When you buy an Ariel Atom, you’re buying a machine hand-assembled by a single technician. This process hasn’t changed much from the days of the first-generation car. However, as you’ll now discover, the design and hardware for the new Atom 4 is markedly different from that of even the Atom 3.5.
The core principles remain: the exposed exoskeleton acts as a basis for aluminium double-wishbone suspension controlled through adjustable pushrod coilover spring-and-damper units. Bilstein dampers are standard, though our car uses optional adjustable suspension struts from Ohlins with remote damping reservoirs that are specially made for Ariel. The car’s unassisted steering survives, likewise its mid-mounted transverse engine that drives the rear axle through a six-speed manual gearbox, and an optional mechanical limited-slip differential if you want one. Our test car had the latter, as well as an optional AP Racing brake upgrade kit, adjustable traction control electronics and a turbo boost controller with which to limit (or unleash) the propulsive potential of the new forced-induction powertrain, more on which in a moment.
Though made from steel, the tubular chassis builds on what Ariel learned with its experimental titanium chassis of 2014. The bronze-welded tubes are therefore wider in diameter than before, which helps make the car 15% stiffer than its predecessor. There’s also now greater leg room and better protective properties in the event of front impact, though the car’s dynamic behaviour is also said to have benefited from new suspension geometries (and these are not simply tweaks – there are fresh pick-up points, plus anti-squat and anti-dive measures), and a staggered wheel set-up now an inch larger at each corner. Stability should also have improved thanks to a fractionally longer wheelbase.