Rare is the car fanatic who disputes the notion that the Caterham Seven is one of the most unfiltered and uncompromising driving machines for sale today. However, quite a few of those same car fanatics will argue that the Caterham Seven has never really been about revolution so much as it has evolution. After all, aside from different front fenders and some trim pieces and other detail changes, most Sevens look pretty much the same as the first ones made after Caterham Cars founder Graham Nearn bought the rights to the design from Colin Chapman and Lotus in 1973. For the arithmetically-challenged, that’s 40 years ago.
And in those four decades, more modern (in terms of both engineering and styling) competitors like the Ariel Atom and KTM X-Bow have arrived on the scene. Perhaps realizing that all good things must eventually end (especially when it comes to staying competitive in the marketplace), current Caterham owner Tony Fernandes and his team now appear to be looking toward the future for the company. They’ve already announced the new base version of the Seven will be powered by a turbocharged 660cc inline-three cribbed from Suzuki’s Japanese market kei car lineup, and now the company is offering a glimpse even farther into the future with the AeroSeven Concept.
Developed in concert with the Caterham Formula 1 team, the AeroSeven is a dramatic departure from the current Seven range as far as looks are concerned. The engine is still ahead of the cockpit, but it’s installed within a carbon fiber tub that incorporates the rear wheel openings. The lower and upper portions of the front of the car are sandwiched between broad swaths of bodywork finished in British Racing Green. Exterior lighting is an all-LED affair (including accent lighting under the upper part of the bodywork), and the grille surround and sills of the cockpit sides are yellow, as are the rims (and two spokes) of the black wheels.
Climb over those side sills and you find yourself in a cockpit and you’ll slide into one of two lightly-upholstered racing shells, in which you’ll be held by a multi-point racing harness. A center-stack-mounted “graphical display unit” (GDU) monitors the vehicle’s vitals and other functions like race track maps and lap timing, while a solitary rearview mirror is perched atop a bar that bridges the gap between the top of the dashboard and the rear bulkhead. Bottom line: The AeroSeven’s cabin (if you can call it that) is unflinchingly Spartan, in true track car fashion.
The AeroSeven’s chassis is just as modern and performance-centric as its interior and exterior. The front suspension utilizes a Formula 1 style inboard pushrod layout, while the rear is also an independent setup. The driver aid roster includes adjustable traction control, launch control, and Bosch ABS. As for power, that comes from a Ford-sourced 2.0L DOHC inline-four that sends 237 horsepower through a 6-speed manual transmission onward to the rear wheels. Caterham estimates all that hardware will launch the AeroSeven to 62 mph in four seconds flat.
While the AeroSeven itself is just a concept, Caterham brass says it will wield heavy influence on a new production model set to arrive roughly one year from now. And if we had to guess, it will be positioned as a more sophisticated – not to be confused with more civilized – premium alternative to the Seven family. We’re eager to see not only how the AeroSeven’s production-spec progeny turns out, but how the likes of Ariel and KTM respond to it. Of course, when those companies fight amongst themselves, those of us who view driving more as an activity than as a chore win.