Driven: Caterham Seven 420R
Here is the first drive review of the 420R after Motor Verso were given the opportunity to test out the car on a range of test roads at Millbrook Proving Ground.
What is the Caterham Seven 420R all About?
This was my second time driving a Caterham, and I got to test the 420R. The numbers stand for (roughly) the amount of bhp-per-ton, and each Caterham only weighs around 500 kg. You are able to purchase the cars in S or R packs. You pay a premium for the R pack, which is the race-ready configuration and so includes a few extras such as a limited-slip differential, lightweight flywheel, sport suspension pack, 15 inch Orcus alloy wheels with ZZS tyres, uprated brake master cylinder, and carbon fibre dashboard, to name but a few.
The Caterham Seven is designed to be super lightweight and focused around a fun driving experience.
The 420R differs slightly using a 2.0 litre engine that creates 210 bhp and 203 Nm of torque. The power goes to the rear wheels using a 5-speed manual gearbox. This makes a 0-60 mph time around 3.8 seconds and tops out at 136 mph.
How Does it Drive?
Before we get on to the actual driving experience, we need to mention that in order to actually get into the car you need to disconnect the steering wheel and slide in like a racing driver. Once snug inside, the steering wheel comes back over your legs and then you can strap in with that 4-point harness. There was no chance of me slipping out of this car.
Taking the 420R out first for a drive I was really excited, even at low speeds the car felt responsive and perfectly pure. I took the car out onto a high-speed bowl to get a feeling for the car’s straight line power. With a straight up ahead of me I opened it up, the car rushed forward with incredible acceleration and a beautiful engine note; all I could think was “this isn’t even the fastest version”. The 5-speed gearbox in the car works really well, it provides a nice short shift, which requires a little extra push to engage each gear, it felt like loads of fun shifting through the gearbox, as you can see from the video below. The noise from the exhaust was a lot louder and deeper, and the car just ate up the track in front of it. The car will still accelerate hard way past 80 mph, but unfortunately our test was limited to 100 mph on the track. I didn’t get much of an opportunity to test out the handling of the car during this drive, but the engine performance is an absolute blast.
What is it Like Inside?
Inside, Caterham have kept things lightweight and simple. As we had the R pack, the car featured a carbon fibre dashboard which housed all the essential controls, you can see the layout from the picture below. To give you an example of how lightweight some of the components are, take a close look at the picture below, look at the switch to the left of the red start button, this is a simple rocker switch that they give you in place of a typical indicator stalk.
I am 6’4 and just managed to get into the correct driving position in this car, which is great considering the size of the car. I would however recommend a pair of small trainers for driving though as the pedals are pretty close together.
The Caterham Seven provides a fun and friendly driving experience that will give you the thrills you want as a car enthusiast, with the 420R adding a little more extreme thrill to your journey. The additional power makes the car a bit of a handful, it is as much performance as you will ever need, and although, in my opinion, it would take some time to master, it would be worth the effort.
This Caterham experience only got me more interested and hooked on Caterham Sevens. Caterham have an array of cars to meet different customer wants and needs, with the 160, 270, 360, 420 & 620. It is very much a Goldilocks situation, you just need to choose the one that feels right for you.
Caterham Seven 420R
- Price: £ 30,990
- Engine: 2.0-litre
- Power: 210bhp
- Torque: 203Nm
- Transmission: 5-Speed Manual RWD
- 0-62mph: 3.8 Seconds
- Top speed: 136mph
- Weight: 560kg
Author: Paul Hadley