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Friday 13th April 2012

Driven: Radical SR3 SL

As Caterham goes race ready Radical does road legal with its SR3 SL- confused?



Typical - you wait for one British-built trackday 'prototype' to turn up and then two come along at once and all that. Hot on the heels of Riggers driving the Caterham SP/300.R here comes Radical, travelling in the opposite direction and building a street-ready version of its all-conquering SR3 - the SR3 SL.

Focus engine finds a more exciting home
Focus engine finds a more exciting home
It doesn't look like a road car from where I'm standing though. Rear bodywork removed it's all spaceframe tubing, anodised aluminium fittings and - oh - a Ford Focus ST donated Ecoboost engine at the heart of it. This is the big departure for Radical. Fabulous its Hayabusa-based SR3 RS and double-the-fun V8-powered SR8 RX may be, but zero torque below 10,000rpm was never going to work on the road. You can make Radicals road legal if you want to, as Riggers discovered, and Radical has exploited for 'ring recordglory, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily a whole lot of fun.

Demanding a £1.2m investment, type approving the SR3 for European sales brings with it a lot more regulation and red tape than the SL's racecar looks might suggest. So why do it? Demand from export markets apparently, 70 per cent of the cars leaving the Peterborough factory heading overseas. And there's more to come, with a Radical coupe on the way.

Now available for trips to Tesco too
Now available for trips to Tesco too
Same but different
Back to the here and now though. From the roll hoop forward it's the same spaceframe chassis as other SR3s, but the longitudinal engine configuration means it uses the same Quaife sequential gearbox as the SR8, pneumatically shifted with racer style paddles. And though the bodywork looks similar the rules demand higher front wings, slats on the side pod intakes to nullify a gruesome sounding 'head entrapment' risk and a taller, narrower rear wing.

The latter doesn't do any favours for the looks, but the rules say it can't be wider than the cockpit. Power adjustment for the Mini-donated mirrors and a higher seating position are also mandated by the rules, the latter for visibility. Which, given the blindspots on a lot of modern cars, seems daft for something with no A-pillars and does lead to a curious sense of being perched on top of the car.

About now Dan wants for a crash hat
About now Dan wants for a crash hat
It's viable without a helmet on the road though, the whirr of the compressor and psssst-clack of first gear engaging so not like a road car as to be laughable. You use the clutch to pull away it can help smooth progress in traffic but once moving you can bang through the gears without troubling your left foot.

More turbo, fewer revs
Power delivery is punchy in the extreme. It may be connected to a racer's sequential gearbox but this is still a new-school, mainstream, direct-injected and turbocharged engine and gives you the lot from very low revs. This'll be a shock to seasoned Radical drivers, the SL all but done by 6,000rpm. It sounds pretty flat and dull too. Or at least the engine does, the turbocharged whooshes and gurgles coming from the air intake behind your head more than enough to drown out the drone.

Wheel is busy along bumpier B-roads
Wheel is busy along bumpier B-roads
Away from dual carriageways and onto the B660 I get my first chance to explore the SL's performance and it is, as you might expect, ludicrous. That turbo elasticity and the low weight means acceleration is never a problem. With a redline at just 6,800rpm the shifts come fast with only the occasional lurch. Racecar-for-the-road is up there in the big book of motoring hack clichés, but the incongruity of seeing the road framed with LMP-style wheelarches doesn't seem any less ridiculous with a few miles under my belt.

You'll also hear many roadtesters prattle on about steering feedback but in the SL it's a case of be careful what you wish for. Stiffer sidewalls on the Dunlop Direzzas on this car and dampers running 10 out of 30 clicks mean it's less chatter from the wheel than full-on shouting, ruts, dips and grooves tugging and pushing. Backing the dampers off to zero would apparently help, ditto the more compliant standard Kumhos.

OK, so it can do the road...
OK, so it can do the road...
Four wheels good
As previously explored, Radicals do offer superbike pace for four wheels and, though I've never experienced the two-wheeled alternative, the SL's pace is different-league rapid and requires serious recalibration for a car driver's brain. A short straight permits one, two and - just - three flat shifts in succession, the explosion of pent-up boost pressure as I lift for the corner as alarming as the number on the digital speedo. And then a fly splats me between the eyes.

Arriving at Silverstone it's a case of little more than pulling into the garage, grabbing some headgear and driving out. And it's the ease with which you can do this that marks the SL out from other Radicals. No trailer, no faff, no 100-hour engine rebuilds. It's just straight out and into the thick of an already busy trackday.

...but more at home here
...but more at home here
Here, as you'd expect, the SL does the Radical thing very well. Just a bit differently. There's always tons of torque and, though the gearing is short, you hold ratios rather than bang up and down like you might with a bike-engined version. Straights are dispatched in an instant, the corners goading you into being man enough to keep your foot in. There's understeer on cold tyres - and snap oversteer if you're late off the brakes - but once warm the limits are sky-high.

It's here a degree of frustration sets in - the Radical is so much faster than anything else the straights merely catapult you into another trundle around a corner in the wake of a 'normal' car. Clean laps with no traffic and opportunity to push hard are a rarity, finding the space to develop a rhythm even more unusual.

Clear air required to really push properly
Clear air required to really push properly
MTFU and all that
A case of picking your trackdays carefully then, the performance on the road in the meanwhile ludicrous enough to leave you feeling light-headed and giggly. Words like 'uncompromising' often get bandied about in relation to track-biased cars, but in the Radical's case it really means it, the quality of the engineering beyond question but the functional build perhaps lacking some of the surprise and delight artistry you'd get in a KTM or Atom. Sure, the Radical is fast. But a car that's going to spend at least some of its time on the road sometimes needs more than sheer pace.

If speed is everything the Radical wins. And though it may not look a huge leap from the bike-engined SR3s we know and love, this is actually a huge step for the firm. And as near to accessible as you're going to get.

Track photography by Fresh Orange Phtoography


RADICAL SR3 SL
Engine:
1,999cc 4-cyl, direct injection, turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed sequential, pneumatically operated
Power (hp): 240@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 265@4,000rpm
0-60mph: 3.4sec
Top speed: 161mph
Weight: 775kg (dry)
MPG: 28mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 229g/km
Price: £69,850 (basic list, race pack including 300hp power upgrade and three-position Manettino an additional £4,000)


Dan does a pitlane fly-by...

 














   
   
Dan Trent
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Author Discussion

throttlebodies

Original Poster:

19 posts

40 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
A mon avis, preferable to the Caterham.

jason61c

1,292 posts

54 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
I guess this is why caterham are struggling to shift its cars.

Road legal, faster, more reliable and properly race proven.

kambites

38,195 posts

101 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
jason61c said:
I guess this is why caterham are struggling to shift its cars.

Road legal, faster, more reliable and properly race proven.
Well yes, but it's three times the price of a basic Caterham.

jason61c

1,292 posts

54 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
kambites said:
Well yes, but it's three times the price of a basic Caterham.
I wasn't comparing it to the basic caterham, I was the sp/300.R.


kambites

38,195 posts

101 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
jason61c said:
kambites said:
Well yes, but it's three times the price of a basic Caterham.
I wasn't comparing it to the basic caterham, I was the sp/300.R.
The top end Caterhams have always seemed rather expensive to me, for what the offer over the more basic models.
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EDLT

14,700 posts

86 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
jason61c said:
I guess this is why caterham are struggling to shift its cars.
They are? I thought they'd sold 20-odd already, which is nearly a whole year's production.

Can't wait for the Radical Coupe, I assume it will look like this but smaller:


Jasandjules

49,255 posts

109 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
70k? Ouch

soad

17,735 posts

56 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
Would love this as a daily driver. biggrin I must be insane!! hehe

Dale Lomas

147 posts

35 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
Yowsers. Send to me. Stat.

Mastodon2

7,901 posts

45 months

[news] 
Thursday 12th April 2012 quote quote all
soad said:
Would love this as a daily driver. biggrin I must be insane!! hehe
Same. This is probably going to be the most obsessed over new car this year for me. I absolutely love it, it really does look like a miniature Le Mans car. It's probably my favourite Radical, looks and engine don't factor into it, it's the road legal status that excite me. I love "track-only" specials but only because I would love to know what something so extreme is like on the road, but with this Radical have delivered something truly wild. I absolutely love it.

CedricN

196 posts

25 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
I wonder if they would kill me on the spot if i came with one of these to the swedish car-registrations office smile. Great choice of engine, appart from the weight and sound its highly tunable and probably very reliable. What about the gearbox, anyone knows how often it needs a rebuild? Completely mad as a street car, would love to try one smile

nightSpirit

531 posts

48 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
I've toyed (very briefly) with the idea of turning other track Radicals to road spec in the past. I'm currently thinking of taking an older SR3 (20002 onwards) and converting that to road spec, should be a hell of a lot cheaper than the 70k Radical are asking for the SL (which I don't like the look of).

GnuBee

830 posts

95 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
nightSpirit said:
I've toyed (very briefly) with the idea of turning other track Radicals to road spec in the past. I'm currently thinking of taking an older SR3 (20002 onwards) and converting that to road spec, should be a hell of a lot cheaper than the 70k Radical are asking for the SL (which I don't like the look of).
Isn't it likely, though, that you'll bring the conversion in considerably below the £70k asking price but then rapidly approach and then pass that price considering the rebuild schedule on the Hyabusa engine?

It would also be interesting to know more about the sequential gearbox - the one we had on our SR3 was also a not inconsiderable contribution to the overall running costs (3 rebuilds in one year).


darth_pies

556 posts

97 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
jason61c said:
I guess this is why caterham are struggling to shift its cars.

Road legal, faster, more reliable and properly race proven.
Probably more to do with the recession!

Does anybody really care about having a road legal Radical? Apparently not, because last i heard you could count the number of Radicals ever road registered on two hands. (Please someone correct me if i'm wrong on this!)

Faster? Very unlikely. PH's figures show the Radical is 200kg heavier than the Caterham with 65bhp less!

I think the interesting thing will be whether Caterham can deliver on its promise of a race series that can match Radical but with substantially lower running costs.

alexpa

523 posts

52 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
This, or a(used) Lotus 2-Eleven Supercharged which is ~100kg lighter?

dino ferrana

742 posts

132 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
jason61c said:
I guess this is why caterham are struggling to shift its cars.

Road legal, faster, more reliable and properly race proven.
Not sure they are struggling to shift the cars. I think some were waiting to see what the car was like once the development work was nearly complete, but with all the glowing drive reports I imagine trade will be brisk.

I think Caterham know single make racing rather well and the ever increasing profile they are getting won't hurt them at all. by contrast Radical seems a lot quieter than they were a few years ago when they appeared to be getting their cars everywhere.

PaulMoor

1,501 posts

43 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
Properly mad road car. However it seems one step too far. However as a track day toy that you can use at any track day it makes perfect sense. No expensive rebuilds, no worrys about noise limits or restrictions on race cars on some track days and you can take it to work on the odd day in summer you feel like being realy silly, and you can drive it to your local track day at least.

BusaMK

352 posts

29 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
Realistically is anyone with 70k going to really drive it to a trackday with all their kit and a set of slicks packed in the passenger side? Although cool probably not! And an actual road designed car would be more exploitable on a normal road - most road corners would only be satisfying in it at about 80, where unsighted tractors come up a bit quickly!

Still though I love it for what it is, and would be great to have a go too.

Official Radical

44 posts

56 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
Happy motoring guys, just wanted to answer a few posts and confirm a few details about the car.

The car has full Euro approval so can be registered using its new car CoC (certificate of conformaty) in any EU country at a registration (post office) equivalent. 

to date we have built 28 new SL's for customers that are registered between, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and the USA. 

Previous to the SL we had been registering 5 cars a year using the IVA approval system (the one adopted by Ginetta and Atom) for Suzuki engined SR3 RS and SR8 RX customers. The Euro approval means the car can be registered very simply without individual appraisal and crucially gains a local number plate specific to the country of registration.

Please do get in touch with any recreational vehicle enquiries, I would be delighted to show any PHer around the factory.

Check out Www.sr3sl.com for the latest updates

Jamie
 

CooperS

3,014 posts

99 months

[news] 
Friday 13th April 2012 quote quote all
Official Radical said:
Please do get in touch with any recreational vehicle enquiries, I would be delighted to show any PHer around the factory.



Jamie
 
Really? I would happily drive down from Edinburgh in my Z4MC to have a look around. I once went to a london meet (also live in Surrey) where i was met by a Radical sitting in the corner it looked stunning and moved like nothing i'd seen before and since.



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