"When you buy a new car you don’t often get the benefit of hours of in-depth testing, so it isn’t always possible to know exactly what you want or need. Over the last few months I’ve spent "
Caterham Seven 310R: Part one – The Background
Our man Jonny on life with Caterham's new 310R
It’s not often that Caterham comes out with a new model.
You’d think that any developments it could make with the Seven would have been discovered by now – after all, this is a car that’s been around since 1973. As it turns out, there are still new discoveries to be found with the Seven after all these years. Thanks to Caterham’s motorsport programme, the new Caterham 310 has emerged into the brand’s line-up of models, and it’s supposedly something rather special.
Believe it or not, we’re here talking about this new Seven 310 because of an accidental discovery made during Caterham’s motorsport programme. Successful upgrades originally applied to the racing Sevens for owners stepping up into the next level of racing series resulted in test drivers spreading word around the pit lane that something special was in the making. Pretty soon “you’ve got to try the new car!” was the most commonly heard sentence in the pits, and the drivers who tested the upgraded car had only positive things to say. From this feedback, it was decided that the improved Caterham should be placed as a new model into the brand’s line-up of road cars under the ‘310’ badge.
As you might have guessed from its name, the 310 sits between the 270 and 420 in the Caterham Seven range, and it is probably best thought of as a 270 Plus. Like the 270, it’s powered by the same 1.6-litre Ford Sigma engine, but those upgrades to the camshaft and engine mapping mean it now produces more power. In truth, it isn’t much more, but in a car that weighs about the same as half a Ford Fiesta, the slightest changes in weight or power outputs can be felt.
With that in mind, we thought we had better give the new 310 a thorough three-day test. The car we’ve got for this is the 310R, ‘R’ designating a more track-focused car. With an ‘R’, you can expect an absence of all comforts bar a heater. You sit in hard – and rather tiny – composite racing seats with four-point harnesses, and you won’t find any carpet or leather here. This is the barest form of Caterham, but it should – in theory – also give the purest driving experience.
So, three days with the Caterham 310R it is then. We’re heading to Sussex and Hampshire to test it on just about every kind of road we can find. The sweeping roads of the New Forest, the A-roads around Chichester, the route to Goodwood, even the M3. Over these three days, we should get a real idea on what the new 310R does differently to its stablemates, if it’s worth upgrading your 270, and if indeed it is worthy of this statement – “If Caterham was only going to make one Seven for the rest of its days, this would be it.”
Next week, we’ll tell you all about it.
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