Caterham Superlight R400 2006

Base Price: 2006 Caterham Superlight R400 – $53,000 / £29,495 (last update: 2/20/2007)
Photo Gallery 2006 Caterham Superlight R400

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British sportscar maker, Caterham, has revealed details of its latest racing-bred road car, the Superlight R400. This keenly anticipated new model uses the Seven’s classic formula of motorsport technology and minimalism to deliver a car weighing just 1157 lbs, capable of effortlessly sprinting out of the blocks to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.

The heart of the Seven is the new Cosworth-developed 2.0-liter powerplant that is mated, for the first time, to the legendary de Dion chassis.

Delivering an explosive 210 bhp at 7600 rpm – equivalent to a massive 400 bhp per ton – and 150 lb-ft of torque at 6300 rpm, the engine embodies Cosworth’s vast expertise in performance engine development. With its near-telepathic steering, muscular power delivery, and epic cornering ability, the R400 is a superlative car for the keen driver.

The Caterham Superlight R400 Offers Supercar Performance For Sensible Money. Mind You, Thats About All Thats Sensible About This Model. Andy Enright Reports

Before driving a Caterham Superlight R400, I had absolutely no idea how much a bumblebee hurts when it impacts your head with a 110mph closing velocity. Even with a crash helmet on, one dozy insect is enough to snap your neck back sharply and clout it against the high back seat but then I should have grown accustomed to this by now. It also happened every time I mashed the throttle pedal of this astonishingly rapid car.
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The R400 has long been the forgotten middle child of the Superlight range, offering neither the relative affordability of the R300 nor the ultimate headbanger appeal of the R500. Press reports that less is more when it came to Superlight ownership also did little to further this models cause. You may have seen the R400 before and wondered why its now in the news. The casual observer could look at this car and not see anything hugely different but a Caterham anorak would know that this generation R400 is massively different to its predecessor.

The introduction in 2005 of the CSR model marked a step change in the development of the Seven genre. With a beefier chassis and a better engine, the CSR260 was a more grown up, professional feeling car that had exorcised many of the old models irritations without losing the fun factor. The R400 is even more extreme, the 400 referring to the 400bhp per tonne power-to-weight ratio arrived at with a combination of a 210bhp powerplant and dry weight of just 525kg. Surely 210bhp is small beer when it comes to sports cars though? After all, some Vauxhall Astras better this figure by a good 30bhp.

This gives no clue as to the controlled savagery of the R400, a car which will outsprint a Porsche 911 GT3 to 60mph. The old R400 used a Rover K-Series based powerplant which, for obvious reasons, has been replaced in the latest car by a Cosworth-developed 2.0-litre engine thats now mated to the de Dion chassis. The R400 has provoked a flood of preorders, Caterham fans excited by the fact that this is the first new model from Caterham following the introduction of state of the art chassis construction techniques, which have resulted in a substantial 14% increase in torsional rigidity.

The increased stiffness translates to even greater real-world cornering performance and handling feel than before. This huge leap forward for Caterham has been unlocked through a switch to a new chassis supplier – Caged – who have invested heavily in sophisticated laser cutting and robot welding technology.

“The performance of this car can best be described as apocalyptic. Itll leave you shellshocked”

Although £29,495 isnt buying you a whole lot of metal, it does net you an enormous amount of capability and the expertise of some of the industrys most talented engineers. Its also cheaper than the outgoing R400 and quicker to boot. The torque response of this engine gives better lugging power if youre caught slightly off optimum revs, with peak power chiming in at 7,600rpm and the top of the torque curve arriving at 6,300rpm where youll see 150lb/ft. Not huge in absolute terms but significant in terms of torque-to-weight ratio.

On the move, youre astonished by the directness of the steering. Think of a line and the Superlight is on it, the dinner plate sized steering wheel sending the most delicious feedback to the driver. Everything seems alien. You can watch the front suspension doing its stuff and feel the car delicately shifting balance, your body mass perched almost on top of the rear axle.

At first, each tentative thrust of the accelerator merely results in gales of disbelieving laughter but confidence quickly builds followed by a feeling of invincibility. Driving a Superlight solely on the road is a little like buying a top line set of thirteen Ping golf clubs and using them exclusively at your local pitch and putt. Youre barely scraping the surface of the potential available. On a track, the Superlight suddenly makes all kinds of sense.

The tiny pedal box makes dancing between the pedals a delight and the stubby gear lever can be palmed around the six gears just for the sheer tactility involved. Above all, the handling astonishes. Everything youve heard is true. Tail slides that would usually generate entreaties to your maker in certain other cars become sought at every opportunity in the Superlight.

Its the ideal car to learn about the finer points of handling and the art of driving. The light weight of the car also means that it doesnt have a ravenous appetite for tyres nor does it return crippling fuel consumption figures during an enthusiastic session of lapping. The downside of Caterham ownership is the impracticality. Loiter around the showroom in Caterham (strangely enough) and youll encounter numerous hardy types who run one as their only car, dismissing as fey any complaints that its a bit uncompromising.

The doors fitted to the Superlight only barely justify the description, being vinyl flaps that affix with a popper and to which the door mirrors are attached. The rear view can therefore be a little fuzzy, the best tactic being to travel faster than any posterior hazard. The Superlight R400 has created a real buzz among Caterham enthusiasts and one of the most fervent fans of the marque is rock star Chris Rea, a long standing Seven owner. “When I heard about plans to introduce a replacement for the old R400, I simply had to have one!” said Rea. “The combination of Cosworth power and the Series 3 chassis delivers an adrenaline rush and a level of performance that I cannot resist.” Even the Road To Hell is probably pretty god fun if youve strapped on a Superlight R400.

Specifications

Type: Inline-4
Displacement cu in (cc): 122 (2000)
Power bhp (kW) at RPM: 210(157) / 7600
Torque lb-ft (Nm) at RPM: 150(203) / 6300
Redline at RPM: n.a.
Brakes & Tires
Brakes F/R: ABS, vented disc/disc
Tires F-R: R15
Driveline: Rear Wheel Drive
Exterior Dimensions & Weight
Length × Width × Height in: 120.9 × 61.4 × 31.2
Weight lb (kg): 1157 (525)
Performance
Acceleration 0-60 mph s: 3.8
Top Speed mph (km/h): 140 (225)
Fuel Economy EPA city/highway mpg (l/100 km): n.a.

Scribbled on December 31st 2007 in Miscellaneous, News, Pictures
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