Ariel Nomad unveiled (2015): the Atom veers off road

Published: 06 January 2015

The new Ariel Nomad unveiled this week is the tougher, muddier brother to the Atom sports car. There’s no doubting the lineage of the two: the scaffold chassis and Ariel design cues leave you in no doubt this is another product of Simon Saunders’ maverick team in Somerset, England.

Following hot on the heels of the Ace motorbike, this is further proof - were it needed - that Ariel is fast becoming a diverse low-volume manufacturer of interesting vehicles.

The Nomad is variously described by the company as ‘an ultra-cool road car or a 21st century take on the dune buggy, to a high-performance, off-road competition vehicle.’

And it certainly does offer high performance…

How quick is the 2015 Ariel Nomad?

Powered by the Atom’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder Honda VTEC engine, tuned here for 235bhp and 221lb ft, Saunders quotes a 0-60mph time of 3.5sec and a top speed limited to 136mph, owing to its knobbly tyres.

Those off-road tyres betray the Nomad’s purpose. It is certified for road use, but is most likely to be seen spotted running around a country estate or on the beach. Everything has been honed for off-road use, from the longer stroke engine, the higher ground clearance or the long-travel dampers.

The underlying architecture is shared with the Atom, but everything is beefed up for the tougher duties in store. Bodywork is made from tough polyethylene, like plastic road cones and boat bumpers, and a wide choice of road- or mud-biased tyres are available, in a range from 15-18in.

Key stat figures? This buggy offers 300mm of ground clearance and a front approach angle of 71deg and a departure angle of 82deg.

Despite being only rear-wheel drive, Ariel claims the Nomad has extraordinary off-road prowess thanks to its 670 flyweight mass. A limited-slip differential should help deploy all that Honda grunt to the road or track.

A competition future

The Nomad is the brainchild of Saunders son, Henry Siebert-Saunders. And he’s keen to take the car into competition, just as the Atom has competed on track with some success.

‘Competition has always been an ambition for the Nomad since day one of the project and, like the Atom, we know from experience that it directly improves the breed,’ he said. ‘It’s early days but I want to see Nomads competing in as many forms of motorsport as possible, from local club racing to international level.’

Ariel aims to build up to 100 Nomads a year, with work starting now. Every model will be individually built to customers needs, and owners can return to Crewkerne to have their car modified over the years.

Prices, specs of the Ariel Nomad

The on-the-road cost will be around £33,000 in the UK, including taxes, but owners can spec optional windscreens, wipers, sides and a roof - making this the first fully enclosed Ariel the company has made.

‘It’s a bit of a moment for us,” admitted Siebert-Saunders. ‘It will be the first Ariel that has a roof and doors! Although they are zippable roll-up units, as weight and simplicity was of particular importance.’

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet