It’s all over the media this morning – the death of the combustion engine. Everybody’s talking about it, the fact that diesel and petrol cars will be banned in the UK from 2040.
Massive news but we all saw it coming. There were enough warnings but it still sounds rather shocking if you like the sound of a V8. What is a petrolhead to do, I wonder?
It’s odd to think that my friend’s baby daughter will probable never drive a petrol or diesel powered car. Instead, she will be whisked to 60mph in silence – assuming autonomous cars will have already sucked the joy from motoring.
I know we have to change to save the planet but I can’t help feeling pangs of sadness and regret. Today I’ll be thinking about the first time I drove an Aston Martin, roaring through the Alps in a Maserati – and ripping up a racetrack in the Caterham Seven.
We have 23 years left to enjoy mad, ‘bad’ combustion cars and I for one intend to drive old disgracefully…
Just back from driving the new McLaren 570S Spider in Barcelona. The mountain roads are sensational – the Spider a dream to sling fast into a bend. It costs £165,000 but would I really swap one for a back-to-basics Caterham 7?
Well, the way I see it, most people would choose the McLaren every time. It’s a genuine supercar, with a heritage to match the Caterham. It’s six times the price and you can even complete a phone call with the top down.
The Seven doesn’t even have a radio. You wouldn’t hear it anyway. This anniversary special model isn’t that quick either and just climbing inside with the roof in place requires yoga classes at my age.
Yet, there is something pure about the driving experience in the Caterham. Minus the carbon cermaic brakes, the driver aids and the three dynamic driving modes of the 570S.
I’m a huge fan of the McLaren but there are so few places to push a supercar to the limit these days, there’s actually more enjoyment to be had in a Caterham on British roads than the 570.
Think I’m wrong? Well, the McLaren is an experience – a dream car. The Caterham reminds me of a 1950s go-kart. But the fact it thills just as much for a sixth of price must tell you something…
‘Scarlet red, Muirhead Scottish leather adjustable seats’ – the key word being adjustable. No sooner had the Sprint been delivered, I was battling to move the driver’s seat forward a notch or two.
Now, I appreciate the Seven is iconic and a thing of beauty. But for this sort of money, I think I’d like my seat to move when required. And so it was that ten minutes later, I reached for the toolbox and started whacking the mechanism with a wooden mallet. Seemed to do the trick.
The last Seven I tested came minus windscreen wipers. Well, the 620 had wipers but they didn’t work. Am I missing the point here?
I love Caterhams – heck I used to have a savings account to buy one. But building a retro car doesn’t mean you can get away with old-fashioned build qualities. Theresa May is Prime Minister, not Harold Wilson.
I took the Sprint for a drive later and things got better, although the handbrake can’t be lowered without catch your thumb against the tunnel housing. Ouch.
Oh dear, as Tony Blair said, things can only get better…
June 14 I used to have a Caterham savings account when I was younger – that’s how determined I was to own one. Then life got in the way and I bought a BMW estate.
I mention that because I love the little car but I’m not sure the 620S really has any place on British roads now. I drive a lot of high performance vehicles but this particular Caterham is too extreme, too powerful and too unforgiving for our congested highways.
On a track it’s a different story. The Seven brings supercar thrills to the masses at fraction of the cost. There’s nothing else for this sort of money that will excite so much.
But crawling through traffic, trying to keep within speed limits and not piling off through a hedge in the wet are not strong points of the Caterham 620S.
For once, I’d say buy one of the many less powerful models. I guarantee you will have just as much fun and life to drive anther day…
June 13 I once won a set of tyres driving a Caterham Seven on a handling course. Based on the original Lotus Seven, the Caterham version has changed little since the original Colin Chapman design of 1957. It’s a brilliant handling car but bonkers to the core.
This 620S model is the maddest of them all. And I mean mad. Kicking out 310bhp at 7,350 revs, you need all your wits about you to enjoy a motor that will go sideways at the slightest opportunity.
My spell with the Seven started at Heathrow airport. The car was delivered with the roof down (mostly because it’s painfully hot inside with the canvass in place) and by the time I reached the M4 it was lashing with rain.
Stuck in traffic, I put an umbrella up. Then I made it to a filling station canopy and fought for 20 minutes popping the roof in place.
It still leaked of course but at least I wasn’t sitting in a puddle. Then the windscreen wipers stopped working. I became a Chinese acrobat trying to find the right fuse but discovered something else had broken instead.
So I drove the rest of my journey without wipers and cursed the day the car was born. It’ll get better but £45k for this Caterham is simply too much…
June 12 Returning from Italy is always a drag. However, leaving behind a Lamborghini is even worse. Other supercars are available but I think I’ve found my automotive soulmate.
The Miura was the hook to being in Bologna but driving the Aventador and Huracan for the first time broke the spell of Mclaren which has been hanging over me for the last few weeks.
Now, you might think the 760bhp Aventador would seduce me but it was the considerably cheaper Huracan that proved the easier, more accessible supercar.
I’m hoping Car Couture can get one on test before the end of the year, so watch this space. For the next few days I’m in a Caterham 7 620S. More on that tomorrow…
Caterham Seven Sprint
Don’t go rushing out to buy one of these – the anniversary edition Seven Sprint is already sold out. There are plenty of other models to choose from but this deliberately retro Seven is destined to become a collector’s piece. Just 60 have been built, priced from £28,000. It features a modest, 80bhp three-cylinder engine, tiny 14-inch steel wheels and drum rear brakes. Double wishbone suspension, a lush red leather interior and a splash of chrome give this Caterham plenty of appeal. After a week on a Rolls, what could possibly go wrong…