What It's Like to Own an Ariel Atom 3S: the Good, the Bad, the Gritty

The Ariel Atom is one of those cars pretty much everyone will claim they'd love to own, and yet you're more likely to bump into a Bugatti Chiron in your travels than this little British sports car.
Ariel Atom 3S drivealong 7 photos
Photo: YouTube screenshot
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If you live in the States, then chances are the odd Ariel Atom you might encounter should actually be produced locally thanks to the licensing deal signed by TMI AutoTech to build them on U.S. soil. Still, that doesn't change the fact that it's still British in spirit - lightweight and agile, with an emphasis on the driving dynamics rather than power.

Well, the Ariel Atom 500 with its 3.0-liter V8 might disagree with that last mention, but for the most part, the Atom is powered by a turbocharged Honda four-cylinder engine. The actual power output varies from one version to another, but since the car in the video is a 3S, we'll focus on that and the 370 hp it makes.

The man talking about his Ariel Atom 3S is called Mark, but you're more likely to know him as Savage Geese. He's a well-respected automotive journalist based in Illinois who, based on the quality of his material, should be way more famous than other motoring personalities you'll find on the Internet.

Ariel Atom 3S
Photo: YouTube screenshot
Watching the 20-minute plus video, you get the feeling Mark could talk about the car for at least 20 more minutes, and that's despite the relative simplicity of the entire build. The Atom is basically a car stripped down to its bare essentials. Yes, you may not have realized it until now, but body panels are not actually a necessity.

As a result, you get a visceral driving experience that's impossible to have with any other modern vehicle that has to bother with things such as comfort, safety, or regulation. Strangely enough, the Atom is road-legal (in most places), though the only real benefit from that should be the ability to drive to and from the track on its own four wheels.

The six-speed manual transmission is actually a five-speed, according to Mark, since the first gear is way too short to be of any use, even when setting off. The steering has a very quick ratio with a manual rack, meaning you get to feel everything those two front wheels come across through your hands. Presuming, of course, you keep on the steering wheel, which you should do considering the tiny Atom is very likely to try and kill you if you don't.

Ariel Atom 3S
Photo: YouTube screenshot
That's right; this little car has teeth. Fangs, actually, and it's all down to its notorious lack of traction. With a total weight of just over 1,400 lbs (635 kg), getting those tires up to temperature is nearly impossible. And even if they do, its lightweight nature means it'll continue to be fidgety to the inexperienced driver.

If that doesn't get you, then maybe one of the rocks thrown at you by the cars in front or even your own front tires will. That's why a helmet is highly advisable, even with the windshield installed. You don't want to have to dodge projectiles flying at you while you drive the Atom: remember, jerk the steering wheel, and you can make friends with a ditch.

So, there's a very good reason you don't see too many Ariel Atoms bombing it down the street: they're a pain to drive in traffic, and even out of it, they're not for everyone. Plus, they're ridiculously expensive - $100,000 for a weekend car is more than most people can afford, driving enthusiasts or otherwise. Those who do, though, get themselves a car that offers a unique driving experience, not to mention a perfect platform to develop one's skill.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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