From Lotus Seven to Caterham Seven - the lightweight legend turns 60 - Caterham Seven CSR
We drive a range of Sevens, from an early Series 1 Lotus to modern Caterhams
Caterham Seven CSR
The CSR might look like an ordinary Seven, but underneath there are some dramatic changes. It has a steel tubular spaceframe chassis that incorporates the dash, centre console and transmission tunnel to make it ultra stiff. The de Dion rear axle of the previously most sophisticated Sevens has been ditched for a double-wishbone set-up, while at the front there’s in-board pushrod-actuated suspension.
Despite such a fundamental change to the Seven’s underpinnings, and even though the new chassis makes the interior looks significantly different, initially the CSR feels very much like an ordinary Caterham.
Much of that is thanks to the 2.3-litre four-cylinder Cosworth-developed Ford Duratec motor. It’s a proper Seven-style engine, a highly-strung four-pot with a fast idle and a growly induction tone when you touch the throttle.
It responds to throttle inputs in the same way you expect a Seven to, as well. Every twitch of your right foot has you launching forward and the engine’s noise builds to an angry throaty scream until you snatch another gear with the short, direct gear stick. So far, so Seven.
But as soon as you tip it into a corner, it feels remarkably different. There’s none of the pronounced pivoting effect you get from traditional Sevens as the outside rear tyre just about stays stuck to the tarmac. Instead, the CSR is much more grown-up, diving under brakes and rolling gently as you turn in.
As you accelerate there’s significantly more understeer than in the traditional Sevens; that’s not because there isn’t sufficient front end grip, it’s that the rear is grippier and you don’t get the same yaw effect that the less sophisticated rear axles of the older Sevens do as you pile on the revs. As such, much of what makes newer Caterhams so appealing – that they’re the complete antithesis of the super sophisticated modern cars that are also on sale – is lost and the CSR feels like a more conventional car.