Ariel Nomad

Demand soars for slower sibling

The problem with offering people what they want is that they already know they want it: and where anything is desired, so long as it can also be afforded, it will already have been provided. So the best you can hope for is to offer them a different version of what they already have and hope they want it even more. The trick, then, is to provide them with something they had no idea they wanted until the actual moment you offer it to them. And that, in a rather large nutshell, is why of late the telephone has not stopped ringing at the Ariel Motor Company.

So why would anyone want an Ariel Nomad? It looks like its long established Atom brother – though it barely has a part in common – but is bigger, heavier, less powerful and more expensive. And yes, it is also slower in straight lines, around corners and takes longer to stop. In every measurable respect, in fact, it’s worse.

Yet there are plenty of positives. I guess the first is fairly obvious: just look at the thing with its science-fiction exoskeleton, chunky tyres and (optional) banks of headlights. It looks so much fun it scarcely seems possible, a crazed designer’s scrapbook doodle made real in steel, rubber and glass. Ariel’s boss and the aforementioned crazed designer Simon Saunders says lots of customers want Nomads to use in town, I suspect for the image they think it projects.

Another bunch want to use their Nomads off the beaten track. If the car has a spiritual antecedent, I guess it’s the Beach Buggy, but I hesitate to pursue the analogy because I once drove one and it was appalling. But despite only driving its rear wheels, because the Nomad is light, has its engine over its driven wheels and can be specified with some very serious off-road tyres, rally specification dampers and massive suspension travel, there are very few places where it cannot follow a purpose-built off-roader. If I ran a posh hotel in the Emirates, I’d want a fleet outside in which my clients could go dune-busting.

Then there are those who will want to use theirs in competition because a Nomad has already gone quicker down a gravel stage than a Group N rally car, despite being on the wrong tyres, and there are those who simply want to enjoy theirs on the road.

I drove it only briefly, but on road and off, and was struck by how much more accessible it is than an Atom and, with a screen and wiper, more civilised too. As you will see from the stats box it is still phenomenally quick but, because it has so little grip, it takes a lot less speed and effort to get it sliding and drifting, and it’s far easier to control too.

And this is only the start: Saunders and his team are already putting the finishing touches to the supercharged Nomad, a move that should render the car even madder than it looks. Because with a car like this, even too much of a good thing will likely prove insufficient.