Caterham's Seven 310: A happy accident designed to hit the sweet spot
Since it started manufacturing the Seven in 1973, Caterham hasn't changed its formula for lightweight driving fun. The new Seven 310 sticks to the recipe with four exposed wheels, a roll cage and absolutely minimal creature comforts, but Caterham says it manages to blend performance and approachability better than any of its predecessors.
Along with the basic shape, Caterham hasn't changed all that much under the hood. The Seven 310 puts out 152 hp (113 kW) from its 1.6-liter Sigma engine, which is the same base unit found in the Seven 270. Engineers at the company's Sussex HQ have managed to liberate an extra 18 hp (13 kW) with high performance camshafts, a higher 7,500 rpm redline and a revised engine map. Although they sound like small tweaks, in the world of Caterham they're enough to justify a whole new model.
The changes were initially designed to allow owners to move from Supersport to Tracksport on the Caterham Motorsport ladder, but the improvement in performance was so marked, the changes are now a factory option. Also optional are LED headlamps, proving even the oldest designs in the world can be modernized – eventually.
"When we were going through the engineering process on the race engine upgrade, we had one eye on the aftermarket, of course," says Simon Lambert, Chief Motorsport and Technical Officer at Caterham. "But, once the re-worked car hit the road, we knew it was far too good to be marketed simply as an option. The Seven 310 was born. It's like an unplanned baby. A wonderful surprise that instantly becomes your favourite. We weren't expecting it but, of course, we wouldn't change a thing now. If Caterham was only going to make one car for the rest of its days, this would be it."
In the UK, the Seven 310 will cost £24,995 (US$32,700) fully assembled, although existing owners can also have the upgrades fitted to the Seven 270 for £1,495 (US$1,950).