Caterham has previewed a striking new motorsport-inspired road car that will go into production in the autumn of 2014.
The design showcases the future direction that the British company will take with its styling and engineering.
The AeroSeven Concept, revealed in Singapore ahead of this weekend’s Formula 1 street race, will reach production as the first model to be designed and developed with input from each of the company’s divisions: Caterham Technology and Innovation (CTI), the firm's composite facility, the F1 team and Caterham Cars itself.
This new model will precede the sports car that Caterham is currently co-developing with Renault, although company chiefs hint that the AeroSeven Concept does offer some clues to the styling of that vehicle, which is due to arrive in 2016.
The new two-seater is underpinned by an updated version of the Seven CSR’s chassis and features fully independent rear and pushrod front suspension, with new dampers, springs and anti-roll bars.
The concept is powered by the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder naturally aspirated Ford Duratec-based unit also fitted in the recently launched Caterham Seven 485. The high-revving engine, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels, produces a maximum of 237bhp at 8500rpm and 152lb ft of torque at 6300rpm. However, project engineers are assessing a number of powerplant options and the definitive production version of AeroSeven could use a different engine.
Caterham claims a sub-4.0sec 0-62mph sprint for the concept car, which is the first Caterham to be equipped with fully adjustable traction and launch control, provided via a new engine management system developed by the company. Caterham is also analysing the feasibility of using Bosch’s race-derived anti-lock braking system on the production version. Like many of Caterham’s performance-orientated Sevens, the AeroSeven Concept sits on 15in Avon CR500 tyres.
The car weighs about 635kg, and Caterham quotes a power-to-weight ratio in the region of 397bhp per tonne.
In a diversion to the stripped-down ethos that has been a feature of most of Caterham’s previous models, the AeroSeven is clad in carbonfibre bodywork. Developed with input from Caterham F1 Team performance director John Iley and the CTI design team, the body shape helps to give the AeroSeven different handling characteristics to other high-performance models in Caterham’s range.
It boasts more downforce and sleeker aerodynamics, although the drag coefficient has yet to be determined because the company’s engineers are still optimising the package.
The AeroSeven’s interior showcases technology that is likely to filter down into some of Caterham’s future models. A new graphical display unit developed by CTI integrates all display and instrumentation in a high-resolution, centrally mounted unit. It shows information such as engine speed, gear selection, vehicle speed, traction and brake settings, fuel and oil levels in a 3D display.
The high-performance car can be switched between two driving modes – Race and Road – via a steering wheel-mounted button. The default setting is Race, and engaging Road mode restricts peak power via a reduced rev limit. The steering wheel also incorporates ‘Flash-to-Pass’ and ‘Pit Lane Speed Limiter’ functions.
As well as marking the start of a new chapter for styling and engineering, Caterham intends for the AeroSeven to showcase the firm’s technological expertise and the pace at which it can develop ideas from concept to production.
Graham Macdonald, managing director of Caterham Cars, said: “Over the coming years, we will be expanding our range of sports cars as we look to meet the differing needs and desires of potential customers – from the lifestyle customer to the ultimate thrill-seeker. The AeroSeven Concept is the first model in that journey.”
No price has been mooted for the production version. Caterham chiefs have yet to determine the exact specification and materials that will be used in the car’s build.
“Before we bring it to market there will be changes to it, primarily because of homologation but also because we want to get it in the right place in the market. We need to sit down and work out what the price would be with the bill of materials on this concept, and what we would need to do, if anything, to bring the price down,” said Macdonald.
The manufacture and tooling of components for the AeroSeven Concept was split between Caterham Technology and Innovation in Hingham, Norfolk and the F1 Team’s base in Leafield, Oxon. Production models will be constructed at the Caterham Cars factory in Dartford, UK.