First Drive: Is the 360S the sweet spot in Caterham’s range?

The 360S aims to provide the best blend of power and balance that Caterham has to offer. Jack Evans has been finding out what it’s like.

Caterham 360S
Caterham 360S

What is it?

Caterham 360S
(Caterham)

Caterham has a long and varied list of cars. Of course, they’re all based around the same lightweight ethos, but several variations exist between the models. You’ve got the mad-hat 620R right at the top in terms of performance, with the Suzuki-powered 160 offering a friendlier, more approachable Caterham experience.The 360? Well, that falls slap bang in the middle of it all. This should mean, theoretically, that you get that balance of power and usability. But is it the case? We’ve been behind the wheel to find out.

What’s new?

Caterham 360S
(Caterham)

Caterham has recently slimmed down its range, removing the older 270 and 310 models which both used a 1.6-litre petrol engine. Now, there’s the aforementioned 160 at the base of the range, but you’ll jump up to the 2.0-litre-powered 360 that we’ve got here after that. But the 360 has been designed to be far from scary and capable of delivering easy-to-control power alongside that usual Caterham sharpness.It’s still available with road-focused S and track-orientated R packages, too, while there’s the option of either standard or large chassis sizes – the latter of which is a real plus for taller drivers.

What’s under the bonnet?

Caterham 360S
(Caterham)

Sitting underneath the 360’s long nose is a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine, kicking out 180bhp and 194Nm of torque, driven to the wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. Despite being a mid-level Caterham, the 360 will still manage 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds before carrying on to a top speed of 130mph.

But, like all Caterhams, the real joy is the lack of weight. In fact, since it tips the scales at just 560kg, you’re still getting a power-to-weight ratio of 321bhp-per-tonne, so it’s got enough punch to frighten even the most modern of hot hatches.

What’s it like to drive?

Caterham 360S
(Caterham)

Lightness is at the absolute core of the Caterham experience and it’s definitely at the fore in the 360. Though not the most powerful car in the range, it has just the right amount of punch to exploit the well-judged chassis, with mid-corner grip levels at a very impressive level. The steering is direct and very accurate, which when combined with the Caterham’s compact size makes for a car that is easy to thread through quicker bends.

We’d like a sixth gear to help with cruising – the 360 revs extremely high when sitting at motorway speeds – but for country lanes where Caterhams are traditionally at home, the five-speed manual provides excellent control. And, despite using the Large chassis option, ‘our’ 360 still feels perfectly sized. Having this option added only makes the cabin feel a little less restrictive than the regular one.

How does it look?

Caterham 360S
(Caterham)

Well, it looks like a Caterham, doesn’t it? There are no other cars on the road today that have the design of the Seven, which certainly makes it stand out on the road. Sat amid everyday traffic the 360 looks like it’s from another world entirely, and certainly like it’s from a different time period.
Though classically styled, modern touches such as LED lights do help to bring the 360’s look into the (slightly) more modern age.

What’s it like inside?

Caterham 360S
(Caterham)

The interior of the 360 may be snug, but it’s extremely well-finished. Our test car came with a full leather interior – a £1,500 option – but this elevates the overall look and feel of the car. With a green exterior and a cream interior, ‘our’ 360 definitely played the retro theme to the fore.
Plus, with a full windscreen and side screens, the 360 isn’t quite as blustery as you may think. You can remove those side screens, of course, but it increases the amount of buffetting. As with all Caterhams, you tend to drive without the roof whenever you can – putting it into place is only reserved for the heaviest of downpours.

What’s the spec like?

Caterham 360S
(Caterham)

Naturally, you’re not going to find the very latest features or technology aboard even the latest of Caterhams, but what has been fitted has been included with real purpose. The heaters, for instance, are powerful and get up to temperature quickly.

The vents are located by your left knee, and they’re easy to direct which will make cooler days a bit more comfortable.However, one of the best new features on the 360 is those aforementioned LED lights. Included as part of an £800 optional pack, they’re much brighter than the standard units and ensure that other road users can see you more clearly in the dark. Remember, a Caterham is head-and-shoulders shorter than a traditional car, so any extra visibility is a really good thing.

Verdict

At £44,680 with options, the Caterham 360 definitely isn’t cheap. However, it offers one of the most balanced experiences from the entire range, combining effortlessly brisk performance with a well-judged chassis and sublime balance.

In road-focused S specification it’s reasonably comfortable, too, and would be the one we’d recommend unless you’re planning on taking your 360 to the track frequently. As a car designed to offer the most involving driving experience, the 360 is right up with the best of them.

  • Model: Caterham 360S
  • Price as tested: £44,680
  • Engine: 2.0-litre petrol engine
  • Power: 180bhp
  • Torque: 196Nm
  • 0-60mph: 4.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 130mph
  • Economy: N/A
  • Emissions: N/A

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