Piers Ward17 December 2013

First drive: the Radical RXC

It has a roof. It rides well. It will tear your face off. Piers Ward takes on one of the world's fastest cars

What is it?

It's the Radical RXC, a Radical with a roof! But don't go thinking that the British sports car manufacturer - more normally associated with building ultra-successful racing cars - has gone soft. The RXC is still one of the most hardcore - and fastest - road cars on sale.

It certainly doesn't look much like an S-class...

Correct. Just because Radical has built a car with a roof, doesn't mean it has forgotten its roots. Like the SR3 SL, the RXC retains a tubular spaceframe chassis, fibreglass bodywork and a mid-mounted engine. In the RXC, it's a Ford V6, producing 380bhp and 320lb ft. In a car as light and stiff as the Radical (it weighs just 900kg), it shouldn't be a surprise that the performance is mildly biblical. It'll get from 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds, and top out at 175mph in what very much appears to be no time at all.

Better than that, because it's got a Quaife seven-speed paddle shift gearbox, shifts take just 50 milliseconds. And you don't even need to lift your foot off the accelerator, or dip the clutch. Just hold on tight. And possibly scream a bit.

Does it actually work as a road car?

Amazingly, yes. Bewilderingly, the RXC actually rides pretty well: even if you clatter into cats eyes, the car doesn't skip and bounce. The whole thing feels well planted, and doesn't hunt camber like other race-cars-for-the-road. It's surprisingly effortless.

On the right sort of back road, this is as good as driving gets. Accurate chassis, epic engine, plenty of feedback, loads of grip - all just as you'd expect. Better still, the RXC doesn't feel like a pared-back, underdeveloped creation. The window wiper and the heater actually work, and the dash layout is clear and functional. Simple, but good. You could do a few miles in it without too much discomfort. Probably not quite the thing for a cross-continent tour, mind.

So there are compromises?

Inevitably, yes. Road noise is mildly deafening, while the steering has been set up more for track than road, so there's no self-centring. Which means it's quite difficult to keep the car in a dead straight line on a normal A-road - you need to constantly work at it, which isn't relaxing. The RXC is great on a back road when you're carving through corners, but less great on a gentle commute. But you knew that, right?

So should I buy one?

Let's be blunt. This is not a car at home in a traffic jam on the M25, nor is it a pleasant thing to get in and out of - squeezing into the RXC is only effortless if you're an expert at Pilates. Plus, at £94,500, the RXC is an expensive toy.

But what's impressive here is that Radical has kept the spirit of the company and its brutally brilliant products alive, but also built a car that genuinely functions as a road car, albeit a very, very focused one. Despite all the terrifying-looking wings, this thing won't bite your head off. And that, in something like the RXC, is a huge result.

8/10

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