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Caterham to take on Cayman, Evora

New mid-engined car to come from British sports-car maker.

By AutoWeek Jan 11, 2013 10:01AM

With the increased visibility brought to enthusiast-secret Caterham via their Formula One team, it only makes sense to diversify the company's offerings. Though they've diverged from the Seven-only path a couple of times before -- with the limited-production 21 in the mid-'90s and the more recent SP/300.R, a track-only collaboration with Lola -- this time they're taking aim at higher-volume prey.

The targets? The Porsche Boxster/Cayman and the Lotus Evora, both six-cylinder-powered mid-engined machines in the $50,000 to $100,000 price range. The method? Caterham's partnership with Renault. According to a report from Britain's Autocar, the mid-engined coupe will be priced about £40,000 (roughly $65,000).

Structurally, it'll share much with Renault's reimagined version of the Alpine, a car beloved by Misato Katsuragi and rally drivers alike. A forced-induction four-banger will crank out segment-competitive power numbers and 0-60 times. Both paddle-actuated and three-pedal manual gearboxes will be available.

The interesting bit about all of this is that for years, Renault and Lotus had worked together. The squashed-breadvan Europa used a Renault-sourced powertrain; even after the switch to Ford-based engines in 1971, it still utilized a Renault transmission -- major component-sharing carried through to the last Esprit to roll off the line in 2004.

The former Renault F1 team now races under the Lotus banner. For a time, the Caterham F1 team raced as Team Lotus. And, of course, Caterham started life as a Lotus dealer and has been cranking out improved versions of Colin Chapman's beloved Seven since 1973. The Anglo-French corporate incest is enough to confuse the most ardent student of noble genealogy.

No word as to whether Caterham's Cayman-fighter will come stateside, though given the hurdles of federalizing small-production a car with a Renault-sourced powertrain in a country where Renault doesn't operate, we doubt it's likely.

On the other hand, they want to sell 25,000 of the things; we're sure they could move a few to Yankee lightness-cultists.

-- Davey G. Johnson


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