The new Ariel Atom 4 takes a great concept and pushes it even further
The Ariel Atom is one of the most purely distilled driving experiences available today. Exposed frame, intake honk directly over top of you, goggles on your head, and bugs in your teeth are all key parts of the Ariel ethos and, by extension, reasons that we love it. Just when we thought it couldn’t get much better, Ariel has announced the next generation of the Atom, aptly named the Atom 4.
Ariel stresses that this is a completely new Atom, from the engine, to the bodywork, to the wheels and everything in between. In fact, only three parts carry over from the previous Atom—the clutch pedal, the brake pedal, and the fuel cap.
The biggest news from the business end, out back. The Atom 4 now utilizes a K20C 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine sourced from the Honda Civic Type R. In the Atom 4, power output rings in at a whopping 320 horsepower. The previous Atom—the Atom 3—used either a naturally-aspirated or turbocharged version of Honda’s rev-happy K24 engine. With that engine, the torque curve was particularly spiky, making it a bit of a hassle to manage power delivery. Ariel says that the new K20C will promise a much flatter, broader torque curve that should help the drivability of the car.
If 320 horses just isn’t enough for you, there’s an optional performance package that bumps power output to 350 ponies via an ECU tune. The package also adds track goodies like launch control, adjustable traction control, a three-stage boost controller, a performance exhaust system, a higher efficiency radiator, and, a limited-slip differential to replace the open diff used in the standard car.
The Atom 4’s chassis is all-new but still comprised of tubular steel. Updates include larger-diameter main and diagonal tubes, and torsional stiffness climbs a claimed 15 percent without any penalty to the frame’s weight. The wheelbase is extended by two inches to bolster interior space and legroom, but that change also helps mitigate the car’s propensity to swap ends on unsuspecting drivers.
A new suspension retains the inboard pushrod damper system but features new adjustable Bilstein dampers. The geometry is updated with new inboard and outboard points, plus anti-squat and anti-dive tech to diminish body roll and unwanted weight transfer. Each Atom 4 will be fine-tuned to the specific driver upon delivery, with camber, toe-in and ride height dialed in to custom specs. A revised steering rack aims at easing on-road behavior without losing the telepathic sharpness that Atoms are known for on track. One big plus of the new steering rack is a reduced turning radius, making in-town driving and parking easier.
In the braking department, the Atom 4 boasts new 290-mm vented brake rotors front and rear, squeezed tightly on demand by AP Racing four-piston calipers at all four corners. Two-piece rotors and track compound pads are optional for those with more track-focused ambitions. Opting for the aforementioned performance package nets you an adjustable brake bias controller, as well, so that you can tune the braking behavior of your Atom 4.
Alloy wheels reside at each corner. They’re larger than before, measuring 16 x 7 inches up front and 17 x 9 inches out back, and the multi-spoke wheels wear equally staggered tires that measure 195/50 on the front end and a chunky 255/40 in the rear. Ariel says there’s more mechanical grip here than in any previous Atom. For the first time, the Atom 4 will offer optional carbon wheels that are nearly 50 percent lighter than the alloys.
Although the bodywork still maintains largely the same shape, Ariel says every one of the (admittedly very few) panels on the car is new. With the goal of reducing drag while improving downforce, Ariel engineered the Atom 4 to achieve a shift in aero balance that allows it to be more neutral and precise at the handling limit. New ducting inside a smaller nosecone helps reduce airspeed and increase the efficiency of the radiator. If you’re the madman that looks at the normal bodywork on an Ariel Atom 4 and senses Colin Chapman on your shoulder telling you to go lighter, the Atom 4 will offer carbon-fiber substitutes for many panels.
Each Atom 4 will be built specifically at a one-customer, one-build pace at TMI Autotech, Ariel North America’s licensed builder for the Atom 4 as well as the off-road oriented Nomad. Production has already commenced, so now’s the time to hop in line if you’re after one of the most raw and unfilitered driving experiences available today.