Okay, now this one, you can definitely file under “insanely impractical—but so what?”
A little while ago we had the pleasure of piloting an Ariel Atom over the winding roads that encircle Lake Tahoe. Displaying absolutely amazing grip, outstanding stability and brutal acceleration, that Atom romped about with a 300-horsepower supercharged in-line four-cylinder engine from a Honda Civic Type-R in its butt. Now, 300 horsepower is pretty significant for any car. But in a car that weighs a mere 1,350 pounds, 300 horsepower is Herculean.
Giving that car full throttle felt like one of those facial-deforming rocket sled acceleration tests designed to measure the limits of human endurance. Our unofficial timing clocked a sub-three-second 60. And now, because uh, you know, stupefying is never good enough, Ariel is offering the Lilliputian car with a 500-horsepower V-8 engine.
Yes, you read that correctly, this little dart of a car is now rocking a power to weight ratio in excess of 900 brake horsepower per ton. By way of comparison, the Ferrari Enzo has 434 bhp per ton and the Bugatti Veyron commands 530 bhp per ton.
In other words, you get the power to weight ratio of a Grand Prix racing car in a package you can legally drive on the street. The engine is a three-liter normally aspirated affair with a flat plane crank, forged pistons, chain-driven double overhead cams with four valves per cylinder, and it will rev to 10,500 rpm. The all-alloy engine also features dry sump lubrication, eight throttle bodies with sequential fuel injection and a ceramic-coated stainless steel exhaust system.
A Sadev six-speed sequential race gearbox with an adjustable limited slip differential and customizable gearsets conducts power transmission to the rear wheels. Shifting is actuated by a paddle airshift system capable of firing off 40-millisecond upshifts and 50-millisecond downshifts. You can get the transmission down to first gear from sixth in less than a second. Automatic shifting is supported as well. The transmission also permits no-lift shifts. This, when coupled with that 500-bhp V-8—well—just make sure you’re pointed where you want to go when you hit it hard pal.
The Atom’s unique exoskeletal frame, Cialis-like in its rigidity (because you definitely want to be ready when the time is right), allows you to see practically all of the mechanical components of the car in operation. If you dare to take your eye off the road, you can see the suspension compressing, the wheels changing direction in concert with the steering wheel’s movements, and the levers attached to the pedals articulating through their ranges of motion.
With no windscreen, the wind whips completely unimpeded around your exposed face. A full-face helmet is recommended—but not required. Still, if you don’t want to wind up all teary-eyed from the slipstream, you might want to at least opt for a pair of goggles. As you can see, this car is strictly about driving. No radio is offered (you couldn’t hear it anyway), nor is there heat nor A/C. The seats are hard plastic and the instrumentation, while very thoroughly informative, is best characterized as elemental.
Built in England, the Atom could best be thought of as a motorcycle with four wheels—although anyone has yet to build a bike that will keep up with it. Ariel’s U.S. distributor, TMI AutoTech—located in Alton, Virginia—says only 25 iterations of the Ariel Atom 500 V-8 will be offered.
Pricing is approximately $190,000.
If you’re thinking to pop for one, do yourself a favor—get the optional helmet.