Ariel Atom - Primitive Pure Fun
Having fun on four wheels these days is easy, right? Indeed, there is a lot of power out there to play with. However, "with great power comes great responsibility"... is what many car manufacturers have in mind now. That is why today we have speed limiters, brake assist, lane departure warnings, ABS, ESC, TCS, xDrive, and many, many more abbreviations that keep us safe and sound and on the road. Everything is automatized and we as drivers start to feel isolated and neglected. All is rather convenient and indeed safe, but there's something amiss. Our primal instinct to be in a constant search for the ultimate thrill is starting to boil and cars today are having a hard time satisfying it.
Happily however there are exceptions – a familiar, yet small company called Ariel still offers that what many other do not any more – an unbridled fun generator called the Atom. Founded in 2001, Ariel is a 7 employee, Somerset (England) based firm that produces performance vehicles. It's production portfolio consists of four projects – The Ariel Atom 1, 2 and 3 and the Ariel Atom 500 – all rather limited in numbers and there's a reason for that. To begin with, if it's a car it doesn't look like one, if it's a bike, it has four wheels and a steering wheel. It doesn't come with a windshield nor a roof and not even a boot for that matter. The chassis is also a body and a frame and all the various car mechanics are slightly or completely exposed to the human eye. So, in terms of practicality it is a disaster. But now we are going somewhere – it's exciting just to look at.
The Atom certainly wasn't made to pull up next to that fancy restaurant you were thinking of visiting. I mean, because of the disheveled person sitting next to you who used to be your elegant partner and because of the bugs in your hair and between your teeth you are likely to be rejected a table that evening. And why would you and your passenger look like that upon arrival? Well, when you operate an Atom you always feel the temptation to give it the beans, partly because it's so light (612 kg) and partly because it has a magnificent supercharged 2.0 L, 300 bhp Honda Civic Type R engine ready for exploiting. And that is if you don't go with the 500 which has an even more hardcore 3.0 liter John Hartley V8 engine that develops 500 bhp (in a car weighing less than a ton!). So in essence, when you put your foot down your body is getting destroyed by immense G forces and skin pulling wind resistance (no windshield, remember?).
That gives us an idea how much the Ariel Atom does not care about safety and driver aids. While thundering down the road, stomp on the brakes and you'll end up skidding off in a vast cloud of tire smoke for there are no anti-locking systems to interfere. Dare a mistake at a high-speed bend and you'll miss the electronic stability control that puts you back in line. Yet, the thing about the Atom is the improbability of something going wrong and that has something to do with it's nimbleness and ease of control. It doesn't need all the computerized gizmos which only add weight in excess. Instead, steering is light and sharp (you can actually see, while driving, the front wheels clipping apexes and working their magic), the gearbox is a charm and 0 to 60 takes less than 3 seconds – what more does an adrenaline junkie need?
So it's no wonder that the Atom gained such praise from automotive reviewers and critics over the last several years. It's a technological landmark that is fun and extraordinary to drive – just a little bit of road legal lunacy in our everyday sensible lives.
Picture Source: Ariel