A YouTuber got his hands on an Ariel Atom 3S and reviewed the ins and outs of the car that weighs less than a Mazda but somehow has twice the power. The Atom is built like a race car but street legal in the U.S. under a license from TMI Autotech. The original Atom was a student project by Niki Smart at Coventry University and it was tuned by engineers at Lotus. The second iteration of the car won several acceleration challenges by Track and Race Car Magazine and AutoCar.
The Atom 3S debuted in October 2014, hand-manufactured for the the US market by TMI. The new engine is pulled from the Honda Civic Si, but turbocharged for maximum power. The update produces 365 bhp and more than 300 lb/ft of torque, propelling it to 60 mph in under 2.8 seconds. This crazy power is in a car that weighs just 3,000 pounds.
Hand Built by One Technician
How is that possible? Well, for starters, the car is truly an exoskeleton. It does not have doors. It does not have a roof. It has light plexiglass sides only to make sure the driver is a little protected by flying debris kicked up by the car’s amazing acceleration. The light style of the car goes back to its original concept, which was inspired by the classic Lotus Seven, which was as bare bones as possible.
The Atom 3S has a brand new cockpit adjustable traction control system, JRi adjustable dampers, plus drivers have a choice of three transmissions (including the SADEV 6-speed sequential race inspired gearbox with paddle shifters). TMI makes each car at Virginia International Raceway, which gives new meaning to the term race-ready. It also has a windshield, which believe it or not, did not figure into the design of the original versions of the Ariel Atom 3S. The windshield is just double plexiglass designed mostly to protect your head from rocks.
The Driving Experience
The most significant experience of driving the 3S is the feel of the air (the air intake is located right next to the drivers’ ear) and the sound of the engine roar (there’s not much body to separate you from the sound of the engine). In other words, it’s like driving a motorcycle but just a tiny bit safer since you can’t actually fall out of the car. The steering is weighted perfectly and needs to be since there is no power steering. That rewards people who like to really drive, since the Ariel 3S is the opposite of autonomous driving.
The carbon fiber rear wing actually creates downforce and actually looks cool. The car is all their for your perusal: you can see the engine sitting over the real wheel, you can see the suspension, you can see the push rods, you can see the wheels turning.
Car enthusiasts will love this 36 minute vehicle, which includes interviews with the car makers about how they build the Ariel Atom 3S. The actual driving part of the video is the closest a person can get to being in the car without owning one. You’ll hear the roar of the engine and at some points you’ll swear you can actually feel the vibration. This is one video that is not to be missed!