Caterhams may all look the same to the uninitiated, but its two latest models – the Roadsport 175 and R300 Superlight couldn’t be more different if they tried. Of course, they’re both insanely fast, deliver more hits of adrenalin per mile than anything else for the money, and stand firmly next to ten on the driver engagement scale, but that’s where the similarities end…
Tell me about the Caterham Seven Roadsport 175 first
The Roadsport is Caterham’s answer to a touring car – so you get luxuries like vinyl doors, a heater, a windscreen and generously padded seats (this is a Caterham, remember). And Caterham encourages Roadsport buyers to opt for the wider-bodied SV model, which offers a more spacious cabin and a smidgen more luggage space.
Powered by Caterham Powertrain’s Ford-sourced 2.0-litre Duratec engine – fettled to swing with a strong 175bhp punch – the Roadsport 175 is incredibly quick.
At just 550kg, the Roadsport 175 flings itself on a whiff of throttle, serving up sustained and searingly quick slugs of acceleration, broken only by snatched gearshifts through the slick and wristy gate. Get a clean start and the Caterham will smoke its way to 60mph in just 4.8seconds, dishing up arcade-game levels of overtaking acceleration right up to its 138mph top whack. It’s such a direct and unfiltered driving experience – you drive this Caterham with the smallest of inputs and the biggest of grins.
And it’s a damned civil thing – the ride quality is smooth enough to embarrass most family saloons, there’s plenty of room in the cabin, and wind buffet with the doors in place but the roof removed is only an issue above the legal limit.
>> Click 'Next' below to read about the Caterham Seven R300 Superlight
And now the R300…
The outgoing R300 was Caterham’s bestseller, and a mile in the new model instantly explains its popularity. It’s utterly brilliant. Lighter, harder and smaller it makes the Roadsport model feel comparatively sluggish and a touch cumbersome. It’s powered by exactly the same 175bhp engine, but with a closely stacked six-cog box driving the rear wheels through a shorter final drive, the 515kg R300 feels like an X-43A Scramjet in a rush.
Too fast to enjoy…?
Not at all. Unlike the unhinged R500 and R400 models, the R300 feels both insanely quick and exploitable, allowing you to really get stuck into your favourite road without having to tighten the belt on your brave pants. It’s a real eye-opener just how effectively the combination of transmission tweaks and uprated suspension transforms the R300 – it feels alert but never nervous or twitchy, ballistically quick but never uncontrollable or unruly.
The R300 seems to do what you want the moment you think it – fire it down a winding country road, and it feels cohesive and sharply focused but without the sharp-toothed edginess that makes the R400 and R500 models such intimidating beasts. Being strapped tightly into the snug cabin’s grippy sports seats by a five-point harness enhances the feeling of being hardwired into the road. And windscreens – pah – who needs them?
Caterham Seven spec boxes
||Roadsport 175 SV|
||1999cc four-cylinder, 175bhp @ 7000rpm, 139lb ft @ 6000rpm
||1999cc four-cylinder, 175bhp @ 7000rpm, 139lb ft @ 6000rpm|
||Six-speed manual, rear wheel drive
||Five-speed manual, rear wheel drive|
||4.5secs 0-60mph, 140mph
||4.8secs 0-60mph, 138mph|
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