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Lightweight construction in sports cars: Caterham Seven 165 meets Nissan 370Z

Achim Hartmann
Lightweight construction in sports cars
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A uf once everything is different. The clutch engages, perhaps a little too hastily, the engine trumpets confidently through the side exhaust, the needle on the rev counter shoots up, the pilot's head backwards. 7,000 revolutions, bang, the next gear, a bit scratchy, it can be engaged, but the shift travel can almost no longer be measured in millimeters - the next smaller unit would be appropriate.

Caterham Seven 165 with 80 hp 490 kilos

The acceleration experience is one of the wildest of its kind, because the car in which you are stuck offers only minimal protection, exposes you to the environment almost immediately, it lets you feel, hear and smell while you work hard. The steering: ultra-direct. The suspension comfort: is in all other vehicles. The pedals: are close together as if they were one and move rather relentlessly.

And it goes forward, anytime, again and again, always fast. However the roadster intends to behave, it lets you feel it, because you are sitting pretty much between the drive wheels. They are not wide, not fitted with semi-slicks, not even with particularly talented 14-inch sports tires, but it is enough. Because the engine has only 658 cm3. Only 80 hp. Only 107 Newton meters - and yet everything is fine.

Because the car in which he works weighs only 490 kilograms. Well, the test car probably weighs a few pounds more, because it has a windshield and a couple of rags that the manufacturer boastfully advertises as doors.

The manufacturer is called Caterham, its entry-level model Seven 165. And quite a few of you, dear readers, will praise the little dugout canoe as heaven on sports driver's earth, in the same breath all the supposedly obese M-BMW, RS-Audi, AMG-Mercedes, maybe even Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini, maybe even the Toyota GT86, Peugeot RCZ and Nissan 370Z denigrate as effeminate, patronizing, damp engineering dreams. Yes, you could get carried away.

Car and driver become one

A day with the Caterham Seven 165 turns you around, blows away habits, acts like a brainwash. BetweenThe bottom of the pants and asphalt fit a train card at best, the center tunnel and side wall provide lateral support, not the seat, although it could. There would even be a real heater, but the waste heat from the engine and transmission is completely sufficient. In any case, the Caterham Seven 165 Seven meshes directly with you, lets nothing get between the car and the driver, puts the car experience in a new context: driving for the sake of driving.

Yes, the Caterham Seven 165 works here a bit yesterday. The free-standing wheels, the melon-sized headlights, the dashboard, well, the dashboard, the analog instruments, the unconditional lack of power - and everything around you suddenly seems huge. Even the Nissan 370Z, the rather not one of the obese of his trade. Okay, its almost 1.5 tons doesn't look like an elf. The Japanese weighs around three times as much as the little Brit, but with 328 hp, its naturally aspirated V6 engine also develops four times the power of the three-cylinder turbo in the Caterham Seven 165.

Sure, that cannot be an argument. But even if the Nissan 370Z not necessarily One of the winning subscribers in comparison tests by sport auto , but then clearly one of the editors' favorites for sports cars. Why? Because of its power to weight ratio. And the fact that a real engine works in it. And that the drive ends on the right axis. And anyway: It costs just over 30,000 euros.

Nissan 370Z in 5.3 seconds to 100 things

Yes, but then you get out of the Caterham Seven 165 and think that you have just boarded a Mercedes Atego 815 or a comparable 7.5-ton truck. Everything looks huge, sprawling, bulky. The last time you drove the Nissan 370Z, you let yourself be infected by its directness, praised the growl of its 3.7-liter engine, huh, those rough edges, the powerful, metallic sound, the agile handling, the stiff body, the actually quite compact dimensions.

You swept slightly wagging along country roads that are not yet completely dry, the steering always ready to turn against the curve radius. You tried the six-cylinder, turned it, over and over again, although that's not really his thing.

And you've been happy - until now, when you switched to the 370Z after a day in the Seven, only to find that that all is no longer true. Or? Yes, yes. It's still true. Only: In 6.9 seconds Caterham wants to have beaten the little one from zero to 100 km /h, Nissan promises 5.3 seconds. But it feels exactly the other way around.

An ultra-light toy

Of course it enticesSeven mixture to euphoria, not only because of the sensationally low weight, but also because of the wonderfully snorting three-cylinder and the matching gearbox. So the Caterham always throws around with sufficient torque, it can even turn, but also supports any attacks of acute shift laziness. Dawdling in the fifth? But of course, no problem.

That, for example, it has the base Elise, you know, those with the dreary 1.6-liter Toyota horn behind the wonderful bucket seats. That Elise Club Racer who made me beg my bank advisor for a loan without any self-respect - and who let me immeasurably disappointed me on the first extensive test drive. Which led to the thesis that lightweight construction is nonsense (see issue 5/2014).

Yes, in the Seven a decent drive supports the ultra-light chassis, making it one of the best four-wheel infotainment units that would actually need an amusement tax - but no more. It's a toy, albeit a fabulous one, and a cheap one too (from 23,795 euros). However, if you choose a Nissan 370Z, you get a sports car for every day and don't have to worry about a second car - unless one or more children are sitting at the breakfast table in the morning.

Dear Caterham or Nissan?

Even an Alfa Romeo 4C, which we have been able to test extensively in the meantime, is far more of a car than the Caterham and at the same time a great one Sports car - with a somewhat impetuous and therefore not easy to dose turbo engine, but that doesn't matter now. Lightweight construction alone hardly helps, just as the ruthless omission of things does not help. Do you see it differently? Really?

Then you probably drive a Caterham, Donkervoort, Irmscher Seven, Lotus Eleven or at least a KTM XBow every day, without a disc of course? No? Aha!

Don't get it wrong: A BMW M5 really doesn't have to weigh more than 1.9 tonnes despite all the requirements regarding safety standards and customer comfort requirements. And an Opel Astra OPC, weighing just under 1.6 tons, should also like to slim down a bit. However, a sports car does not have to be light at any price, it does not have to torment its buyer with hardship, just for a few nice hours together. Or alone, whatever.

Now the two of them are in front of you, you are inevitably drawn to the Caterham Seven 165. But buy? As the only car? Hmm, then I prefer the Nissan 370Z. Because it does rain once in a while. Because you just want to get from A to B and there are 400 kilometers in between. Because you just want to go on vacation. Nevertheless, we are really happy when a Caterham drops by again. Because then everything is different again.


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