The Nomad may have been born from a simple idea – to give the Atom a sibling capable of all-terrain driving – but in the making, it has taken on rather more of its own identity.
Ariel’s intent was to retain as many carried-over items as possible, which is eminently sensible. But in the end, although it unmistakably looks like an Ariel, only the floor panel, instrument pod, pedal assembly and steering column and rack have been retained. Even now, Ariel is thinking about offering a slower rack than the current one, which has two turns from lock to lock.
Everything else is different from the Atom. Most noticeable, evidently, is the chassis, which is still built by Arch Motor & Manufacturing and still skeletal in appearance but is now stiffer and heavier. It’s beefier to cope with the rallies or competitions that, Ariel estimates, 50% of buyers will undertake with their Nomads.
It feels curious to call the Nomad an off-roader, but ostensibly that’s what it is, so it has stronger double-wishbone suspension than the Atom’s and a greatly increased ride height. There are three damper options: the regular Bilstein units of our test car, adjustable Bilsteins or adjustable Ohlins. All offer dual-rate springing – softer at the top of the suspension’s travel, to easily absorb small lumps and ruts, while becoming firmer as travel increases to retain fine body control. We’ll come to that later.
The engine sits transversely behind the driver and is a four-pot Honda unit, just as with an Atom. Ariel’s store of 2.0-litre Type R engines for its track-biased car isn’t in danger, though, because the Nomad gets a torquier 2.4-litre unit, as used in the Civic Type S in the US.
It develops 235bhp and 221lb ft in this naturally aspirated form, although Ariel being Ariel, a supercharged version is likely to follow. It drives through a six-speed manual gearbox and there is no traction or stability control here. Likewise, the steering is unassisted and the brakes are ABS-free, but the front-to-rear brake bias can be adjusted, even on the move.