SOME would describe it as a lump of leftover scaffolding , but the Ariel Atom 3.5 is the Best Thing On The Planet To Fire Down An Empty British B-Road.
The 3.5 has no heater or windscreen as it retains the Atom's minimalist exoskeletal structure, but what little there is of it has been thoroughly overhauled. The chassis has been toughened up in line with the hardcore Mugen Atom we drove last year, with beefier dampers and improved torsional rigidity, while the Atom's entire bodywork - by which we mean, the bonnet - has been redesigned. There are new light clusters and a new steering wheel with an LED display and change-up lights. And, naturally, there's a bit more power.
The Atom laughs dismissively at 'quick'. It is speed distilled. It is chainsaw-juggling insanity. It is the most visceral espresso shot of pure acceleration this side of a superbike, an addictive, cortex-melting high that transforms you into an acceleration-hooked junkie, seeking out your next hit through bloodshot eyes and bulging veins.
It's so quick that it forces you to recalibrate the entire process of driving. With lightly frozen legs and hands and brain, this very nearly caused some significant crashing.
The Atom boasts exactly no protection from the elements: your legs are separated from the rapidly onrushing road by a few metal tubes, while a credit card-sized slip of acrylic passes for a windscreen. If it rains, you get very wet. If it's cold, you get very, very cold. In winter, full wet-weather biking gear is a must, a small storage heater is strongly advised.
The Atom is a docile puppy of a thing. The clutch is as gentle as a Honda Jazz's, the six-speed manual box light and easy.
The supercharged four-pot suits the Atom perfectly, content to murmur anonymously along at low revs but transforming into an axe-murdering lunatic when you wind it up towards the 8500rpm redline.
The supercharged base Atom starts at FJD$101,854 and still has far, far more pace than you could ever realistically exploit.
Some would buy it in a heartbeat if they mysteriously acquired money, and spend the rest of the day blasting across desolate moorland roads with supercharger yelping, cackling into my helmet like a loon at the joyous insanity of one of the finest, maddest machines ever created.
Probably worth saving a couple of grand for petrol.