What is it?
The Caterham Seven Roadsport 175 is the latest and most powerful variant of Caterham’s Roadsport range. Unlike the 125 and 150 versions, which use a 1.6-litre Ford Sigma engine, the 175 uses a 2.0-litre Duratec engine producing, you guessed it, 175bhp.
That’s exactly the same engine and state of tune found in the recently introduced Caterham Seven Superlight R300. So are we looking at the same car by a different name? While to an extent all Sevens deliver the same thrill-a-minute experience, in the nuances of how they go about it there is a fair difference between a Superlight Caterham and a Roadsport.
First up, Caterham Seven Roadsports run less sophisticated suspension, with a narrower front track and less adjustability (the platforms and dampers aren’t variable). Secondly, Roadsports get a five-speed gearbox in place of the six close ratios on Superlights. Thirdly, a Roadsport gets a heater and windscreen as standard, items you have to pay extra for on a Superlight.
To confuse matters, this particular Caterham Seven Roadsport 175 has the wider SV chassis (for those who want a little extra room), which incorporates the wider front suspension of the Superlight, but without the trick dampers.
What’s it like?
Given that the engine powering both the Roadsport 175 and the R300 is exactly the same, the noticeable difference in character between the two is surprising. Mostly this comes down to the different gearing. With the Roadsport’s five speeds, you find yourself changing gear less, relying more on the torque, something the Duratec is not short of. Just 139lb ft may not sound much, but in something weighing 550kg it’s plenty.
The difference between the two in ultimate pace may be slim - just 0.3sec to 60mph on paper - but in reality the Roadsport is a lot less manic. Whether that appeals will depend on how you intend to use your Caterham.
For the track-day regular, the six-speed gearbox is probably the way to go, but if you’re going to be spending most time on B-roads, mixing it with other traffic, the more relaxed delivery of the Roadsport makes sense and, compared with the lesser Roadsport variants, the Roadsport 175’s additional mid-range punch makes easier work of overtaking.
The suspension, while lacking a little of the Superlight’s sophistication in the way it deals with bumps, still finds a nice balance between comfort and tautness. This particular car was not fitted with the optional limited-slip differential (also a cost option on the Superlight), which is a shame, because the Roadsport 175 is brisk enough to easily break traction.
Should I buy one?
The beauty of Caterham’s operation is that there are few hard points in the range, and almost endless personalisation. The trick is choose the right starting point, depending on what you want from your Seven. For road use, there is probably better value in the less powerful (but still quick enough) Roadsport 125 and 150 versions. And while the 2.0-litre175bhp Duratec engine is a cracker, its extra performance makes it better suited to the more track-oriented Superlight chassis.
But if you want a road Caterham with a touch more long-distance comfort, but still with the ability to stay with a 911, the Roadsport 175 is an excellent place to start.