A Le Mans car for the road. That, in a nutshell, was what Radical set out to create when designing the extraordinary new Radical RXC, and in a nutshell that’s exactly what they have built.
The RXC may look a touch barking when encountered amongst ordinary, everyday traffic – to a point where people stare at it in complete bewilderment when they see it rumbling along the public road.
But beneath its Le Mans prototype-like bodywork, complete with full GT3 specification multi-adjustable rear wing, it’s actually a rather good sports car, albeit one that’s a touch more extreme in its delivery compared with, say, a Volkswagen Golf GTi.
At its heart, just behind its two racing bucket seats, sits a 3.7-litre Ford V6 that produces either 350bhp in standard tune or 380bhp with a bit of tweakery to its throttle system. In both cases it's mated to a seven-speed sequential paddle shift gearbox built specifically for the car by Quaife, who also make the torque-sensing differential that’s fitted to the car.
All up, the RXC weighs just 900kg, which means it isn’t just quick but crackers fast in a straight line. Radical claims a 0-60mph time of just 2.8sec with a top speed limited by the relatively short gearing in seventh to “just” 175mph.
They don’t quote a 0-100mph time just yet, but having spent a day howling around the Yorkshire moors in it I’d guess it could hit three figures in a fair bit less than seven seconds. Which puts it very much in the premier league when it comes to outright acceleration.
But it’s what the RXC does around corners and under brakes that will at first fray and then obliterate the outer edges of your imagination, and the reason why is because it produces downforce. Lots and lots of downforce, to the extent that – in theory – it could be driven upside down through a tunnel without falling off the ceiling.
Yup, at 175mph Radical claims the RXC produces its own weight in downforce – a full 900kg – and on the road what that translates to is a level of high speed grip that will reduce most passengers to a gibbering wreck, and leave most drivers giggling in disbelief.
At low speeds, so let’s say anything under 50mph, you can’t really feel that prodigious downforce. Instead, all you notice is how relatively un-dreadful the ride is and how crisp the steering seems; Radical worked hard to get the damping of the all-round double wishbone suspension to a level that would ensure the car had a half decent ride quality, and I’d say they hit the bullseye on that one – because amazingly it rides pretty well.
As soon as you venture beyond 60mph, though, and ideally a fair bit higher than that on a track, you can feel the stability levels going up, front and rear, and the steering also gets a touch meatier. And yet... if you then really lean on it and get it to start sliding around – there is no traction control and no ABS – it’s actually rather well behaved.
There’s no precipice of grip that you walk up to and then just fall straight off; instead, when it goes, it goes gradually. On a track, therefore, I’m sure this car would be a) phenomenally rapid compared with other cars of a similar price, but also b) an absolute peach to throw around on account of its handling being so friendly. As a combination, that’s no small achievement on behalf of the RXC’s chassis engineers.
Talking of steering, the RXC has a unique system that enables you to dial the level of power assistance up or down in five different stages (see sidebar). But however much assistance you call upon, the front end of the RXC always feels pinned to whatever apex you choose to aim it at. And the way it stops is quite outrageous, frankly, for a car that wears number plates and a tax disc.
It also sounds deliciously potent, inside and out. You’d never guess that its engine is from a humble Ford given the range of exotic noises it gives off under full bore acceleration. It’s the same engine that Ginetta uses in the excellent G60, but it sounds even angrier in this case, and feels even more potent, which is saying something.
A less than brilliant aspect of the RXC is the way you enter it, or climb back out of it. So wide are its sills that the only way you can enter it realistically is by flinging open the gullwing door, then treading all over the seat and inserting yourself into its guts as elegantly as you can.
Which is to say, not very. If it’s raining you’ll get whatever is on the bottom of your shoes all over the seats. Those in this test car fortunately weren’t covered in the expensive leather hides that Radical hopes many RXC customers will end up specifying.
Another as yet unresolved issue is the gearchange, specifically the smoothness of the upshifts and the lack of a proper blip during donwshifts. Use the clutch conventionally up or down and there’s no problem, of course, but if you make a full steam upchange and don’t use the clutch, the corresponding wallop in the back isn’t entirely pleasant, even if the shift itself happens in microseconds. Radical realises there’s a bit of work to be done here, however, and is continuing to tweak the software to make the shifts a touch less manic.
When they sort that gearchange, the RXC will be something else. As it stands it’s already one of the more surprising cars we’ve driven this year, not simply for its sheer speed across the ground but for the quality of its execution and its composure at high speed thanks chiefly to the downforce.
It’s expensive at a whisker under £100k, true, but then there’s nothing else quite like it to drive right now, not at this price point or, indeed, at any price point come to think of it.
As a track day car it is sensational, and as a road car it is completely nuts. And that’s nuts as in smashing-super-great. No wonder Radical’s order books are full.
Price £97,000; 0-62mph 2.8sec; Top speed 175mph; Economy 25-40mpg; CO2 n/a; Kerb weight 900kg; Engine V6, 3700cc, petrol; Installation mid, longitudinal, rear wheel drive; Power 380bhp at 6750rpm; Torque 320lb ft at 4250rpm; Gearbox 7-spd paddle shift, sequential