Tips, Tricks & Trends

The Ariel Nomad Is a Street-Legal Baja Buggy

Side-by-side UTVs may be tons of fun, but they’re not exactly street-legal. And while there are plenty of off-road trucks and SUVs on the market, they don’t have quite the same raw appeal. Safari 911s and modified Miatas, as well as a handful of supercars, come a bit closer. But for tackling both the urban and actual jungle, few vehicles match the Ariel Nomad.

Ariel Nomad specs and features

Red Ariel Atom 4 being driven by a helmeted driver down a country road
Ariel Atom 4 | Ariel

Like Ariel’s other vehicle, the Atom, the Nomad is fairly stripped-down. It doesn’t even really come standard with any body panels, apart from a windscreen, Car and Driver reports.

White-framed Ariel Nomad Tactical parked on a gravel road
Ariel Nomad Tactical | Bring a Trailer

However, while the Nomad is built around a welded tubular steel exoskeleton like the Atom, it has additional overhead protection. It’s not quite a roll cage, Autoweek reports, but it’s more than the Atom has. This is helpful because, while the Atom is focused on racetrack speed, the Ariel Nomad is built for off-roading.

The Ariel Nomad comes in several trims, Road & Track reports. The Sport features a rear-mounted 2.4-liter four-cylinder Honda engine, rated at 230 hp and 220 lb-ft. That’s linked to a 6-speed manual and a limited-slip differential. Because it only weighs 1450 pounds, the Nomad Sport can go 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. But, if that’s not enough, there’s an optional supercharger kit that delivers 300 hp.

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While the Ariel Nomad Sport, with its long-travel suspension, JRi dampers, and BFGoodrich Advantage T/A tires, can tear up some mud, the Tactical is even better at it, R&T reports. It swaps out the Advantage tires for knobby Mud-Terrain T/A tires and offers adjustable remote-reservoir JRi dampers. Plus, it comes with a Warn winch, a rear sump guard, a light bar, a spare tire, and more ground clearance.

There’s also the Ariel Nomad R. It too uses a Honda engine, Top Gear reports, a 2.0-liter supercharged four-cylinder. As a result, it develops 339 hp and 243 lb-ft, R&T reports. And thanks to a sequential 6-speed manual, it can do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds.

It doesn’t have the same off-road rubber as the Tactical. However, it still has long-travel suspension, using Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs. And like the Tacitcal, it has 4-wheel Alcon ventilated disc brakes.

What’s it like to drive?

The cabin of the Ariel Nomad Tactical, showing the steering wheel, pedals, and seats
Ariel Nomad Tactical cabin | Bring a Trailer

Like the Atom, the Ariel Nomad only comes in rear-wheel-drive form. And it doesn’t have much in the way of creature comforts. ‘Inside,’ it has 2 bucket seats, some 4-point harnesses, a digital display, the pedals, a hanging duffel bag for storage, and on the Tactical model, a hydraulic handbrake. The biggest concessions to the weather, besides the windshield, is an optional fabric top, Hagerty reports.

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But the lack of 4WD and AWD doesn’t slow the Nomad down at all. True, the BFG Mud-Terrain tires are speed-limited…to 99 mph. To paraphrase R&T, the Nomad is the closest thing to a 4-wheeled dual-sport motorcycle. The lack of body panels means you can place it exactly where you want during cornering. Plus, both the Sport and Tactical models have very communicative steering.

More than that, driving an Ariel Nomad is simply a spectacle of fun. The RWD means you have to maintain speed in deep mud and sand. But the car’s handling and design make it so you want to keep going fast, Car and Driver reports.

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It’s not a rock-crawler, Autoweek explains, in the vein of a Rubicon Jeep. Instead, it’s more like a Ford Raptor or Mojave Jeep but pared back to the minimalist essentials. It really is the closest thing to a street-legal side-by-side UTV.

Ariel Nomad pricing and comparison

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Unfortunately, the Ariel Nomad doesn’t come cheap. The Sport starts at $80,000; the Tactical starts at $92,250. As for the R, Ariel’s only making 5 of them, for the equivalent of $100,720. And while both the Sport and Tactical are sold—and made—in the US, it’s unclear at this time if the R is making it here.

2019 Ford F-150 Raptor with Fox Live Valve electronic shocks
2019 Ford F-150 Raptor with Fox Live Valve electronic shocks | Fox

Fortunately, it is occasionally possible to find used Ariel Nomads. One sold on Bring a Trailer in 2019 for $54,000. Which is still on the level of a brand-new F-150 Raptor. And while the Nomad can be daily-driven, the Raptor is significantly more practical.

Sherp ATV
Sherp ATV | The Smoking Tire via YouTube

However, the Nomad is less a straight Raptor rival, and more a competitor for the SCG Boot or the Sherp. The Boot may be a genuine off-road racer, but it costs 2-3 times as much. And although the latter can drive on the water, it’s significantly slower, not street-legal, and about $10,000 more expensive than the Nomad.

The Ariel Nomad, then, is arguably a bit of a toy. But, as R&T points out, there are plenty of adventure bike owners who never venture off-pavement.

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