ARIEL NOMAD R & ASTON MARTIN DBX
evo India|January 2021
They’re like nothing else at this year’s eCoty, so can their unique abilities and appeal see them make their way through to the second round? Henry Catchpole finds out
Henry Catchpole

THEIR MANUFACTURERS BOTH BEGIN WITH A. THEY both… um… have steering wheels? This is definitely the ‘odd couple’ category. Ostensibly you could say that they are both capable of going off road, but in R guise the Nomad really isn’t designed for those sorts of shenanigans – tarmac is its territory. So, in terms of compare and contrast, with these two it is more the latter.

Let’s start by clambering into the Ariel, which is easier said than done. For something that has no doors or windows it provides a curious puzzle for entry and exit strategies. One leg, bottom, other leg? Two legs, then bottom? Head first? Once you’ve made it into the one-piece plastic seat (good lateral, no lumbar), you’re presented with a screen surrounded by a number of dials, buttons and switches and one big paddle. It has the air of a beautifully engineered race car, but would also make quite a good children’s activity centre. The one paddle might seem confusing, but actually it couldn’t be more simple – push it away with the back of your fingers to go down a gear, pull it towards you to go up a gear. It’s the same gear-changing method as that found in WRC cars.

In the Nomad R the paddle controls a pneumatic shifter on a sequential ’box with straight-cut gears that whine like a heavy-duty drill. Add in the familiar banshee shriek from the supercharger and you have a soundtrack that is every bit as intense as the performance. And boy is it intense.

‘It’s like a kid on tartrazine,’ says Barker. ‘The thing pings like a pinball’.

A lap of Anglesey goes by in a blur of screaming acceleration, grip, oversteer and some curious lean angles for a track car. In fact the only time you seem to be able to relax is when it runs out of revs in sixth gear at 220kmph with about a third of the oxymoronically curving back straight to go. ‘A few flat-out laps and you feel like you’ve fought with a bear,’ says Meaden, inspecting himself for claw marks before continuing. ‘It has the robust integrity of a modern race car. Something that you can thrash the absolute bejesus out of, then park it, lie down in a dark room for half an hour, refuel it and repeat.’

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