Caterham R500 – Top Gear’s Car of the Year
Top Gear has named the Caterham Superlight R500 its 2008 ‘Car of the Year’. The most extreme version of the legendary Seven appeared on the popular BBC show for the first time at the beginning of December, instantly leaving a lasting impression on presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
In the hands of Top Gear’s mystery test driver, The Stig, the R500 put in one of the most visually spectacular laps around their benchmark test circuit, Dunsfold. Free of any driver aids, the Seven slipped and slid to a lap time that disgraced cars costing over ten times as much.
Despite incredibly cold conditions, the £37K* Seven was less than a second slower than the absolute record around the ‘Top Gear lap’ and rapid enough to steal the overall fifth fastest time, previously held by the £1million Bugatti Veryon.
Top Gear Power Laps:
Position - Car - Lap Time
1 Gumpert Apollo 1.17.1
2 Ascari A10 1.17.3
3 Koenigsegg CCX 1.17.6
4 Pagani Zonda F Roadster 1.17.8
5 Caterham R500 1.17.9
6 Bugatti Veyron 1.18.3
7 Pagani Zonda F 1.18.4
8 Maserati MC12 1.18.9
9 Ferrari Enzo 1.19.0
10 Porsche 911 GT2 (997) 1.19.5 (pd)
Clarkson, who’s wife is a proud Seven owner, awarded the R500 for “achieving something that a car of its value shouldn’t be able to”, amidst competition from Nissan’s GT-R, Fiat’s 500 and the new Ford Fiesta.
Unbelievably - and testament to its brilliance - the Seven still uses Colin Chapman’s original chassis design, dating back 51 years. Caterham Cars continue to ‘add lightness’ to modern variants, pushing the performance envelope through the benefits of modern technology and advanced construction methods.
The result is a British car that persistently offers arguably one of the purest driving experiences.
The nimble R500 exploits its featherweight, 506kg chassis to its full potential when combined with a 2.0 Ford Duratec engine, tuned by Caterham Powertrain (CPT) to achieve 263bhp. The resulting 520bhp-per-tonne beats that of the Veyron and is capable of propelling the two-seater from 0-60mph in a staggering 2.88 seconds.