Vicky Parrott
19 November 2012

What is it?

A faster version of the Caterham Supersport. While it’s unlikely that you would step out of the 140bhp, 1.6-litre Sigma-engined Supersport thinking that it was underpowered, some punters have suggested that it would do well to beef up a bit and offer a few more revs to play with for track use.

So here we have the Supersport R – a car offering the same adjustable double wishbone suspension up front and De-Dion arrangement at the rear, but with a 180bhp 2.0-litre Duratec engine under the bonnet. Even spec is unchanged, which means a limited-slip diff, harness, composite sports seats, integrated shift lights and bespoke Supersport dampers as standard. Weight is only up by 15kg despite the bigger capacity motor, which translates to a figure of 336bhp per tonne.

What is it like?

Explosive as it sounds on paper, the Duratec’s progressive delivery actually makes the R quite manageable on the road. Peak power isn’t reached until a raucous 7300rpm, a whole 1500rpm above the standard Supersport, at which point (on the road, at least) you’re likely to be rapidly reassessing the fun-to-risk balance.

Crucially, though, even with the extra muscle involved, the throttle is easy to modulate and the car’s responses are predictable, which in a car like this makes the difference between offering visceral thrills and outright terror.

The Supersport suspension works remarkably well on our deteriorating British roads. It soaks up pitted surfaces and small intrusions with impressive ease, though you learn very quickly to predict how such a lightweight car can be thrown off line by awkward bumps and off-camber sections off road when taken at speed.

Is there any compromise in the light-footed, accessible handling that makes the Supersport so recommendable in our books? Just an iota. If anything it translates into a touch more stability and just a touch less willingness to be steered on the throttle, but it’s undetectable unless you step straight from a standard Supersport to the R.

Ultimately, this is an outstanding car even by Caterham’s standards. It is visceral, nimble and accessible in a way that some of the lairier Superlights are not, and you will be blessed with such communication and involvement that you can take liberties and get away with it. This is the essential point of any Caterham. The pure, consistent and quick steering is about the best you will find anywhere, the brakes are feelsome and confidence-inspiring, and your low-slung derriere will be telling you everything else you need to know. It’s as in-tune with a wheeled machine as you’re ever going to be. You wouldn’t be willing to live with the compromises inherent in such a specialist car unless you were the sort of person that finds deep joy in that.

Should I buy one?

Yes, but only if you are a serious trackday enthusiast. There is barely any compromise to the R over its sublime, standard sibling, but the longer rev range and extra grunt will only really be beneficial on circuit.

So if you’re a fair-weather track user who’s after something fun for road use as well, the cheaper, lower-powered Supersport would still be our first suggestion. As the all-round purist's weekend special, it is close to faultless.

Caterham Seven Supersport R

Price: £24,995; Top speed: 130mph; 0-62mph: 4.8sec; Economy: na; Co2: na; Kerbweight: 535kg; Engine type: 1998cc, petrol, 4cyl in-line; Installation: Front, longitudinal, rwd; Power: 180bhp at 7300rpm; Torque: 143lb ft at 6100rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual; Fuel tank: 36 litres; Wheels: 7Jx13in alloy; Tyres: 175/55 R13 Avon R500

Join the debate


mmmm - awesome machine!

2 years 2 days ago

I used to have a R1 powered kit car but would give my eye teeth for one of these!

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Our Verdict

The Caterham Seven is a stripped-down sportscar offering one of the most pure driving experiences available. It is a true classic.

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