Exploring post lockdown UK in a Caterham 360s
With the UK slowly returning to a new normal, I wanted to drive and explore more than ever before. What better car to choose than the Caterham 360S
The world has been crazy the last few months, most of us probably haven't been travelling much and we definitely haven't been doing it in track orientated sports cars. Dreaming of the open road, I started imagining a post-apocalyptic adventure, exploring what was left of the UK. Realistically, it would be the exact same, just most of the shops would be closed and there wouldn't be much traffic.
With lockdown easing, I decided it was time. I had a Caterham 360S in on review - it was definitely suited to this type adventure I was about to start. The 360S is powered by a 2.0 Ford Duratec engine which pushes out 180bhp through the rear wheels (and weighs WELL under a tonne). 0-62 happens in 4.8 seconds and you'll easily hit the top speed of 130mph - all of this for around £31,000. Though, the car I had in cost closer to £45,000 with a huge list of options including a LSD, SV chassis and BMW Sunset Orange paint.
It's better suited to long distance than you'd think...
Every time I've reviewed a Caterham, people have always said I'm crazy for doing long distances in them. In reality, they're pretty comfy, get great MPG on the motorway and this 'S' had comfortable seats and 'normal' seatbelts. Option in the 'half hood' (roof) and the British summer isn't an issue, protection from rain but lots of cool air too.
I hadn't really set a target location, I just decided to drive West until I found good roads - and fortunately, living on the South Coast, that doesn't take very long. With the tyres quickly up to temperature (29 degrees in the UK that day), I soon started remembering why I loved a Caterham so much. Even with the UK's rubbish pot-hole filled roads, the 360S held on with ease making a blissful noise from the exhaust with every press of the throttle. Thanks to the optional LSD, this car was even better suited to being pushed hard - taking quick corners without so much as a slip or slide.
Driving through towns was eerie at times!
I'm used to driving through bustling and busy towns, especially on a Sunday afternoon. Some of the smaller ones were completed deserted, not a pedestrian in sight. Passing boarded up shops and cars which clearly hadn't moved since lockdown began, it hit home just how far-reaching this pandemic had gone. Though there were signs of life, these towns looked almost abandoned and at times - I could stop in the middle of the main road without another car passing for 10 minutes.
Whilst the Caterham 360S can be a noisy car when you're driving it flat out, you'd be surprised to hear that when you're driving calmly through a town it's very quiet and subdued. I didn't get a single foul look from the occasional resident I did see, rather smiles - and sometimes waves. Thanks to small town roads not being wide enough for two cars to pass each other at times, you'd often find yourself worrying about fitting through spaces - but to my surprise, the visibility was very good and it's a seriously easy car to manoeuvre even in tight settings.
I found a new love of backroads...
I've always loved a backroad blast, however, the amount of times you get stuck behind a slow driver with no passing places tends to ruin it for me. The 360S has no issues in overtaking with even the smallest of gaps - instant throttle response matched with an easy to shift gearbox means every single moment of driving brings you serious inner joy. When up to speed and taking turns, this car comes alive like nothing else on the road. The feel it gives back to you is incomparable to anything which isn't a Caterham.
The economy is pretty remarkable too, which still surprises me even though I've driven thousands of miles in various Caterham models. Whilst it is very right-foot dependant, the 360S gave me 40mpg average over the day - which included motorway, B-roads, some thin A-roads and even some city driving. At worst over the week I had the 360S, I saw 28mpg tank to tank - but at best (returning it) I saw 44mpg. This means, realistically, you can probably get about 250-300 miles from a tank - which I might add doesn't cost a lot to fill up.
This was the best car for this adventure I could have chosen!
It's unconventional, but that's why I love it. Every time you start the engine, you'll smile - and it's a car which makes other people smile too. A Caterham doesn't bring glaring stares from passers by, it brings thumbs up and smiles - it's literally a happiness pill. Over the 180 miles I drove that day, I found myself loving the car more and more with every passing second. The rasp of the engine, the driver engagement - it's a package which gives back to the driver like nothing else can. It's not typically practical, but it is practical - to an extent.
I packed everything I needed in the back (that's cameras, food, water, emergency kit etc), then myself and my wife left for the day not knowing what time we would be home. Neither of us felt cramped during the day, neither of us had a bad back by the end of the day. It doesn't have a radio, sure, but the engine noise makes up for it. The interior is a nice place to be, it's well built and from a drivers point of view - everything is at your fingertips.
It brought me to a realisation
Driving through these closed up towns, knowing what happened the last few months in the world, it suddenly dawned on me - a life realisation I needed to take action on.
Simply? Life's too short to drive a boring car...
You never know what's around the bend of life, we don't know what's going to happen next. The Caterham was the perfect way to change things up, make you smile but also not break the bank. The 360S I was driving had a 'dream' spec, and it still cost around the same amount as an Audi S3 or a Golf R - I know which is going to entertain me for longer.