The Caterham Seven has survived nearly 60 years as a stripped-out, lightweight missile. It doesn't boast much power, nor any technological safety nets, but then it doesn't have to. It's old school -- and proud of it -- and that's what the amateur racing customer wants. But Caterham is going mainstream, partnering with Renault for a new sportscar, as well as considering small cars and perhaps even crossover SUVs. Times are changing, and the Caterham we all love appears ready to evolve -- for better or for worse.
The latest indication of this evolution stems in the form of the Caterham AeroSeven Concept -- a futuristic version of the loved Seven, indicating how the production version may look when it debuts in the fall of next year. It's a lot to take in.
For starters, the visuals appear like a cut and copy of Aston Martin's CC100 Concept, and in my eyes, that's not a pretty car. With a more modern approach -- adding features like traction control, ABS brakes, pit lane speed limiter, ‘Flash-to-Pass’ mode, and a 3D rendered display -- this reportedly adds around 165 lbs., differing from the manufacturer's and spiritual forbear Colin Chapman's typical mentality. Although Caterham aren't a stranger to technology (it has the SP/300.R track car and its Formula One operation), it remains tough to picture such a modernized brand.
Under the hood, for now, sits a 240-hp Ford Duractec-based engine, with power peaking at 8,500 rpm. It's paired to a six-speed manual driving the rear wheels, and sprints to 60 mph in less than four seconds. Final powertrain decisions will be made over the coming months.
With fully independent rear suspension and inboard (pushrod) front suspension, there's little doubt the AeroSeven Concept will perform. It's the start of a new Caterham, one with a closer eye on mainstream profits. Let's just hope the execs know what they're doing. As Lotus found out, a few wrong decisions can turn bad in a hurry.