The Ariel Atom can be bought with three power outputs, varying from 245bhp to 350bhp. Even the most basic model is exhilarating, but head to the top spec 3.5R and you’re talking about the sort of performance levels that can, in the right hands, trouble numerous supercars including the Ferrari 488 GTB, McLaren 650S and Porsche 911 Turbo S while it’s being driven flat out. In our estimation, the now defunct Mugen tuned version and the V8 are best described as track biased, but the three, now considered lesser powered versions, are most at home on the road.
Each model is powered by 2.0-litre, four-pot Honda units, with the 310bhp version gaining a supercharger and the 3.5R including a charge cooler to help it reach its 350bhp power output. The Mugen edition benefited from extra tuning from the Japanese firm’s performance arm. At the heart of the outgoing Atom V8 is a Hartley-designed unit from the US and is bespoke enough in the way that Ariel has specified it to wear the British firm’s own badging. Power is a sensational 475bhp at 10,500rpm in road trim as tested (500bhp at 10,600rpm was an option).
Shifts are made via a six-speed Honda ‘box on all versions, although you can specify a six-speed Sadev sequential unit the kind you’ll find in touring and rally cars, with shifts that are controlled by a hydraulic actuator. While the shift is notably more positive, there’s nothing wrong with the standard unit. Beyond that, all versions are nigh-on mechanically identical.
Standouts include throttle response, which is wonderfully crisp, brake response, which is firm and adjustable front-to-rear, and the steering, which is quick and accurate, if not quite on a par with that of a Lotus 2-Eleven, which is one potential rival.
It stops well, too. There’s no ABS, but the pedal gives good feel and there’s solid retardation and even very effective front/rear brake bias adjustment.