2017 Caterham Seven 310
Aftermarket engine upgrade spawns new Seven model; expands lineup to six modelsby Ciprian Florea, on LISTEN 11:15
Introduced in 1973, when Caterham bought the rights to the design from Lotus, who had produced the sports car since 1957, the Caterham Seven soldiered on mostly unchanged until the 21st century. Of course, Caterham refined the design, introduced new materials, and better engines, but overall, the Seven is being built on the same recipe that Colin Chapman outlined 60 years ago.
Caterham indeed made an important change recently, but it has nothing to do with the lightweight architecture or its classic styling. The Brits turned the Seven into a proper family of sports cars, adding numerous street and track-only versions. The Seven 310 is the latest to join the lineup and expands the number of road-legal offerings to no fewer than six.
Described as a "perfect balance of power and confidence-inspiring handling characteristics" that harken back to the Superlight R300 model, the Seven 310 is heavily based on the 270 model. And by "heavily based" I mean that it is essentially a 270 with an upgraded engine. Caterham says the 310 was born out of a "happy accident" when the company took the upgrade engine, which was destined to be an aftermarket option, to the streets, realizing that it would make for a great production model.
“It’s entirely fitting that the Seven 310, which we feel perfectly synchronizes power and handling, has come out of the motorsport engineering process. This car will be loved by Caterham enthusiasts but will also convert car fans in general who understand that creating a genuinely fun driving experience is not about simply adding more and more power; that often, less is more," said Simon Lambert, chief of motorsport and technical officer for Caterham.
Keep reading to learn all about the Caterham Seven 310
2017 Caterham Seven 310
Horsepower @ RPM:152
Much like all current road-going Caterham Sevens, the 310 sports the same classic Seven cues paired with modern features. As a result, the 310 is identical to models such as the 270 and 360 not only at first glance, but upon closer inspection too.
The 310 is identical to models such as the 270 and 360 not only at first glance, but upon closer inspection too.
Customers that opt for the 310 get similar standard features offered across the range, including the 14-inch alloy wheels, composite aeroscreen, cycle fenders, rear rollover cage, side-mounted exhaust, and the already famous "7" grille. Six familiar exterior colors are available: yellow, blue, green, orange, black, and red. Other colors are available on request and for an extra fee.
Stand-alone options include the SV (wide body chassis), weather protection equipment, and six wheel and tire combinations. More extra goodies come from the available S and R packages. The S Pack, for instance, adds a full windscreen, hood, and side screens, an aero filler cap, and four additional paint finishes. Go with the R Pack and you get 15-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Avon tires, and the Black Pack.
The Seven 310 also marks the debut of a brand-new feature - LED headlamps. Available for the first time on a Caterham, the technology is optional and will find its way across the entire Seven range. It was about time!
Note: Interior from 2015 Caterham Seven 270 shown here.
The interior of the Seven 310 is largely based on the 270, which means customers will get the black cloth seats with diagonal seat belts, Motolita steering wheel, and rubber floor mats as standard. Options include lowered driver and passenger floors, a choice of four seats, a Momo steering wheel, heater, 12V socket, and race-spec four-point harnesses. The S Pack adds a fully carpeted interior, unique key, gear knob, instruments, and black leather seats. Upgrade to the R Pack and you get the carbon-fiber dashboard, carbon leather center tunnel top, composite race seats, and a shift light.
Here is where the 310 stands out as a unique model in the lineup. The new roadster gets its juice from an updated version of the 1.6-liter Ford Sigma engine that cranks out 152 horsepower. That’s 17 horses more than the 270, which translated into a quicker 0-to-60 mph sprint. While the Seven 270 needs five seconds to hit the benchmark, the Seven 310 will do it in 4.9 ticks. Top speed also increased from 122 to 127 mph.
The new roadster gets its juice from an updated version of the 1.6-liter Ford Sigma engine that cranks out 152 horsepower.
Granted, a tenth-second and an extra five mph might not sound like much, but these tiny figures matter when it comes to vehicles as light as the Seven.
Beyond the upgraded engine, everything else remained unchanged. The five-speed gearbox, the rack-and-pinion steering, and the twin circuit split brake discs are standard. The suspension system is also identical, featuring double wishbones and coil springs over Bilstein dampers at the front and semi-independent arms to the rear.
Customers who want a sportier car can select the optional six-speed transmission, limited-slip differential, ventilated front discs, rear anti-roll bar, and suspension upgrade pack for an extra fee. These are also include in the R Pack, which adds a lightweight flywheel, uprated brake master cylinder, and a sport suspension package.
Pricing for the Seven 310 starts from £24,995 (about $32,600 as of August 2016), which makes it £5,000 ($6,520) more expensive than the Seven 270. What’s more, the 310 also fetches £1,000 ($1,300) more than the 360 model, which retails from £23,995 ($31,300). Even though pretty affordable for a sports car ready to hit the track, the Seven 310 can become quite expensive with the options, which can increase the sticker by at least £10,000 ($13,050).
Being a drivetrain upgrade over the Seven 270, owners of the latter can upgrade to 310 specifications for £1,495 (about $1,950).
The Ariel Atom may not have the Seven’s brand cachet, but this British vehicle is a great alternative for those looking for a track-oriented car. The Atom features a much simpler design, with a wrap-around roll cage replacing most of the body panels, while power is provided by a Honda-sourced, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 245 horsepower. These figures make the Atom a lot quicker than the Seven 310, pushing it from 0 to 60 mph in only three seconds. In the U.S., Ariel offers the Atom S, an updated version that comes with F1-style pods, a full glass windscreen, a larger, 2.4-liter engine that cranks out 365 turbocharged horses, and an optional race-spec, sequential gearbox. Pricing is set at $89,975, a massive premium over the Seven 310, but on par with more powerful Sevens you can buy in the U.S. via Superformance.
Find out more about the Ariel Atom here.
Much like the Caterham Seven, the KTM X-Bow comes in many shapes and sizes. Updated for the 2017 model year, the X-Bow R sports an Audi-sourced, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that packs 296 horsepower, routed to the wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox and a Drexler limited-slip differential. The X-Bow charges from 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds and hits a top speed of 143 mph. Pricing for the facelifted model starts from €74,900 (about $82,940) in Europe. The sticker doesn’t include VAT, which means that the X-Bow R will actually fetch around €89,000 (around $98,550,) depending on the market.
Read more about the KTM X-Bow R in our review here.
The Mono is yet another superlight sports car built in Britain. Developed between 2009 and 2011, the Mono carried over mostly unchanged until 2016, when it received a mild facelift, but that’s not to say it can’t give the Seven a run for its money. On the contrary! Tipping the scales at only 1,300 pounds thanks to its lightweight construction and carbon-fiber body, the BAC Mono is better than the Seven in many respects. The new 2.5-liter, Mountune-tweaked engine pumps a whipping 305 horsepower to the wheels, which gives the sports car a 2.8-second 0-to-60 mph sprint, a feat only the range-topping Seven 620R can brag about. On the other hand, the Mono is a single-seater and has a cramped, F1-style cabin that doesn’t make it suitable for daily driving.
Learn more about the BAC Mono here.
The new Seven 310 is nothing more than a 270 with an upgraded drivetrain, and this raises an important question: is the extra £5,000 worth it? Given that it costs only £1,495 to upgrade a Seven 270, I’m tempted to say no. On the other hand, the 310 is a model that Caterham will definitely benefit from having on offer. By adding the 310, the British firm expanded its Seven lineup to six models. That’s quite diverse for a company this small and rather unique in this niche. While Ariel, KTM, BAC and many others don’t offer more than two or three drivetrains, the Seven can be had with anything from a small, three-cylinder unit to a supercharged, four-cylinder that can put any supercar to shame when fitted in the 620R. The 310 is yet another sign that Caterham evolved into a fully modern automaker that knows diversity matters as much as performance and customization.