Ariel Atom 3S first drive: Extra energy for the last word go-kart

Ariel’s small ultralight will get extra energy… and a windshield!

What Is It?

The Ariel Atom 3S is the most recent, most snug, nearly civilized model of the revolutionary authentic Atom that took the fanatic automotive world by storm virtually 20 years in the past. It maintains the identical primary exoskeleton chassis of the unique, with the identical rear engine location and rear wheel-drive, giving it the identical slight rear weight bias house owners and testers have all the time cherished. However it will get enhancements in all places else. The engine is now a turbocharged model of the two.four-liter i-VTEC 4 from the Civic Si, making 365 hp and 310 lb ft of torque on this software. TMI AutoTech, which builds the automobile for the U.S. market, designed an intercooled turbo system for the 4-banger. The cooling radiators within the facet pods distinguish the 3S from earlier Atoms. The adjustments give the open-cage screamer the facility-to-weight ratio of a supercar.

The corporate lists a zero-60 time of “lower than 2.eight seconds,” a determine TMI says is “an estimate.” We didn’t get an opportunity to check zero-60, both, however we’d say it’s fast. Even when it’s solely three seconds to 60, or nearer to 4, subjectively talking the 3S nonetheless has acceleration about that of a bottle rocket.

The stability of the automobile is biased to the rear about fifty seven %. That’s as a result of the Civic Si engine that sits largely ahead of the entrance axle in a Honda now sits principally ahead of the rear axle within the Atom 3S. It’s like that Consulier factor that had a 2.2-liter turbo 4 engine swap. It’s a quite simple and stable technique to make a sporty package automotive and we want extra small, fringe-component sports activities automotive makers would strive it. No drivetrain re-engineering required, simply transfer the entire powertrain, transmission, LSD, half shafts and all, from the entrance axle again to the rear axle. Voila – mid-engine supercar!

TMI Autotec is positioned about 500 toes from the Oak Tree Flip at Virginia International Raceway. There they do the whole lot from bending the frames into place to putting in the engines and observe-testing the setups.

Ariel Atom 3S rear 3 4

Ariel Atom 3S has fifty seven % of its weight over the rear axle. Picture by Drew Phillips

What’s It Like To Drive?

If you happen to discover the proper street or, extra doubtless, the proper observe, you’ll discover that the Ariel Atom 3S is the right automotive…so long as you perceive that it’s a race automotive at coronary heart. On a few drives in Northern California we by no means actually discovered the right location to match this automotive.

If you happen to don’t discover the right street, monitor or slot automotive setup, you may discover the Atom 3S to be “challengingly uncomfortable.” Our first drive of the 3S on Freeway 1 south of Carmel, as an example, was method too harsh a floor for this automotive. Bumps and holes whack and bang proper into the chassis and the entire thing bucks and wallops like a washer crammed with flooring mats. Plus the wastegate and consumption are proper subsequent to your ears, whooshing and squealing like little porcine respiratory apparatii each time you get on and off the throttle.

However when you handle to search out an empty, flat street with a curve or two in it you discover that the automobile is, certainly, completely balanced. You can also make it over- or understeer by mere considered software or launch of the throttle. It’s like a very, actually highly effective go kart with seating for 2. Sure, it’ll put on you out after even a brief drive, however possibly you may stand a little bit carrying out every now and then. Nobody however the hardiest racer goes to commute to work in one in every of these. It’s made for weekend flings, both alone – which ups the ability-to-weight – or with a passenger who will little question beg to be allowed behind the wheel (or beg to be let loose on the nearest bus cease). In that regard it helps you type out who your passengers must be.

Once we talked about the tough journey on Hwy. 1 to the Atom guys they agreed to allow us to drive it on a greater street. They provided Hwy 198 between the one hundred and one and Interstate 5. This can be a highway we typically take when we now have one thing attention-grabbing to drive to or from Monterey however need to make good time, too. Right here the 3S is much extra civilized than you’d anticipate and much more snug than earlier Ariel Atoms we’ve got pushed. In comparison with, say, the BAC Mono that we drove a pair months in the past it’s downright plush. Whereas the Mono engine was bolted straight to the body and vibrated our poor esophagus and all inner organs and tooth fillings till we needed to get out and cough for a few week, the Ariel Atom 3S transfers automobile-like ranges of engine vibe into the cockpit, at the very least as compared. Likewise the suspension is way extra civilized than a Mono or a go kart or a typical membership race automobile whereas providing comparable ranges of dealing with. It’s not comfortable by any means, however neither must you count on classic Formulation-No matter ranges of abuse.

Ariel Atom 3S

Nonetheless, Hwy. 198 might not have been the proper venue for this automotive, both. It’s a quicker highway than Hwy. 1, with vast-open, quicker curves. We took the entire thing virtually fully in sixth gear, downshifting to fifth solely often. To not complain, once more, however there certainly is a greater street on the market for this Atom 3S, one thing with second-, third- and fourth-gear curves. That’s one factor concerning the Atom, it must be matched with a really particular street or monitor to be loved to its fullest.

Nonetheless the 3S did effectively. The one issues we encountered on Hwy 198 had been in spots the place the street was beginning to slip off the sting and there have been uneven pavement undulations. Whanging over these upset the chassis sufficient that we needed to right the steering to maintain going straight. Softer spring settings may need made it higher on this stretch, however because it was the automobile dealt with all of it fairly effectively. We had it for about 60 miles, from the parking zone of the King Metropolis Taco Bell to the car parking zone of the Coalinga Burger King (monuments, each).

At first the automotive appeared to be chugging beneath acceleration in decrease gears, however the Atomites mentioned it was simply the traction management button, which had been twisted round by the ability cable on a Passport radar detector. As soon as the traction management had been set again to zero intervention and the cable put away, that drawback was gone.

“We’re nonetheless in R&D on that,” mentioned an engineer on the traction management.

The most important leap in civility for the 3S mannequin, nonetheless, is the windshield. Although it seems prefer it’ll slice your head clear off given the chance, not solely did it not slice any heads off throughout our drive, it made the entire drive much more palatable. The windshield, together with these matching wind guards on the edges screwed into the large tubular body, made this Atom way more like an actual automobile than any Atom has ever been. It’s not a Camry XLE with gold equipment and curb feelers, nevertheless it’s much more comfy than Atoms have ever been.

“Now we have one man who makes use of his as a each day driver,” an Atom salesman boasted.

That’s one robust buyer.

Ariel Atom 3S engine

The Ariel Atom 3S engine is the Honda 2.four-liter i-VTEC, good for 365 hp. Picture by Drew Phillips

Do I Need It?

Do you have got a protracted, twisting personal driveway like Lord March, or your personal non-public race observe? In that case, sure, get one. Or get one thing prefer it. There are many these motorsports golf equipment bobbing up everywhere in the nation — for these, an Atom 3S could be excellent. You may even have the monitor report. Should you don’t have such a setup however do have a kidney belt and are made up of largely lean, USDA Prime Grade A flank steak, then perhaps you may deal with one on actual roads. It’s a judgement name in your half. The Atom devoted get pleasure from their vehicles greater than something. Simply don’t count on it to be a 911 or Ferrari by way of day by day livability.

(One closing word: There’s the query of auto registration for public roads. Technically it’s a package automobile, so it’s a must to get a kind of 500 or so equipment automotive exemptions they provide in California. Different states produce other means, Ariel tells us. Don’t fear, they are saying.)

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