The CSR represents the most radical redesign since the introduction of the Seven in its 48-year history. The CSR is the subject of numerous improvements over previous models (see below), though it still retains the main aesthetics of Caterhams.
While slightly heavier than other Caterhams, the CSR still upholds Colin Chapman's philosophy of "add lightness. Weighing only 575 kg (1,268 lb), the CSR has excellent handling, making it extremely agile. On the skidpad, the Caterham outperforms many supercars. Its 1.05 lateral g-force beats the 2007 Porsche 997 Turbo's 0.94 G, the Ferrari F50's 1.03 G, and the Ferrari Enzo's 1.01 G.
In Braking tests, the CSR performs well. From to a complete stop, the CSR took . The 997 Turbo, stopping from 60 mph took 99 feet. The Ferrari F50 performed well, stopping from in 119 feet. For comparison, an average car takes to completely stop from and Formula One cars can stop in from 62 mph.
The CSR has excellent low-end acceleration because of its high power to weight ratio of per ton (260 model). It can accelerate from a stop to in 3.1 seconds (estimated), though during trials, Car and Driver magazine could only achieve 3.6 seconds. This discrepancy is due to the close gear ratios of the transmission and the rev limiter. The CSR that they tested could not reach in first gear, and required the extra 0.5 seconds to shift. Car and Driver explains:
It’s also wickedly quick, blowing past For comparison, the Porsche 997 Turbo, which weighs over twice as much as the CSR, only has a power to weight ratio of per ton, but has a 0-60 mph time of 3.4 seconds.
The CSR, as with all Caterhams, has worse performance at higher speeds with respect to both acceleration and handling because of the poor aerodynamics. Caterhams suffer from a high drag coefficient of 0.7, but also from lift. Though there have been improvements in aerodynamics, the CSR still has 50 pounds of lift at 100 mph. These factors hinder both high-end acceleration, top speed, and handling. With such strong wind resistance, it requires much more power to overcome that force and increase top speed. Lift reduces contact force on the tires, causing the car to feel "loose" and not handle as well. For comparison, the Ferrari Enzo has a low drag coefficient of 0.32 and actually creates of downforce at 186 mph.
The Cosworth-tuned engine is heavily modified from the stock 2.3 liter Duratec. The cylinder heads, blocks, crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons are upgraded by Cosworth. Cosworth also integrates an advanced dry-sump with an extra internal scavenge pump to distribute the oil. While a dry-sump system requires more oil, under hard cornering, a dry-sump will keep the engine lubricated unlike a wet-sump system. Cosworth also radicalizes the cam shafts and upgrades the exhaust system. this may cause to engine to run a little more "rough" at low RPMs, but it drastically increases performance. The inlet system is also replaced with an advanced, custom roller-barrel system. This increases airflow at full throttle compared to a butterfly inlet, boosting performance. The engine also has a custom chip designed by Cosworth for a further increase in performance.
The model uses the same Duratec block, but is not as heavily modified. The connecting rods and pistons are not upgraded significantly, though it does have the dry-sump system. The cam shafts are slightly radicalized, and the exhaust system is upgraded. The inlet system is enlarged, but not replaced with the roller-barrel system. The computer chip is upgraded, but not to the extent the 260 model is. Generally speaking, the 200 model is upgraded, albeit not as heavily.
The CSR, has a variety of other features which enhance its performance. There are no power brakes or power steering, making the CSR extremely responsive and extremely agile. The clutch also engages extremely high, allowing for quick shifts while racing. In addition, the flywheel is very light. This makes heel-and-toeing extremely quick and easy as the engine revs up very quickly with so little momentum.
The overall strength of the chassis is improved with the addition of new tubular steel to the frame. The weight of the car increases, but the torsional stiffness is improved by somewhere between 25% and 100%. The added reinforcement was necessary in order for the CSR to support the heavy 2.3 liter Duratec engine. The CSR is also wider than previous models, which increases handling ability.
Both rear and front suspension were completely redesigned for the CSR. The front suspension has double wishbone, fully adjustable, inboard springs and dampers, improving aerodynamics. The rear suspension is also upgraded to a double wishbone, fully independent system, replacing the De Dion tube design.
Caterhams have very poor aerodynamics due to the blunt windscreen, open-wheel design, and open cockpit. At very high speeds, lift becomes a problem. To combat this, the CSR has several features that reduce lift by 50%. The front cycle wings are fitted closer to the tires to reduce turbulence. In addition, they have a small lip that angles air upward and creates a small amount of down force. Also, the new front suspension scheme reduces turbulence and drag formerly caused by the spring and damper units. The biggest enhancement is the vent added on top of the nose cone. On previous Caterhams, the air from the radiator caused turbulence by knocking against the engine and other parts on the underside. A plastic panel behind the radiator now directs air straight out through the vent, creating down force and reducing turbulence.
PracticalityA primary criticism is the practicality of the car. The CSR provides few comforts found in a standard automobile today. There is no hard roof, only a rudimentary canvas hood that must be attached manually as well as removable canvas doors, called "sidescreens". It does not have a stereo or any kind of audio system. It also lacks any kind of climate control system; as an option, a heater can be added, but no air conditioning unit is available. The interior also lacks a high level of insulation, which is an option to begin with, to prevent heat from the engine compartment moving into the pedal box. The pedal box can get very hot to the point of possibly burning exposed flesh if it touches the metal. The seats are only adjustable forward and backward and not in any other direction, which can cause discomfort for some drivers or passengers. The pedal box is so narrow there is no room for a dead pedal, causing for uncomfortable positioning of the left foot. Also the CSR can only carry one passenger and has a small boot.
Under controlled, racing conditions, the safety features are sufficient because of limited, one-way traffic. But driving on the street is less controlled, and therefore poses more safety risks. Because of its very low ride height, the Caterham CSR is largely hidden from the mirrors of Semi-Trucks and 4X4s. Its safety features are limited to four-point seatbelts, a roll-over bar and honeycomb reinforced side panels (floor panels available as option). The CSR only has a tubular steel frame. The skin of the car is simple thin aluminum sheets, which add no protection from impacts. Comparatively, most cars' skin is entirely steel. The CSR also has no airbags. Because of the minimalistic, "add lightness" philosophy, Caterhams in general lack modern safety features.
There is no way to lock the CSR. The canvas hood simply snaps on. The same is true of the trunk cover. The only lock on the car is the ignition, which is a rudimentary key. To add to the problem, the wires of the ignition are easily visible and exposed underneath the dashboard, which makes the CSR more susceptible to hotwiring and theft.
Overall, the reviews of the CSR have been positive. Most magazines have only reviewed the 260 model. The main criticisms relate to the ease of driving and cost.
- Automobile Magazine's Preston Lerner was impressed by the performance of the CSR:
- "The Caterham is the purest and most honest street car I've ever driven. Period. No power steering. No power brakes. No drive-by-wire. Just a direct connection between you and the contact patch. The responses to steering, throttle, brake, and gearshift inputs are so nearly instantaneous that they verge on the telepathic. And I can see exactly what's happening, at least at the front end of the car, as the wheels turn and judder."
- But complains about its uncomfortable ride:
- "The CSR is not built for long-distance highway travel. Although the ride quality falls short of punishing, I had strongly discourage using the car for emergency surgery. The otherwise comfy seats move fore and aft, but the rake is fixed, which can be-and was for me-a real pain. Speaking of driver discomforts, there's no dead pedal for your left foot, and your right thigh gets a good grilling from the aluminum transmission tunnel. The snap-shut side curtains cannot be raised or lowered like conventional windows, so you're either freezing or sweltering."
- Autocar complains about the price, but enjoys the CSR overall:
- ''"Which brings us on to the CSR 260’s biggest problem: the price. A basic CSR 260 costs £37,000 if Caterham builds it, £34,500 if you do it yourself. Then there’s paint at £795, or £1100 for metallic. And those carbon seats? Lovely, but they cost £1200. Aerofoil front suspension arms are very cool, but should be for £500. And that limited-slip differential is £750. Caterham is asking a lot of money for this car.
- The CSR 260 is an intoxicating, extreme car, with racecar-like performance, fabulous grip levels and exceptional steering and handling. Few road cars will keep up with it in a straight line, fewer still down a twisting road or on a race track, and it has an excellent engine. But it isn’t perfect — the car’s packaging is showing its age and Caterham is demanding a serious amount of cash for a car that is so compromised — and so spartan."
- Edmunds.com enjoyed the CSR overall:
- "The CSR has got to be the performance bargain of the car world, despite any flaws when it comes to civility. As previously mentioned, the roof and flimsy side doors are useless. Luggage space is nearly nonexistent, and you better be OK with the fact that anything short of a Razor scooter will tower over you on the road. But what is all this harping about creature comforts? This is a Caterham Seven after all, the fastest to ever leave the factory and maybe the quickest accelerating car on the planet. That counts more than cupholders any day."
Purchasing and licensing
In the UKThe CSR is a legal production vehicle under the Single Vehicle Approval scheme pending a vehicle inspection. The CSR may be purchased from Caterham directly as they are manufactured in the UK. The model starts at £31,000 and the model starts at £37,000 if built by the factory or £34,500 if bought as kit.
In the United StatesThe CSR was released in the United States in the summer of 2006 in very limited quantities. As a production vehicle, the CSR is illegal because of lack of safety features and failure to meet emissions standards. To circumvent this, the CSR is sold as a kit car. US law states that the engine and transmission must be purchased separately from the chassis. Chassis may be purchased from several different dealers located around the country; engines and transmissions may be purchased from Caterham USA.
Customers can choose to have the US dealer build their CSR for an extra fee, or opt to build their own. While many previous models of Caterhams are sold as kit cars to customers in the US, the complexity of the CSR makes this much more difficult, and is discouraged by dealers.
The US version is a standard left-hand drive and is otherwise exactly the same as the UK model. The base price of the chassis from Rock Mountain Sports Cars inc. is $44,000. This does not include the engine or transmission. The model engine and 6-speed transmission are estimated to cost an additional $23,000 for an estimated total cost of $67,000.
Licensing depends on individual state, county, and city regulations.
Facts and figures
- Bore and Stroke: 87.5 mm X 94 mm (undersquare)
- Valves: 16 valves, dual overhead camshafts
- Compression Ratio: 12:1
- Cooling: Water Cooled
- Oil Distribution: dry-sump with scavenge pump
- 260 Model
- Maximum Power: at 7500 rpm
- Maximum Torque: at 6200 rpm
- Power to Weight Ratio: per pound, or per ton
- Throttle Body: Upgraded Roller-Barrel system
- 200 Model
Gear Ratio (260 Model) Ratio (200 Model) 1 2.69:1 3.36:1 2 2.01:1 1.81:1 3 1.59:1 1.26:1 4 1.32:1 1.00:1 5 1.13:1 0.82:1 6 1.00:1 Final drive 3.38:1 3.92:1
- Lateral Acceleration: 1.05 g on skidpad
- 70-0 mph (Brake Test):
- 0-60 mph
- 260 Model: 3.1 seconds (estimated) reported by manufacturer, reported as 3.6 seconds by Car and Driver See above for explanation of discrepancy.
- 200 Model: 3.7 seconds (estimated)
- 0-100 mph: 8.9 seconds (260 model)
- 0-120 mph:15 seconds (260 model)
- Quarter Mile: 12.1 seconds at (260 model)
- Top Speed: (260 model), (200 model)
- Size and Dimensions
- Curb Weight: 575 kg (1268 lb)
- Height: (hood down), (hood up)
- Ground Clearance:
- Fuel Economy: 10.22 liters/100 km (23 mpg)
- Turning Radius: 11 m
- Steering: Rack and pinion, 2.2 turns lock to lock
- Brakes: 254 mm (10") discs, front vented, 4 piston front calipers
- Front Track:
- Rear Track:
- Seating Capacity: 2
- Tires: Avon CR500's, 195/45 R15 front, 245/40 R15 rear
- Lift: at
- Weight Distribution (Front-Rear): 49%-51%
References in popular culture
- The Caterham CSR 260 is featured as a driveable B-class vehicle in the computer game Test Drive Unlimited.
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