Ariel is gunning for Bugatti's Veyron hypercar with its long-awaited 500bhp V8-engined version of its minimalist Atom 3.
The new machine, unveiled this week after a two-year-long development process, has a power-to-weight ratio of 909bhp per tonne - more than 50 per cent better than that of Bugatti's creation, and even slightly ahead of a GP2 single-seater racing car.
The Atom V8 goes on sale early next year, priced at £150,000. Only 25 will be made.
Prototypes are still undergoing final testing, but it's already been proven that the V8 Atom can accelerate from 0-60mph in under 2.5sec and from 0-100mph in well under 6.0sec.
Ariel's targets are 2.3sec and 5.4sec respectively, eclipsing the class-leading Veyron. The Atom V8 uses a US-built, 3.0-litre, 32-valve Hartley V8 engine, originally developed from two Suzuki motorcycle engines grafted together, but much developed since.
It will be available in a choice of two power outputs: a relatively docile 475bhp version intended for easy road use and a 500bhp race version with a much more aggressive throttle map, aimed mostly at track use. The 475bhp Atom has a top speed of 170mph, while the race version can reach 200mph.
The V8 is redlined at 10,500rpm in the road-track model and 10,600rpm in the race-road and both use the same six-speed sequential Sadev gearbox. Capable of flat-shifting, the gearbox also has electro-pneumatic paddle-shifters to soften‚ gearchanges and make them tolerable for road use.
Ariel's Tom Siebert, who has done much of the Atom V8 development driving, says the car can cope "perfectly well" on the road, and even through city traffic.
The Atom V8, recognisable for its gold chassis and wheels, a new, all-enveloping carbon engine cover and twin side pods to contain ancillaries like oil radiator and air compressor, uses a near-standard Atom tubular chassis with extra bracing around the engine bay. Every car will have a full set of Ariel's aerodynamic wings in carbonfibre, optional on lesser models.
The V8's double-wishbone suspension is similar in geometry to the existing models but the suspension arms are made in aerofoil-section chrome-molybdenum tubing. The dampers are special, Dutch-made, ultra-adjustable Intrax units with remote reservoirs, and the car also trials a new quick-change system that allows owners to change spring rates.
The brakes are twin-pot Alcons front and rear, with different grooves and other mods to provide more initial bite. The tyres are soft-compound, X-rated Toyos: 205/50 R15s in front and 245/45 R16s behind.
The seats and driving position are standard, but there is a more comprehensive Race Technology instrument pack that is configurable and has a built-in data logger. Atom designer Simon Saunders says he‚s proud of the new V8's class-busting performance.
"I believe it‚s the role of little firms like ours to go where the big companies can't or won't," he told Autocar. "It's almost our duty."