A quick reminder of the 620S before we get to that. It's pitched as the more accommodating (all things being relative) 620R, using the same supercharged Duratec but allied to a five-speed manual rather than a six-speed sequential. It's built on the wider S5 chassis too, with a few more luxuries. Like a windscreen.
It's impossible to focus on any of that though - heated seats included - when you reach the first clear bit of road. Even with just a few hundred metres and an exploratory flex of your big toe, the 620 is rapid enough to have you laughing maniacally and craving another hit. All Caterhams feel fast because they're so exposed; some of them genuinely are pretty quick as 200hp is approached or exceeded. Combine the immersion of a Seven with 314hp and the result is something that must only lose out to hypercars in terms of pure accelerative ferocity.
Now 515hp per tonne should never be described as approachable, but in a Seven it's so much more exploitable than you might think. Of course you have to build up to using bigger throttle inputs, particularly on bumpy roads, but the joy of all Sevens is equally valid here: because it tells the driver so much, you have that much more faith in the car's behaviour. With that power it would be daft to call it vice-free, but the 620 behaves so intuitively that confidence builds in it remarkably quickly. Use too much throttle and the wheels will spin, messages about which will have reached your (heated) bum almost before it's happened. An instinctive correction on the tiny wheel with a slight lift sorts it out and you're away again. Corner too fast and the wheel will lighten as it understeers. Brake too hard and you can see which wheel is locking. Of course the Caterham has the ability to bite, but so detailed is the feedback that nothing ever comes as a surprise.
What you won't forget about leaving on is the heated seats. The first setting is pleasant and helps convince the mind that you might feasibly be warm. The hottest setting feels like it might leave you branded, but then it wouldn't be Caterham if it wasn't painfully intense, right? On a frosty evening with the roof down, that setting occasionally made sense. Overall though the seats are a welcome addition to the Seven, leaving the only cold parts of your body those on the right hand side...
Truth be told, the 620S might be a bit much for the typical Seven customer. The joy of Caterhams is using a good chunk of the performance on UK roads a lot of the time. In this one you're always conscious of just how far the speedo has been catapulted round the dial now, worrying that the red change up light probably means a lot of trouble. On a circuit it would surely be fantastic, massively fast and hilarious fun too. For all but the most committed driver, something like a 360R would suit perfectly. If you must have (and can afford) a 620S, it's easily as wild and thrilling as you would hope. Just don't forget the ear plugs!
CATERHAM SEVEN 620S
Engine: 1,999cc, supercharged four-cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 314@7,700rpm
Torque (lb ft): 219@7,350rpm
Top speed: 145mph
[Photos: Dafydd Wood]