Fear Has A Name: The Caterham 620R
It can’t be that fast, surely?

If you don’t fear something, anything in life, then you’re doing it wrong. It shows a lack of understanding for your surroundings, a sense of over confidence or maybe you just got too comfortable? Talk to anybody who does something that pushes boundaries or explores the outer limits of their ability and you’ll find some fear in the emotional mix. Which is no bad thing, because what fear does is heighten your senses, raise your awareness and encourage you to prepare for what you’re about to undertake. Even if you’ve never done it before.

Caterham 620R -1

Which I haven’t. Sure I’ve driven plenty of fast cars. I’ve driven track cars, I’ve driven Caterhams before, cars with no roof or screen even. But now sat here after the fact, I can testify that nothing you do will prepare you for the way the 620R feels, and I mean feel. Because this isn’t all about acceleration and speed, this is about connection. I swear I didn’t get in to the 620R, I put it on.

Caterham 620R -50

Of course that’s Suzy not me, I can’t take pictures and drive at the same time… I’m not Larry Chen after all. When we asked the good people at Caterham if we could spend some time with the 620R, they were incredibly British in posing the question if whoever was going to be driving the car had experienced anything similar before? As this is the company’s most powerful model and being late February, it might be a little damp out there. Of course we reassured them of our competence, but truth is, nothing is similar to this. I mean that. Nothing.

Caterham 620R -55

So how could you be ready for it? Everybody keeps saying that the 620R has a better power-to-weight ratio than the Bugatti Veyron, which as far as I’m concerned is kind of a pointless observation. This has four wheels in common with the Veyron. Such an analogy is flawed. It’s there so the masses can make some sense of just how radical the 620R is.

Caterham 620R -29

The Caterham shape is distinctive and synonymous with the name. That basic all-bonnet profile was first sold by Colin Chapman in 1957. That’s 57 years ago! So you could be forgiven for thinking this is just a stripped-down clubman’s car – exciting sure, but not overly fast. Which would be a massive mistake.

Caterham 620R -11

Partly because of this: a 2 litre Ford Duratec-based engine that’s been built up by Caterham Racing and had a supercharger bolted on the side. They chose the 2 litre engine instead of the larger capacity 2.3 litre to keep it under the bonnet line… Which means they might have actually considered the bigger motor at some point. If that’s the case, I’m beginning to wonder what kind of mentalists the Caterham engineers are? The best kind from what I’ve seen so far.

Caterham 620R -13

There’s not a great deal of room in the nose cone, but what there is has been filled with an alloy radiator and intercooler. The power figure is 310hp, which in today’s numbers might not sound a lot. After all, your friend’s Skyline has got 400hp, right?

Caterham 620R -6

Well that’s partly true but what I would add is that the magnificent engine and induction choice are just part of the process. Given how minimal the Caterham is, there’s actually a whole lot more going on here.

I’m actually scared
Caterham 620R -33

Based on what I’ve heard so far about the 620R, I should be wary. Add in the fact it’s late February and during my drive to the Caterham showroom, I passed through rain and sleet with a forecast threatening the same for the rest of the day. I was actually quite worried. Crashing a manufacturer’s demo car is seriously not cool.

Caterham 620R -40

Like I said at the start, fear is a good thing though, so as I’m shown around the controls it all goes straight in. Granted there’s not a huge amount to absorb, but this is what Caterham and the 620R are all about. Just the essential things in life; nothing fancy to dress up. This is the connection I was talking about: nothing superfluous between you and the sensation to dilute the experience.

Caterham 620R -38

That said, there are a couple of unnecessary items in the ‘cabin’. Can you spot them? Yup, a button for windscreen wipers and washer. At the time of writing there are two 620Rs in existence, with the first customer cars due for delivery in the Spring of 2014. The other demo car has a screen and washer. I’m guessing that these two buttons will tease me all day.

Caterham 620R -15

Because it’s pretty exposed in here and that’s what a car like the 620R does so well – exposes you to all the elements of the drive. The curved carbon wind deflector does a pretty good job if you keep your eye line just above it, but at the very least you need to wear glasses of some kind above 30mph. I’d brought some ski goggles with me that sit snug to my face as I made my way out on to the motorway, headed for Brands Hatch circuit where I met up with Suzy.

Caterham 620R -20

This is when I discovered my first friend of the day: the gear indicator. A simple telltale gauge that is worth its weight in carbon. Because if you’ve never driven with a sequential box before, then it can be hard to remember what gear you’re in. That might sound like I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’ll explain.

Caterham 620R -17

First up is the noise of the transmission and twin-plate clutch. You have to load the revs up to ensure that the vicious bite of the clutch doesn’t eat the engine’s power and make it stall. It’s as though the transmission is waiting and ready to snatch whatever the Duratec can give it, like a masochistic gearbox ready and loving the abuse it gets. To select first, you pull the lever back. Well, back is an exaggeration. The shift distance could probably be measured in millimetres.

Caterham 620R -43

Next you need to pull away and the best way to do this is to launch it. I kid you not. The feeling of aggression you get from the clutch almost questions my machismo from inside the bellhousing. ‘What? Is that it? Is that all you’ve got? How dare you try and ‘slip’ me! WUSS.’

Caterham 620R -24

So now you’re rolling, the box is able to take flat shifts. So you pin the throttle and grab gears, just split seconds apart (you can hit 60mph in first!). In my case, the shifts come steadily higher up the rev range as the day goes on and my confidence rises. Your brain tunes out the noise from the exhaust under your elbow as all your other senses scream ‘Hang on, we need help here!’. Your vision tunnels down and you become acutely aware of how near to an accident you’ll be if you disregard any slight loss of traction. I’m passing traffic like I’m entering warp speed.

So given all that, what gear are we in again?

So we’re friends right? Almost…
Caterham 620R -32

I can only think that this is what it must feel like to sprint naked across the Superbowl stadium mid-game: daring, exhilarating and quite likely to get you in massive trouble while garnering respect from all around you. Proper ‘Hold my beer, watch this’ action. But the Caterham gives you all this just like a best mate would. You’re not encased in a cockpit or shielded from the world by titanium and glass, this is roar and real. This is the car equivalent of partying with the friend where nights end up in a swimming pool, in a foreign country and you don’t know how you got there. It’s a great place, but what just happened?

Caterham 620R -51

But don’t just take my word for it. Suzy pulls up alongside me after driving the Caterham for the first time and laughs out the words ‘This thing’s f***ing mental!’ For added impact I really feel I should help you along with how Suzy sounds when she talks – do you know what a cockney is? Let’s not forget her daily driver is a track-prepared Evo. Given that there’s not a lot of her, it amuses me she had to remove a shoe to drive the 620R. Just an excuse to get more pedal feel… Probably.

Caterham 620R -39

Without pushing you out of a third floor window, the only other way I can convey the sensation to you is by quoting some factory supplied numbers, which incidentally I have no reason to doubt. First up is a 0-60 time of 2.8 secs… Try and count that now, actually don’t worry it will have taken you roughly 4.6 secs to read this sentence. By which time I will be in the distance somewhere, flat-shifting the sequential box, being squeezed tight by my surroundings. It’s not all about driving like a lunatic (well almost), because going back to my previous gear/memory conundrum, it’s also incredibly drivable in any gear once you’re rolling. At 50mph in sixth gear you can put your foot down and just go. Sure, if you want to drop two, three or even four gears you can, but thanks to that supercharger, the power is there at the bottom of the rev range. Impatiently waiting.

Caterham 620R -9

The performance figures are a direct result of the engine power and of course the minimal weight, as the 620R weighs an incredible 545kg (1200lbs). I did an internet search using that weight to see what else was out there to compare to. How does a full-grown leatherback turtle sound? Not good? What about if I said it’s just 40% of the weight of a Pagani Huarya?

Caterham 620R -4

What makes me smile about the Caterham is the apparant lack of anything to help you in your fight for control of all this power. There’s a certain honesty in the lack of aerodynamic aids, for example you’re looking at the Aerofoil wishbones.

Caterham 620R -21

Then there are these canards on either side of the nose cone – functional, probably, although to me they look like a token gesture. As though you could blame them when you write a talent cheque you can’t cash. ‘Oh I lost front-end grip. A canard, err, didn’t work’.

Caterham 620R -35

Because I think I’ve worked out what the Caterham is: it’s a friend who calls you out on things, that won’t let you get away with lying or pretending. The 620R is the truth. It let’s you know how good you are and when you get it right, it’s quite possibly the most connected car with a distinctly separate character I’ve ever driven. If I was faced with the horrible decision of having to choose between this and the BAC Mono, both of which are incredible cars to drive, I’d go with the Caterham because I could high five my buddy after we launch over the horizon at a frankly ridiculous pace.

Caterham 620R -8

So the 620R and I are friends. It’s more talented than I am but unless you play with people or things that are better than you, how do you ever expect to improve? It’s been a brief day and as the rain really starts to fall, I head back to the showroom to make sure that it’s in good shape for a weekend of test drives with potential owners. This very car was on Top Gear less than six days ago and suddenly the entire world now wants one.

Caterham 620R -1-2

Merging in with similar shapes, the raucous hooligan is almost lost, but not quite. Because I know its lairy secret, its ability to kill superbikes and even carry shopping (yes there’s luggage space). With the windscreen option fitted, the 620R could almost be considered practical and… No, wait, actually that will never happen. This is the sort of car you drive for half an hour and you need a rest. It’s tiring, demanding, noisy and in the wrong hands, potentially lethal.

And I want one. Badly.

Bryn Musselwhite
Instagram: speedhunters_Bryn

A massive Speedhunters thanks to Brands Hatch Circuit in Kent, England for allowing us to take pictures.



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I remember James May (aka Capt. Slow) drove the 650R as if it were launched like a catapulted stove. His face ended up looking similarly to Jeremy Clarkson when he drove the Ariel Atom 4cyl. Lol! I wonder if Suzy might consider this as the classic way of anti-aging booster than a cream. 

I wonder what my bro would look like in the 650R.


did think that the 620 meant it had 620hp for a bit
caterham pls


Would like to see this against the Caterham RST-V8 Levante


Caterham model numbers stand for hp per ton.


aussieANON  That kind of power in this car would make it horrifically undriveable!


Kamui Kobyashi posted some pics of that same car on his twitter account last week.
I'm from Woking (where the 12c and P1s roam freely) and still crank my head whenever a Caterham goes by. Brilliant little works of lunacy.


So as far as batsh*t fun machines go; the 620R or an Ariel Atom V8?

boost me till i burst

God I want, need one of those. sounds fantastic, looks absolutely amazing and has her own Evo?? I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, Suzy's the ultimate petrol head woman. dose any one know if she likes motorbikes??


Wow Bryn, fantastic writing. i really enjoyed that one.


TroyChipman  A fine question and one that I would have hopefully been able to answer, but we didn't go to Ariel on Thursday as planned. So for now, the 620R. However I'm a fickle man :)


MinionMariuos  Funnily enough listening back to that clip of James May on TG, he doesn't drive it that hard believe it or not.


does anybody else take their shoes off every single time they drive with three pedals?? please tell me i'm not the only one who gets weird looks from passengers every time someone rides along. Or maybe my daily just has a weak clutch and twitchy throttle...


Excellent article. This is how most journalist should write...I feel as tho I've just driven the car myself  (in my imagination of course). Looking forward to more in the future


JSequoia  its illegal to drive without shoes. theyre just lookin out bruh


MinionMariuos  It gives a good facelift that's for sure! I'm not sure the cocktail of bugs, mud and rain makes for the best face mask though... :)


boost me till i burst  I used to really want a bike till I had a few scares on the back of a friend's 'baby blade' (CBR400) - I do struggle to touch the floor in anything other than a sports 400 too! Still like bikes but just not for me personally...


johnbezt JSequoia  Every single time (i.e. every time I drive)? No, definitely not. But when I can't press the accelerator without clipping the brake pedal (as was the case here), then yes! This is the only car I've ever had to do it in... I's not illegal to drive without shoes in the UK BTW. :)


Really interesting to read your comment towards the end of the article comparing the 620R to the Mono. I think the Mono is a superb looking car and, as much as I love the Caterham, I have often thought that surely a modern design must trump it the "old" Caterham. Such is the strength of the original design, that each incarnation continues to be better.
Out of interest, have you driven the R500? I'm curious to know if you think that is a better balanced package overall, where the 620R just seems to be completely lunacy!


tbtstt  It's a tough one, it really is. Whilst driving the Mono I experienced the most mechanical grip I ever have whilst driving, it was an incredible experience and very special feeling too due to the cockpit type environment. The Caterham is a hooligan, so as much as they might seem alike I would make space in my garage for both.

I've not driven an R500, but really want to now. Although if I can say such a thing, it might be a disappointment after this? I think I need to find out.


One of the best 620 R write ups, with pictures that I have read so far! Nice work. 

Glad to hear you guys enjoyed the car :-)


Speedhunters_Bryn Ha! based on the time the R500 set round the Top Gear track I'm seriously doubtful it will be disappointing. Given the praise the R500 received from the motoring press (and how many reviews I've now read that say the 620R is completely bonkers!) I wonder if more power has pushed the 620R too close to lunacy. 
A good answer to my original question as well. It is not a question of the modern designed Mono being a better car, but rather a different car.


JonBarnes  Jon Barnes Caterham test driver by any chance? :) Thanks for the kind words, it was a short but enjoyable day that's left me hungry for more!


tbtstt Yup, I know. I think on a perfect day the 620R would be unbeatable, but you'd have to be patient for that day. And yes to most people it would appear I'm splitting hairs, but the Mono and the 620R are different cars. As odd as it sounds when I read that back, they really are!


DevBiz  Thank you, that's what I was aiming for. If you sit reading with somebody throwing stones at your face, another bombarding you with a water pistol, another shouting in your ear and more taking pictures of you, you've got the full experience! :)


TarmacTerrorist  They are aren't they? I think I'd need his skills to enjoy it properly. Or big space to get to know the limits.


SuzyWallace @MinionMariuo   Suzy me thinks you need to drive the Dax next time, how about a 620R,  Ariel Atom V8, RST-V8 Levante,Mono, Dax shoot out!!!!!


JonBarnes *HEY EVERYBODY* Watch this video now! :)

Thanks for that Jon, damn that's quick! I'd like to say that gives an impression of how it was on the M23 the other Friday but you'd need to remove some revs, gears and add my insane sounding laughter. 

I need more of this in my life!


Speedhunters_Bryn JonBarnes  
That's me! Nice one Bryn.
For anyone that is interested in seeing the R600 / 620 R development cars being pushed to the limit then there's a few videos on my youtube channel, including this one from December 2012:

There are more vids of the 620 R on Caterham's Channel too!


Great read guys. I drive An MK Indy RR, Currentyl building a fettled F20C motor for it to replace the Kent Ford Motor. :D


epic car & really really well worded coverage. I'd be intrigued to see a 311hp full grown leather back turtle though.

I'd happily have any Caterham in my garage, be it the baby one or the 620r


johnbezt JSequoia Where is driving barefoot illegal???


AnthonyAntBolic  Thank you! 

It was hard enough hanging on to this, let alone a leatherback turtle, I'm always game for a laugh though.


awesome write up


Thanks for the great presentation of one of my dream cars. You made my day.


Thank you laa


Hey don't ask me how this car got to be a speed hunter? xD


I would like the catheram 620r






More amezzz car..


I've been in a caterham because my girlfriends dad has one.


So what