The Caterham 7 620R is a the latest and most extreme addition to a Caterham range that has never been so diverse. Later this year a more affordable, turbocharged three-cylinder 7 will go on sale to bookend the line-up along with the 620R.
The 620R (a reference to its phenomenal power-to-weight ratio) dethrones the Superlight R500 as the fastest roadgoing 7 to date. Under the clip-on bonnet is a new 310bhp 2.0-litre supercharged engine that propels the car from 0-60mph in just 2.8 seconds – enough to challenge the Ariel Atom Supercharged’s position as one of the very fastest things on four wheels.
It goes without saying that the 620R isn’t for the faint-hearted. At the launch, company CEO Graham Macdonald warned: “I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this car for drivers with little or no experience of Caterhams.” And after experiencing the full-throttle rush of the 620R first-hand, we see exactly what he means.
Sat just inches from the road, hugged tightly on all sides and peering over the carbon-fibre aero screen, you feel like you’re sitting in a pure racing car. Fire up the engine and it splutters into life, followed by a blare from the exhaust next to your right ear.
The main problem is finding somewhere to safely deploy even a small fraction of the available performance. The sheer force of this car exploding towards its 7,200rpm red line – with the exhaust note and speed intensifying beyond 5,000rpm – is shocking. You need big biceps to handle the sequential gearbox (which bangs through changes without requiring you to dip the clutch) and a strong neck to keep an eye on the road.
In corners, the 620R feels like your typical Caterham, reacting instantly to the slightest turn of the tiny Momo steering wheel.
There’s no body roll to speak of, and you live in constant fear that a mistimed twitch of your right foot could send you into the hedgerows. Fortunately, the sticky Avon track tyres fitted as standard ensure remarkable levels of grip in the dry – we suspect it would be a different story in the wet.