Sunday, January 6, 2013

Autocar Online - News

Autocar Online - News

First drive review: Ariel Atom 3.5

Posted: 05 Jan 2013 10:00 PM PST

Revisions to the chassis and engine intensify the rewards that an Atom offers This is version 3.5 of the Atom. Sounds a bit 'software update', but Ariel doesn't like to change the big number unless it's using a new engine. And given that it has shepherded a couple of hundred of the old Honda Type R donkeys into various lock-ups around the West Country, that's a little while off.Even so, the extra '.5' signals some fairly significant changes to the now-familiar Atom design. The most visible elements of the chassis are no different, but metal has been tweaked at the rear, around the engine mounts and rear suspension mounts, leaving the frame 15 per cent stiffer, torsionally, than an Atom 3. There are new springs and dampers, too, and the steering has been revised to make it less frenetic on-centre. The steering is the biggest change but we'll come back to that.Also, there's more power for the supercharged engine. Ariel is modest about outputs and now claims 310bhp at 8400rpm. But truth be told, when it was claiming 300bhp, the blown 2.0-litre engine would put out anything up to 10 per cent more than that. More significant than the output, then, is that the by-wire throttle map has been tweaked, aimed at improving the linearity of response. Which didn't feel tardy before.Visually, the biggest changes are longer front bodywork (or what constitutes bodywork in Ariel terms) and new headlights, repeaters on the front wings and rear lights. A new LCD dashboard unit features, too, showing which gear you're in. This is a handy reminder, because all gears tend to do the same thing in a supercharged Atom: bring the horizon closer at a generally alarming rate of knots.

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