When it comes to no-nonsense performance cars, the Ariel Atom is among the best the industry has to offer. A track toy devoid of a conventional body, the Atom is light as a feather and faster than a Ferrari thanks to its outstanding power-to-weight ratio. Ariel Motor Company a manufacturer established in 2001 that also produces motorcycles as of 2014, has launched the production Atom in the early 2000s, with Brammo Motorsports acquiring a license to manufacture it in the U.S. in late 2005. Three different iterations of the sports car have been produced so far, with a couple of special-edition models built in the process. The third-generation Atom is as impressive as it gets, but the British aren’t resting on their laurels and their recent work has materialized in an enticing new machine. Dubbed Atom 3S, Ariel’s new sports car comes with a host of drivetrain and chassis updates, as well as minor styling updates.

Novelties include a force-fed engine, a brand-new sequential gearbox, new cockpit LCD display, and updated braking and suspension gear. Naturally, the new internals improve on the Atom’s performance, but also increase its sticker by adding about $20,000 over the already familiar Atom 3. Read on for the full details.

Click past the jump to read more about Ariel Atom 3S.

Exterior

2015 Ariel Atom 3S High Resolution Exterior
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Visual changes are limited to minor shell tweaks and new "Atom 3S" graphics and stripes. The most noticeable new feature consists of two F1-style pods on each side that house the intercoolers for the turbocharger. The Ariel badge on the nose is now accompanied by an orange V-shaped decal, adding a touch of color to the otherwise black vehicle. Customers can also add a full glass windscreen to prevent those pesky bugs from sticking to their helmets.

Seven standard exterior colors are available for the Atom 3S, including black, white, red, dark blue, yellow, matte black, and GT3 Orange. As with most Atoms, the 3S can also be had in a wide range of custom colors, a feat that needs to be discussed with the manufacturer when placing an order.

Interior

2015 Ariel Atom 3S Interior
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The Atom’s bare interior brings only a couple of new features in the form of an LCD display and a dashboard-mounted dial that allows access to the adjustable traction control system. Drivers can use the latter to select one of the five adjustment setting of allowable wheel spin.

The new full LCD display allows for easy viewing of critical vehicle information such as speed, RPM, gear position, as well as water temperature and fuel level. The Atom 3S’ interior is also equipped with revised, race-inspired composite seats with six-point harnesses.

Drivetrain

The most important updates lurk under the skin, where a Honda-sourced, turbocharged, 2.4-liter engine pumps 365 horsepower. Two transmissions are available. Choices include the familiar standard and close-ratio units, as well as a new, race-spec, six-speed sequential gearbox provided by Sadev. The new combo enables the Atom 3S to charge from 0 to 60 mph in under 2.8 seconds and cover the quarter mile in about 10.7 seconds.

Suspension

2015 Ariel Atom 3S Exterior
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Other upgrades contributing to these blistering figures include an adjustable, five-stage traction-control system, Alcon four-piston brake calipers with two-piece discs, and adjustable dampers.

Pricing

2015 Ariel Atom 3S
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More good news comes in the availability department, as the Atom 3S can be purchased in the United States for $89,975. Not exactly a bargain, but who said performance comes cheap? If nearly $90K is too much for your bank account, you can always go for the naturally aspirated model, which fetches from $64,500.

Competition

KTM X-Bow GT

2014 KTM X-Bow GT High Resolution Exterior
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The X-Bow is another sports car that was built with lightness in mind. Unlike the entry-level X-Bow, the GT model gets its oomph from an Audi-sourced, 2.0-liter turbo-four that cranks out 281 ponies at 6,400 rpm and 309 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. Because it’s a bit heavier than the Atom at 1,867 pounds, the X-Bow GT is not as impressive when it comes to hitting 60 mph from a standing start, as it takes about four seconds to complete the sprint. Top speed sits at 143 mph.

Pricing doesn’t come cheap either, with customers having to fork at least $100,000 to get one of these awesome track toys in their garage.

Caterham Seven 620R

2013 Caterham Seven 620 R High Resolution Exterior
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The Caterham Seven is the car that inspired companies like Ariel and KTM. Created by Lotus in the late 1950s, the Seven has been around for more than four decades with a Caterham badge, and the 620R represents the company’s most-extreme version to date. Although the 620R is similar to other Sevens as far as looks go, its featherweight construction and powerful engine enable it to deliver amazing levels of performance.

Rated at 311 horsepower and 219 pound-feet of torque, the 2.0-liter Ford Duratec engine is powerful enough to push the 1,200-pound sports car from 0 to 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds and up to a top speed of 155 mph. It might not have the appeal of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, but it sure is faster than most of those Italian machines. Pricing for the 620R begins from £49,995, which converts to $80,200 as of 10/16/2014.

Conclusion

The Atom 3S is proof that small automakers such as Ariel are capable of amazing things. One moment you think their latest product will be offered for many years with minor updates and then you wake up to a revised model that’s lighter and faster. The Atom 3S is as spectacular as it gets, and we can’t help wonder what the next iteration of the car will bring.

  • Leave it
    • Not something you should purchase as a daily driver
    • Performance doesn’t come cheap
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