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Caterham Seven 485 review

By Scott Newman, 09 May 2016 Reviews

Caterham Seven 485 review

Plenty of thrills, but bring your skills

Our previous experience with Caterham’s 485 wasn’t, erm, very positive. Put simply, we didn’t feel the driving experience justified the substantial $116,990 price tag.

After all, there are some very talented rivals like the Porsche Boxster and Alfa Romeo 4C at this price point, which demand nothing like the level of compromise required with the Caterham.

However, we’re re-visiting the 485 as there’s been a notable change to its standard specification, as well as the opportunity to run it down the strip to try and validate Caterham’s eye-widening 3.9sec 0-100km/h claim.

Caterham Seven 485 rearThe crucial component in question is a limited-slip differential and it promises to be an important piece of the Caterham puzzle. Whereas previously power could be fizzed away by the unloaded inside wheel, now the 485 can be steered almost entirely with the throttle, particularly in the streaming wet conditions of our track test.

It takes a lot of concentration, as with no electronic aids of any kind – not even ABS – you’re completely on your own in a car that will easily wheelspin through the first three gears and can be tricky to catch when it does slide. The corollary of this, of course, is the buzz that results from knowing you alone are in control.

Caterham Seven 485 frontIt’s up to the driver to correct every locked brake and spike of oversteer; no other car offers the same connectedness as the lightweight, unassisted 485. It’s hard work, but very rewarding and would undoubtedly be easier on a dry track.

 Or a dry, warm track, at least, as performance testing the 485 at a dry but cold Heathcote drag strip was heart-in-mouth stuff. With the highly tuned 177kW/206Nm four pushing just 675kg (sans driver) the Caterham fires off the line like it’s been stung, but continues to slither and slide all the way to the top of third gear.

Caterham Seven 485 drivingThe bad news for Caterham, however, is there is simply no way a 485 is going to do 0-100km/h in 3.9sec, let alone the 3.4sec claimed for the smaller, lighter UK cars. With a clean launch and a 63kg driver, the buzzing Brit clocks 0-100km/h in 4.8sec and a 13.1sec quarter mile; the latter particularly impressive given it includes four gearchanges.

The thing is, though, a 13-second run in a 485 is much more thrilling than an 11-second run in a 911 Turbo, which sums up the whole Caterham experience. It’s madly compromised and expensive, but it’s a car every enthusiast should try at least once. With less power and grip, it might even be more fun. Stay tuned.


Engine: 1999cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v
Power: 177kW @ 8500rpm
Torque: 206Nm @ 6300rpm
Weight: 675kg
0-100km/h: 3.9sec (claimed)
Price: $116,990
Like: Old-school raw driving thrills; LSD now standard; novelty
Dislike: Price; practicality; quality issues