New Caterham sports car is aimed at expanding the firm out of its niche market
The car is the sister vehicle to the new Renault Alpine, and is being co-developed at Renaultsport's factory in Dieppe and Caterham's base in the UK. As of last week, Renault and Caterham signed-off their joint ownership of the Dieppe factory, as part of the expanding deal between the two companies.
Company sources say that the Caterham sports car will have 'distinctively British' styling and that it will look significantly different from the Alpine. "It will look British and it will be recognisable as coming from Caterham," said the source. Although the company has targetted the Lotus and Alfa as benchmarks, it is also known to have benchmarked the class leader in their likely £50,000 price bracket, the Porsche Cayman.
The likely reveal after the Geneva motor show ties in with the announcement that the two companies would collaborate earlier this year, a shock decision that was revealed shortly after the show. The two partners are believed to have decided that launching a small volume sports car amid the motor show launch timetable would leave them struggling to get the attention they feel their project deserves.
"Our goal is to launch Caterham as a global brand," said the source. "To do that we need to make a splash."
No powertrain details have yet been confirmed by Caterham, beyond the admission that the car will have "more than 200bhp". However, Renault sources have suggested the Alpine will have nearer 280bhp from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol unit. It is possible the two projects will use the same chassis and running gear, but different engines: Toyota and Mazda have been mentioned as a possible partners for Caterham.
It is understood that the car will use a steel spaceframe, with weight-saving aluminium and carbonfibre components around it. It is also expected to get all-independent suspension, with the engine located transversely behind the two seats.
Renault design chief Laurens van den Acker has already spoken of his desire to ensure the Alpine and Caterham look significantly different. "They will not look like each other," he told Autocar earlier this year. "This is not a joint project in the spirit of the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ."