If ‘shock and awe’ was Caterham’s strategy for the new AeroSeven Concept, then they’ve certainly got the first part right. Pictures leaked out this evening ahead of its official launch by the company’s Chairman, Tony Fernandes, at this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
It’s the first model to be designed and developed with significant input from all of Caterham Group’s specialist business arms – including Caterham Technology & Innovation, Caterham Composites and Caterham F1 Team. It was designed by John Iley, and the CTI design team and will continue being refined using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) expertise from the F1 aerodynamic group.
The AeroSeven features a completely new rollover structure, to aid safety and improve aerodynamic performance, while it’s fitted with Avon CR500 tyres as standard.
Caterham first revealed the AeroSeven project just one day after its newest rival, Zenos Cars, revealed their E10 lightweight sports car. Zenos was co-founded by Caterham Cars’ former CEO and COO, Ansar Ali and Mark Edwards who left the Dartford-based company late last year.
The AeroSeven seems to be a bare-bones track car like the Lotus 2 Eleven, KTM X-Bow and Ariel Atom, but is expected to sit alongside the Seven as a ultra-high performance road car for those with an appetite for the extreme.
It’s stacked with racecar-inspired features such as the fully active Graphical Display Unit (GDU), aerodynamic styling, and a specially developed steering wheel.
Powered by the same 237bhp 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine recently launched in the Caterham Seven 485, the AeroSeven accelerates from 0 to 60mph in less than 4 seconds with a power-to-weight ratio of almost 400bhp per tonne. It’s based on an updated Seven CSR platform, fitted with a carbon fibre body to alter the classic Seven’s functional shape – so there’s no carbon fibre monocoque.
Caterham say “..it’s first in line of the next generation of Caterham Cars,” while ‘hinting’ at the styling direction for future models (namely the all-new sportscar being developed in conjunction with Renault Alpine).
If you enjoy seeing a bit of ‘friendly’ rivalry, then keep your eyes on the exchange between Caterham Cars and the company’s former CEO and COO, Ansar Ali and Mark Edwards – who set up Zenos Cars and recently announced the E10 sports car.
In a recent interview, Edwards explained why he and Ali chose not to put a new body on the Seven saying “..it would add complexity, weight and cost purely for vanity’s sake.” He also believed customers would spot the contradiction immediately, which would only serve to dilute the integrity of the Caterham brand.
It’s ironic that Caterham have done precisely that – launching the AeroSeven Concept just 24 hours after Edwards’ statement was published. It’s doubly ironic that Caterham first teased their new sports car just 24 hours after Zenos Cars revealed they would be building the E10.
Coincidence? Probably not, and there’s a line in Caterham’s press release which adds further fuel to such speculation – “the AeroSeven Concept signals the brand’s intentions in terms of product engineering processes, speed to market, as well as a hint to its styling direction for future models.”
Such ‘speed to market’ may indeed be a virtue, but we just hope there’s rather more substance to the AeroSeven than a response to the company’s ex-bosses..
“Over the coming years, we will be expanding our range of sportscars as we look to meet the differing needs and desires of potential customers – from the lifestyle customer to the ultimate thrill-seeker,” said Graham Macdonald, Managing Director of Caterham Cars. “The AeroSeven Concept is the first model in that journey.”
It’s the first ever Caterham to be fitted with traction control, which sounds like a backward step, but thanks to its newly developed Caterham Engine Management System will enable drivers to enjoy ‘fully-adjustable’ traction and launch control functionality.
The race-inspired steering wheel incorporates ‘Road’ mode, ‘Flash-to-Pass’ and ‘Pit Lane Speed Limiter’ functions. By default the AeroSeven operates in ‘Race’ mode, the opposite of most track oriented vehicles, but can be switched into ‘Road’ mode at the touch of a button – this reduces the engine’s power by limiting the revs.
Thankfully the drivetrain is good old fashion rear-wheel drive, with power being delivered by a six-speed manual gearbox.
Caterham say over the coming months, engineers will be assessing a number of powerplant options for the final production version, so given free reign expect the AeroSeven to be even more fruity.
Will it sell? Well that depends on how it is priced.
Judging by the response so far this morning on the enthusiast forum Blatchat, Caterham have some work to do in convincing buyers this is anything more than a CSR in a pretty (sic) frock, but surely there’s more to the AeroSeven than that?