Ariel Atom V8 (2010) first official pictures

Published: 08 September 2010

This is the really rather mad Ariel Atom V8. That’s right, this tiny little track-biased car has an eight-cylinder engine driving its rear wheels. And it’s a 3.0-litre V8 that produces 500bhp at 10,600rpm, to give the new Ariel Atom V8 a Bugatti-beating 909bhp/tonne.

‘There are things that can be done in low volume production that the big manufacturers can’t, won’t or daren’t do,’ said Ariel boss Simon Saunders. ‘We make a virtue of our size, our skills and the unique qualities that hand built production can bring to our cars. The Atom V8 demonstrates this.’

Okay, let’s try and take the Ariel Atom V8 seriously – tell me about that 500bhpV8 engine.

Apparently supercharged Honda Civic Type R engines with 300bhp just aren’t powerful enough. And the original supercharged 2.4-litre V8 that Ariel planned to use in the Atom V8 wasn’t up to scratch either. So the production Ariel Atom V8 has a US-built 3.0-litre V8. In the marginally more docile ‘road trim’ it produces 475bhp at 10,500rpm, along with 268lb ft at 7750rpm. And in the madder ‘track’ trim there’s a full 500bhp at 10,600rpm, plus 284lb ft at the same 7750rpm.

Combine the Atom V8’s 550kg kerbweight with all that power and you get 909bhp/tonne, way more than the 644bhp/tonne achieved by the Bugatti Veyron Super Sports. The 500bhp version will apparently hit 62mph in under 2.3 seconds, and then carry on to crack a terrifying 200mph – the 475bhp version manages ‘just’ 175mph. And the acceleration, whatever speed you’re at, will be ridiculous, thanks in part to the power, but also because the paddleshift-equipped Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox can swap cogs in just 40 milliseconds.

Beyond that Ariel has uprated the ‘regular’ Atom’s inboard suspension with specific dampers and springs, complete with remote reservoirs and adjustment for high speed compression, low speed compression and rebound, plus a four-way spring stiffness adjuster, so you can fine tune the V8 to your track of choice. There’s also carbonfibre bodywork (including adjustable front and rear spoilers), extra structural bracing in the engine compartment, and the chassis is powder coated with a gold finish. And mercifully there’s adjustable traction control, and a launch control to help you achieve that sub-2.3 second 0-62mph time. A data logging system will let you prove your acceleration run times to your mates too, and the LCD screen can display the shift lights and current gear position.

Just 25 Atom V8s will ever be built, and 20 have already been sold, despite the car costing £124,850 plus VAT – call it £150k by the time customer cars arrive in early 2011.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy