I enjoyed the 620R, but there’s no denying that, away from a circuit, it was all a bit much. The sequential ’box required the fortitude of Iron Man for it to shift satisfactorily, and the chassis, while very well conceived and tuned, was never the friendliest arrangement with which to spend an afternoon.
After an hour or so of wrist/calf/neck/heart strain, it was easy to put back in the box, making it one of those heavy-duty Caterhams that tends to work better as an anecdote than an actual car.
Not so the 620S, which is magnificent from start to finish. Sit in it and you get the same toggle-strewn carbonfibre dash as the R, except now, of course, you’re shielded from the elements just enough to make progress seem more pleasurable than outright perilous. Caterham's leather seats are now standard, although our test car came with Caterham’s new heated carbon fibre buckets - an expensive tick at £1000, but a brilliant and essential one.
The blown 2.0-litre Ford Duratec remains much as before: hugely noisy, not precisely easy to get off the mark and occasionally grouchy at low speeds - none of which particularly differentiates it from the rest of Caterham’s Blue Oval-sourced engine line-up. Its distinguishing mark, predictably, is the massive pace that comes with it. This was true of the 620R, too, but here the five-speed manual has distilled the colossal shove into something far more wieldy and likeable.
Where the sequential transmission all but vetoed the idea of moving between slow and fast at anything less than a frenzy, the conventional ’box now lets you drive far more languidly. Marrying its longer ratios to 219lb ft and a kerb weight of 610kg gives the car a wonderful length of stride, and with its obliging suspension removing much of the R’s edginess, it's conspicuously easy to drive the 620S at the kind of cross-country pace that normally demands a spot of endeavour from a Seven owner.
If that makes the S sound like the lazy man's option, it isn’t; it merely has that club in the bag now. Ask more of the accelerator pedal and the Duratec still responds with the kind of torrid gusto that’ll have the rear wheels spinning up in third if you’re not careful.
The mechanical requirements of clutch pushing and gear lever pulling mean the S takes more than half a second longer to get to 60mph than the cut-through R, but as it still takes less than 3.5sec in total, the difference hardly seems debilitating.
In fact, while the lost fractions might conceivably be frustrating on track, on the road, the longer punctuations between upshifts only help to dramatise the subsequent moments of undiluted thrust - as does the softer chassis’s tendency to pitch back slightly under maximum duress.
Certainly there’s less traction to be had from the sport set-up than the R’s race one, but that’s scarcely a problem either. The S’s tendency to slide more manageably at halfway-sane speeds simply confirms the notion that it is both easier to manage and more fun.