Undiluted, uncomplicated, and unburdened by excess or frivolity, the Caterham Seven 485 S subtly wears its engineering under the skin and delivers direct, dynamic, and pure supercar-humbling thrills.
With razor sharp reflexes and performance set to a crackling and barking open air soundtrack from its individual throttle-body engine, and exposed side-mounted exhaust, the 485 is as raw, intimate, and connected as driving gets.
The recent 485 S variant of the long-standing Seven extrudes an additional 65 BHP from its naturally-aspirated 2-liter engine. The first with revised nomenclature, the 485 illustrates Caterham’s commitment to continually develop the car. Light, low with a narrow rear-set cabin, wide track, front-mid engine and light space-frame chassis with aluminum body panels, the Seven features sublime wheelbase weight distribution.
The current 485’s styling, lightweight construction, and uncomplicated design remain true to the 1957 original. Subtly but greatly evolved, honed, and modernized, the 485 is also offered with a wider optional SV chassis—as driven—to better accommodate larger drivers.
Balanced front-engine rear-drive weighting dictates the Seven’s proportions, body, and exposed suspension, while a side-mounted exhaust allows low ride height. Modest 195/45R15 tires provide necessary grip and low un-sprung weight. The road-biased 485 S features a windscreen with detachable leather side covers, while the track-focused R uses a wind deflector. Rollover bars provide safety and support the clip-on soft-top. The spartan interior of the 485 features carbon-fiber panels, thin padded leather, and limited storage under a button-down tonneau.
The Caterham Seven’s lightweight philosophy is self-perpetuating, where less weight allows for less complication and less components. With lightweight body and no creature comforts, the Seven does without power steering assistance or brake servo-assistance. The 575 kg 485 S features some lightweight carbon-fiber body parts and its only luxury; a heater. The rear-drive 485’s EU6-compliant Ford Duratec 2-liter 4-cylinder engine develops 237 BHP at 8500 rpm and 152 lb/ft at 6300 rpm. With 118.5 BHP/liter and 3.4-second 0-97 km/h acceleration the 485’s performance rivals pricey, complicated exotics. The 485 returned impressive anecdotal fuel efficiency when high-revving, high-strung, and driven through aggressive closeratio 6-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip rear-differential.
Throaty growls coalesce to a raspy bark and screaming wail—interspersed with crackles and pop on throttle lift—as the 485 urgently rips through to its 8500 rpm redline. Rewardingly revvy, with peaky maximum torque and power, the flyweight 485 eagerly and flexibly sprints away from low and mid-range. Long-legged rev range allows swift and sweeping acceleration, and precise control and nuance when exiting a corner on throttle.
The more road-oriented ‘S’ version is fluid and forgiving over imperfect British back-roads. The 485 delivers untiring ride, direct handling, and taut body control with finely-tuned suspension and lighter un-punishing tires, owing to low weight. Flat through corners, the sure-footed 485 pounces out, with limited-slip rear-differential distributing power to the wheel best able to use it. With low weight allowing crisply quick 1.93-turn unassisted steering, the Seven is direct, undiluted and uncorrupted, and provides a nuanced feel, feedback and precision. Unassisted, but highly effective brakes, require firm inputs, but deliver accurate pedal feel. Promoting alert and attentive driving, the 485 is reassuringly stable at speed, despite wind noise and dated aerodynamics.