok, we know who the real winner is.

  10. #10
    Down Quark
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Posts
    7
    Country
    United States
    If it was down to preference, then that is unfortunate they didn't pick up as similar as possible, knowing both cars have the optional gearboxes. Maybe they should have taken a 3S? Ha.

Similar Threads

  1. 2017 Ariel Nomad
    By delta in forum US Atoms for Sale
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: July 24, 2018, 03:54 PM
  2. 2017 Ariel Atom 3 Turbo - Carbon Fiber Edition - FOR SALE
    By FourFather in forum US Atoms for Sale
    Replies: 23
    Last Post: September 29, 2017, 11:35 AM
  3. Eddie FourFather Hill and his Ariel Atom 3 demonstrator at Hallett Motor Raceway
    By FourFather in forum General Ariel Atom Discussion (for all UK and US versions)
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: April 23, 2015, 04:50 PM
  4. Replies: 12
    Last Post: January 13, 2013, 09:43 AM
  5. Team Lotus Buys Caterham Cars - Might Ariel be Next?
    By Kim in forum General Ariel Atom Discussion (for all UK and US versions)
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: April 28, 2011, 06:44 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •