What is it?
It's not a CSR (that's a temporary glitch in our website data); it's the new Ford Duratec-engined Caterham R400. Gone is the fragile old 1.8-litre K-series engine, and in its place comes in a new 2.0-litre unit, fettled by Caterham.
The old 1.8-litre K-series might have revved highly and produced plenty of power, but it needed a £3000 rebuild every 5000 miles.
Not so the new Ford Duratec engine fitted to the new R400. Here is an engine that produces around 212bhp and a K-series-beating 152lb ft of torque. And yet all Caterham has done to this Mondeo motor is make it breathe rather better, fitted some spikier cams and used its own ECU.
This motor is also lighter than the old one, and lighter on your wallet, too. Brand new and modified by Caterham, it costs less than £2500 new.
The engine’s not the only change: a new robot-welded chassis has increased rigidity by 12 per cent, new Bilstein dampers and a completely new set-up have given a far better balance between road and track handling. And the whole thing is now cheaper than before, with a fully built car costing £28,495 (but while a limited-slip diff is now standard, a dry-sump is now an option).
What’s it like?
For all its new engine, as the Seven enters its 50th year of production, this latest version at first seems saddled by a worrying air of so-what-ness. It looks the same, has the same name, the same wheels and a similar power output.
On first aquaintance, it’s an R400 with a Ford motor, so I do not understand why Caterham boss Ansar Ali is wearing a perma-grin as we head off onto Cadwell Park. Ten laps later, the grin is more than explainable. This is a wonderful car: less capable than the CSR and its clever independent rear suspension, but in many ways more enjoyable.
Torque has never been an important term in Caterham-speak, but get used to it, because the R400 has a sensational mid-range. It pulls from virtually nothing and then feels supercar-fast from 3000rpm. The shove keeps building up until around 7000rpm, and you can hang it out to 7800rpm if needed, but there’s little point.