No, your eyes are not deceiving you! Ariel have indeed gone completely bonkers and fitted a bespoke V8 engine to the already madly fast, and madly exciting Ariel Atom. The Atom is a refined vehicle that actually works on the road, allowing it to represent the best track day experience. This new V8 version takes crazy to new heights thanks to minimal weight and 500HP – that may not sound like much, but when you consider that the car weighs as much as a postage stamp on a diet, things start to get very extreme indeed.
The Ariel Atom is sort of like a lean, mean, sophisticated bare knuckle boxer that has mastered all forms of martial arts. Lean and mean because of its no frills, barely-there construction; sophisticated because it’s clever; and bare knuckled because it’s raw and uncensored. Something like a Gallardo Superleggera, which can be described in the same context as a WWE Superstar – all drama, flash and very capable - can still be considered slightly under talented in comparison to the Atom. As powerful, but three times heavier than this new Atom V8, anything in the Gallardo’s league, and in fact higher, would flounder against it on pretty much any given stretch of road or track.
Production for this amazing machine will be limited to just 25 units - each getting a commemorative plaque and unique engine to match.
Hit the jump for the full details on the Ariel Atom V8 500
What’s the Point?
If you thought the previous Atoms were a hoot to drive, this one is completely on another level. Ariel’s philosophy is simple; build a car that has an uncompromising bias towards all-round performance and then, make it usable and driveable on a daily basis. Let’s be honest, anyone who can afford the $225 000 price tag is not going to want to drive this boisterous weapon to the shops. They probably have a Bentley or Mercedes for that. The thinking behind this mad machine, and all other road-going track day weapons, is so that you can get in, drive to your local track and obliterate everything in sight, and then drive home. On your way out you can point and laugh at all the “losers” still loading up their cars on trailers for the arduous trek back to wherever it is they came from.
The Atom V8 is clearly set apart form its stable mates thanks to its powder coated gold tubular chassis – a characteristic reserved for this Limited Edition. Matching gold five-spoke wheels confirm that you’re looking at V8 and so does the new carbon fiber aero package.
If you happen to find one on your rear-view mirror, the first thing that strikes you is the familiar Ariel F1-inspired nose, with a carbon front splitter. Next up would be more anodized gold of the space frame chassis, flanked by two large cooling ducts on either side. As you move over to give way, it becomes apparent that the buzzing beast next you is actual still quite compact before the large, adjustable rear wing and beautifully made exhaust blast past you in a frenzy of high-revving madness. Despite the fact that you can see through it, the chassis has high levels of occupant safety that do well to inspire confidence when conditions become challenging, which is more than we can say for the large fire extinguisher next to the driver!
In the world of Ariel, things like doors, a windscreen, and roof are considered unnecessary – let alone creature comforts like air-conditioning and a stereo. So let’s focus on the more serious stuff like the new LCD instrumentation that has a host of clever features. The LCD is more than just a read out for you to keep an eye on vitals like engine temperatures and pressures, revs, and current speed, but also features a gear indicator, integrated shift light, and complete data logging facilities. The last feature is the slickest of the lot, allowing hardcore boffin-types to compare telemetry from your escapades. This race-inspired addition can be utilized in different ways such as looking for that extra tenth-of-a-second round Silverstone or showing off to your mates how quickly you can get to 60mph – probably an attribute most would never use, but a neat feature nonetheless. Behind the fancy display and gear shift paddles are switchgear that manage the adjustable traction and launch controls, wet or dry settings, and ferocity of the gearbox. The bucket seats don’t look very inviting, but are actually quite cozy and surprisingly comfortable after you clamber your way inside. We wouldn’t recommend that you do 1000 miles at a time in them, but they are more than manageable over short distances.
Visible from the outside, the inboard pushrod suspension of the Atom has been uprated for the V8 with a chromoly aerofoil section, and new wishbones and pushrods. As you would expect, the dampers and springs have been given an upgrade as well. The most notable improvements are the lightweight aluminum monotubes with remote reservoirs giving 3-way individual adjustment for compression and rebound strokes. The springs can also be adjusted for stiffness in four different ways. In short, the suspension on the V8 is just as adjustable as any pro racecar, ensuring the full-on drivers find the perfect setup, no matter where they are or what they require.
On to the most exciting part of the new car – the engine. And what an engine it is! Apart from how compact and ultra-lightweight it is, the Hartley-built 3.0 liter unit is also efficient and a masterpiece of engineering. The powerplant is specially made for Ariel and features design influence from their top engineer, Steve Alford, so much so that it actually bears their name. The goal was to take the 2.4 liter original version and make it more usable on the road with a near-flat torque curve that makes in-gear acceleration brutal, which one can be assured, is no easy feat. And they have succeeded – brilliantly.
The V8 is actually derived from mating two Suzuki Hayabusa engines, featuring specifications usually reserved for the track rather than the road. They include a flat-plane crank, dry sump lubrication, forged internals, individual throttle bodies with sequential injection, and a 10,500RPM rev limit! All of this translates into 500HP and 284lbft at 7750RPM – staggering considering the size of the thing.
The exhaust is superbly built and is a sight to behold - it also has ceramic coating to increase efficiency and minimize heat. The boys at Ariel tried using the RST V8 from the Caterham Levante, but found it a bit too aggressive in the power delivery – a symptom that usually plagues high horsepower turbo engines. That made it a handful during every day driving conditions – something that Ariel was deliberately trying to avoid. Power is transferred to the road via a six speed sequential Sadev gearbox – the very same found in touring cars – and owners can choose the ratios they require, depending on their needs. Ariel says that with the longer ratios fitted, 200mph would be no problem at all. With the Atom being exposed to the elements at that sort of speeds, this is the closest you can get to a single seater race car short of actually getting into something like a GP2 racer! Like all sequential boxes these days, changing gear is a effortless exercise via a paddles behind the steering wheel. The French Sadev unit makes use of an airshift system which makes up-changes in 40 milliseconds and down-changes in 50 milliseconds – both faster than you can blink. The ability to upshift without lifting the throttle coupled with 500HP make for absolute and unrelenting acceleration, which brings us to the performance.
At this point you’re thinking that this car is fast, but not much faster than some of the other track day specials on offer, but you’d be wrong. Unofficially, Ariel reckons this V8 atom will go from zero to 60mph in 2.3 seconds, making this the fastest accelerating production car on the planet, on its way to a true 168mph (with “standard” ratios – available longer ones can get to 200mph). The secrets to its performance lay in the fact that it only weighs 550kg (1213lbs), has great traction thanks to sticky semi-slick tires, seamless gear shifting, and of course, 500HP. A quick moment’s arithmetic reveals a power-to-weight ratio of 909hp per tonne! That’s over 250hp per tonne more than a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport! Other yard sticks in the power-to-weight ratio rankings absolutely boggle the mind. For example, the Koenigsegg Agera brings with it 705hp per tonne, while the GP2 race car produces “only” 850hp per tonne.
Hit the loud pedal and the Atom shoves you into the seat like a big-built, over enthusiastic lap dancer, hell bent on making you scream – and scream you will! It’s like going from standstill to warp speed instantly. The sensation of speed is immense – largely due to you being six inches off the ground and at the mercy of Mother Nature in all her fury. Make sure you have the visor of your helmet down, unless you enjoy bugs for breakfast, that is. Come what may, on any given stretch of road, and vehicles will not have a hope in hell of passing the Atom V8. The experience is pure, unadulterated, and as primeval as it gets. It is the fastest thing on four wheels that has valid license plates and we utterly salute the small UK manufacturer for creating such a beast. Even more surprising is the fact that it is so usable in daily situations, smooth at any speeds on any road. Is this the best track day special ever made? We think so!
Competition & Pricing
There isn’t much by way of competition for the Atom V8. Obvious contenders are the $375,000 Caparo T1 which is very fast, even scarier, and almost always on fire. Then there’s the earlier-mentioned Caterham Levante which is lighter and more powerful than the Atom, but not as competent in the corners or on the street. The Levante costs just under $185,000, a full $40,000 less than the Atom V8’s $225,000. We have a hard time digesting the price difference between the two, but we just know that the Atom is worth it. Before you get into a heated debate with your conscience of which to buy, consider that there will only be 8 Levante’s made and 25 of the Atom V8. Furthermore, by the time you read this, all of them would have been sold. Sorry.