Remember a Caterham Seven called the R600? We drove it in December 2012, in Lincolnshire on a damp track. Less than perfect conditions in which to try a supercharged lightweight racing car. But even then, Caterham talked about making a roadgoing variant of the 2.0-litre racer. This, the 620R, is it.
Caterham had messed with artificial aspiration before, but never really made it work. It’s hard to get a blown engine cooled in such a tight engine bay, and a turbo doesn’t have the ideal response for a lightweight car anyway. But this time, they said, they thought they’d cracked it.
Key details are still the same as the R600: it’s a Seven, with wide-track front suspension, a 2.0-litre Ford Duratec motor with a supercharger attached, making a pleasing/terrifying 310bhp and 219lb ft, and driving the back wheels through a straight-cut, sequential six-speed gearbox and limited-slip differential.
It weighs, in this trim, 572kg and is a few MSA-approved accessories and other ancillaries away from being a race car. It's still a Seven at heart, though. It doesn’t overheat or complain in traffic, the clutch is manageable and progressive, and the steering lock is the same as usual.
The Caterham's cockpit’s a bit cramped but, actually, quite beautifully finished for your £50k. The 620R comes with a high performance dampers, a De-Dion rear suspension, ventialted front brake discs, and 13in alloy wheels shod in Avon tyres. Inside there is a push button ignition, carbonfibre seats and dashboard, a quick-release Momo steering wheel and numerous conveniently laid out toggle switches.
While you marvel at the cabin, you need to remember this Seven will hit 62mph in first gear, so can do the whole 0-60mph thing in 2.79 seconds.
You'll find that there’s so much power on tap that it's almost absurd. We’re talking Ariel Atom levels of oomph, and they trade blows on the way they go, and handle: the Atom has better traction because the engine is at the back, but the Caterham rolls less because its engine is lower.
The Atom’s Honda unit pulls more freely and with less hesitation at very low revs, but the Caterham pulls through gears more quickly because its gearbox allows flat shifting.