Radical RXC500

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Race-bred roadster destined for a tilt at another Nürburgring lap record

For some years Radical has been making some of the most highly regarded racing cars, but its record in the road arena is far more patchy. Its first such car, the SL3 was no more than an SR3 racer converted for road use, and it showed. It was quick, but it was also frenetic and badly behaved. Its second, the RXC coupé, possessed all the hallmarks of being an extraordinary device, but Radical failed to provide it with an engine to do justice to its downforce-generating bodywork and wondrous chassis.

This, then, should be the car to address such matters: it’s the same RXC, but with a new Ford Ecoboost 3.5-litre engine breathing through a pair of fat Garrett turbos. Compared to the atmospheric car I drove a couple of years back, its output has risen from 350bhp to 530bhp with a better than commensurate increase in torque.

If the idea of that much power in a car as small and grippy as this sounds like fun, the reality is better still. It now has the power not only to keep you occupied on the straight, but finally to bring the chassis to life, too.

I drove it only at Silverstone in full track configuration, so cannot vouch for the quality of its ride on the road, but on the track it is an immensely comfortable car offering such refinements as air-conditioning and five different levels of power steering assistance. For this, all those who are not Popeye will be grateful in such a downforce-heavy car.

The RXC500 is immensely quick – Radical claims a 0-60mph time of 2.6sec – yet the real purpose of the new motor is to get you up to speeds that suit its still more phenomenal cornering power. Radical estimates 900kg of downforce at 185mph, which might be unprecedented for a road car, because manufacturers measure them at different speeds. What I can tell you is that through Copse and the Becketts complex it feels far closer to a proper slicks-and-wings racing car than anything primarily intended for road use.

Ultimately, and thanks to the car’s very early stage of development, it understeers a little too much. You can trim the car’s attitude in fast corners by reducing the rake of the rear wing a touch, but through the complex you need to be very patient and wait until you can unwind some lock before reopening the floodgates.

The Radical RXC500 is very expensive for a car using a simple spaceframe chassis and composite bodywork, but it is also finished to a high standard and feels unbustably strong. But that’s not what justifies the £143,500 list price. What you’re actually paying for is a car that does things other cars cannot do. Shortly this very car will head to the Nürburgring to try to put Radical’s extant lap record for a road car even further out of reach. If it does, it will make the RXC500 quicker even than a Porsche 918 over a lap. And like the 918 but unlike the SR8 that set the record back in 2009, the RXC has full European type approval and will drive there and back under its own power. If successful it will become the fastest road car in the world and, in the context of those million pound hypercars, perhaps not such bad value after all.

Factfile
£143,500

Engine: 3.5 litres, 6 cylinders, turbocharged
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 481lb [email protected]
Transmission: seven-speed sequential, rear-wheel drive
0-62mph: 2.6sec
Top speed: 185mph
Economy: n/a mpg
CO2: n/a g/km