Tips, Tricks & Trends

Airel Just Made The Perfect Car Even Better

How can a car that doesn’t have doors, a windshield, a roof, or even a body be improved? I know what you’re thinking; Ariel must have added the missing parts. They did not. The Ariel Atom was perfect when it first came out in 2000. To be clear, I don’t mean mechanically perfect, its spiritually perfect. And, Ariel has only made it more perfect-er with its newest and most perfect version yet–and it’s still missing half of its parts.

What is an Ariel Atom?

Ariel basically threw its middle finger up to anyone selling “track-day” cars and said, “we’ll show you a track-day car.” What came forth was a go-kart, a really, really powerful go-kart.

Ariel Atom at 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed
Ariel Atom at Goodwood Festival of Speed | Getty Images

All a good track-day car needs is a frame, wheels, steering, brakes, and a motor with a manual transmission, and that is what they built; nothing more, nothing less. Not only does the Atom come simple and light for superior handling, but it also has a variety of power options from a turbocharged Honda K24 to a small V8 making 500 hp.

What’s new with the Atom 4

The Ariel Atom has always been a purpose-build track monster, not for the faint of heart. Well, Ariel has been kind with the Atom 4. As pointed out by Road and Track, the Ariel Atom 4 is a bit softer around the edges.

The tester had the Atom on a track, where it belongs, and reports that Ariel made the chassis 15 percent stiffer and revised the suspension geometry. These changes allow the driver more control and an overall friendlier rip around the track. 

It’s simple and easy to drive

The Road and Track test driver reports that once you get past the inherent radicalness of the Atom 4, it is still “just a car. In the best way possible.” What I think he means is that due to friendly easy to use parts like a honda civic gearbox and level, well-spaced pedals, the Atom is a driver-friendly car that isn’t sacrificing every for that extra .000001 seconds on the track. 

All-new drivetrain 

The previous Atom had the Honda Civic Si, turbocharged K24. It was a vicious and high-revving power plant that could be a lot to handle for a newer track driver when paired with the insanely lightweight package of the Atom 3s. 

The Ariel Atom 4, on the other hand, has the uses the K20C, which is the turbocharged 2.0-liter four from the new Civic Type R. This motor does lose some of that high-revving thrill of the K24, but it has a much friendly power delivery.

RELATED: The Extremely Minimalist Ariel Atom Came From Motorcycles

According to Road and Track, this motor still makes 350 hp, but around the 6,000 rpm mark, it loses a bit of snap. This requires the driver to slightly change the typical driving style for a smaller, lighter car like the Atom. But again, it allows a more novice driver a tiny bit of cushion. 

This doesn’t mean veteran drivers can’t still smile their lips off. This power range gives the driver a chance to run the gears and enjoy a bit of short-shifting on straights. 

New traction control

Traction control on the race track can be an annoyance. The new traction control on the Atom 4 actually helps the driver go faster. Most traction control systems apply brakes to the wheel that lost traction. As you can imagine, that can really slow you down and break your concentration.

Road and Track explains that unlike normal traction control that uses braking, the Atom has true racing traction control. This style of traction control cuts spark, limiting power to the spinning wheel to not throw off the balance of the car. This system is more efficient in this context and much faster. 

The Ariel Atom 4 is here for you

If you ever felt nervous to approach the Atom, that is fair. It is a serious car for serious drivers, and it still is. But, the Atom 4 should make potential buyers less nervous. It will make you a better driver if you let it. See, more perfect-er.