Where do you go when you’ve outgrown the Caterham and find feted road racers like the new Porsche 911 GT3 a little lite on track and, quite literally, heavy on the road? Unlikely as it seems, you head to Peterborough, home to a disproportionately large cathedral, CAR’s office, and Radical, the tiny sports car maker that’s actually a bit of a monster.
Having bagged the road-legal production car record at the ’Ring, built its own V8, saturated the affordable racecar market and pushed ahead of its rivals by gaining full European type-approval for the SR3 SL, Radical has now unleashed its first closed-roof car, the £94,500 RXC.
Forgetting, for a moment, the physical sensations that come with a car like this, one of the greatest giggles when it comes to piloting a Radical is clocking the inevitable mouth-agape look of disbelief on everybody else as you pass by. But while it looks like something you’d see being rolled out of the back of a Brian James Race Shuttle trailer at your local circuit, the RXC was designed very much with life on the road in mind.
The chassis shares very little with Radical’s other cars, and motion comes not from a screaming bike engine, but a tuned version of the V6 found in Ford’s outgoing Mustang, picked as much for its muscle as for its ability to soak up thousands of miles of abuse.
Lift up the gullwing door and it’s one giant leap for mankind across the broad fibreglass-covered tubular-steel chassis and into a cockpit that instantly reignites those early ’80s Group C fantasies. The driving position is best described as recumbent (a toga-wearing slave armed with a bunch of grapes for the passenger seat is optional) but the visibility is actually incredibly good thanks to the wide expanse of screen and tapering tail.
You need the clutch pedal when pulling away, but the rest of the time the six-speed Quaife sequential gearbox (which is mounted across the car, at right angles to the longitudinal engine) will take paddle inputs without bothering your left leg. In theory. It works fine when you’re on a qualifier, but get caught behind meandering traffic and a little dip of clutch between changes smoothes them out appreciably. Your average PDK Porsche owner would be horrified at the occasional clunks and shunts, but as far as sensations go, this is pure race car.
A 380bhp power output and a kerbweight of 900kg gives the RXC a power-to-weight ratio of something like a Ferrari 458 Italia, but the engine’s incredibly linear build in power and relatively modest 6750rpm power peak can sometimes fool you into thinking the performance is only spectacular, rather than epic. But this is certainly not a slow car, hitting 62mph in a claimed 2.8sec, and 320lb ft makes it great company on A- and B-roads when you suddenly need a kick in the back for an impromptu overtake.
Really though, the remainder of the dynamic package puts the engine firmly in the shade. The steering needs constant correction at medium speeds but the immediacy of response is astounding. There’s not a hint of delay between your wrist flexing and the Dunlop sidewalls doing the same. The most fascinating bit? It’s electrically assisted, the level of help tweakable by a dial on the dash.
Even more surprisingly, the ride quality is excellent. This thing really works on real roads, and while the pushrod suspension set-up is fully adjustable, you’d be mad to tamper when Radical has spent so much time arriving at such a great ride/handling balance.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the idea of a car like this either floats your boat or it doesn’t. Air conditioning and power steering notwithstanding, the RXC absolutely lacks the duality of cars like the 911 GT3, while a Caterham 620R is even more bonkers and half the price. But somewhere between the two, there’s space for a car like this.
If you really are hell-bent on driving a real road-racer, something that delivers a taste of a Le Mans LMP prototype for the street, and one that can actually be enjoyed there (with the right mindset) then there’s nothing comparable.