Caterham Seven 310R: Part two – The Drive
Last week Jonny introduced us to the Caterham 310R - now he gets chance to try it out
Last week we introduced the new Caterham Seven – named the 310R.
Caterham itself states proudly on its website that “If Caterham was only going to make one Seven for the rest of its days, this would be it.” With that bold statement in our mind, we took it for a blast around the roads of Hampshire and Sussex.
Getting going in a Caterham takes a little while. You stand on the seat and lower yourself into the 310R’s optional composite racing seats, your backside inevitably getting stuck halfway down before a shuffle or two suddenly drops you into position. There’s then the four-point racing harness to adjust, and then after that you can slot the Momo steering wheel into place. With practice it gets easier, but even if it takes you 20 minutes, it’s all worth it because once you’re in place you are totally at one with the car. It feels like the car is strapped to you, not the other way around.
This sensation of being at one with the car starts before you turn the key, but grows the quicker you go. You might think the little 1.6-litre Ford-powered Caterham might not have much to offer in the way of speed, but its 152bhp is plenty enough to propel a car that weighs around the same as half a Ford Fiesta. The sensation of speed is enhanced by the raucous soundtrack coming from the exhaust pipe. It makes a phenomenal racket, sounding more like a racing car than anything road-legal, and at high revs it drowns out just about everything else.
A six-speed gearbox is at the command of your left hand, so you’ll find there are three pedals at your feet – as it should be. The pedal box is awfully tight and you’ll need to wear the smallest shoes possible to drive well. Everything about the 310R is incredibly responsive, a Caterham trait. Throttle response is near-instant, the brakes are razor sharp, and the steering is intuitive. You feel everything from the road surface and mechanical parts, so making decisions becomes second nature.
Driving the 310R makes you want to take the long way around, it makes you appreciate what it means to be totally in control of a car once again. If you drive a modern saloon or even a modern hatchback, jumping into the Caterham 310R might just be the most refreshing automotive experience you can have. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t always fun, but it is exhilarating and rewarding, and reminds us of what it really means to have ‘connectivity’ in a car.
One other thing, if you’ve driven any of Caterham’s range with the 2.0-litre engines, one thing you’ll really notice here is the difference in weight. It may only be a few kilograms on paper, but at this level of heaviness it makes a noticeable difference. Consider that a little clue as to what lies in store next week, when we’ll take a look at what really separates the 310 and 420 models.
Be sure to pop back to find out which Caterham we prefer, and why.
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