BAC Mono Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Sunday 2nd April
As practical as a pair of lead water wings, but one of the most entertaining cars ever built

Good stuff

The workmanship, quality, driving experience, engineering and design. A lightweight masterpiece

Bad stuff

Somewhat impractical. You can’t take anyone along with you. You won’t mind


What is it?

The car you can’t take your mates out for a ride in. The Mono, as the name suggests, only seats one. Never mind, if there was an extra seat the Mono wouldn’t look this good or perform as well as it does. What’s truly remarkable is that this is a lightweight British sports car firm that has managed to survive. BAC is over ten years old now, and has sold around 200 cars to more than 50 territories around the globe.

All single seaters?

Yep, although there are two different models, the Mono and Mono R. The latter, predictably, is the hardcore, even more track focused one. Both are based around a carbon tub, with the engine and gearbox mounted behind driving the rear wheels. Initially the Mono was powered by a Ford 2.3-litre naturally aspirated four cylinder, but after a few years that was upgraded to a larger 2.5 with 305bhp. The Mono R (you can tell it apart by the bazooka pod on the left side) boosts that to 343bhp thanks to a raft of internal upgrades. Similarly, weight is also reduced from 580kg to 555kg.

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Not heavy, but no lighter than its rivals, is it?

The Caterham Seven and Ariel Atom are the most direct rivals on paper, but Mono does do things differently. Although power and weight are in the ballpark with the hottest Seven and Atom, it’s a substantially rarer and more exotic machine. And therefore much more expensive. Prices start at over £160,000.

What do you mean by more exotic?

The materials, quality and execution. It’s a stunning thing to pore over, especially the Mono R, which, besides the bazooka, has a sharper, more cutaway nose complete with two headlights tucked away in the centre. The fit and finish throughout is exceptional, the materials are supremely tactile and the ergonomics (pretty much every control is on the wheel and the seat is made to fit) make it much easier to get on with than you might expect. Just don’t be too big to fit. 

Let’s talk graphene for a minute. It’s easy to assume this has been done as a PR stunt. Use it somewhere small and then make a great song and dance about it. But BAC claims a full set of carbon body panels that weighed 41kg previously, now weigh only 32kg – a 22 per cent saving. Basically they apply graphene as a powder instead of a carbon layer. Not only is it lighter, but it adds different properties to the panel, improving strength and flexibility.

Not cheap to do, though.

Definitely not. But this focus on innovation and engineering matters to BAC – as does sourcing within the UK. 95 per cent of the supply chain is here (Hewland gearbox, engine tuned by Mountune etc) and 50 per cent of the bill of materials is sourced in the north-west, close to BAC’s Cheshire HQ.

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How fast is it?

The slow one does 0-60mph in 2.8secs. Very much not slow. Top speed is 170mph. The sensation of speed is mind-boggling not just because you’re so exposed to it, but because your view forward is so unimpeded. No windscreen, windscreen pillar, not even a HALO to get in the way. And such perfect symmetry you wonder why so few central driving position cars exist when they make so much sense. You feel safe because you’re tucked down into this thick carbon tub and innately trust the quality of the workmanship.

Both engines deliver more than enough of a hit. The four cylinder isn’t especially tuneful or rorty, and because the engine is mounted to the back of the tub vibrations do tickle your spine. All part of the experience as you settle yourself in. But as the revs climb the noise intensifies and the Mono gains utter focus and precision. It moves like a race car. Very little suspension travel, intolerant of poorly surfaced roads.

The Mono R, I assume?

Correct. That gets pulled all over the road by cambers, ruts and bumps. If you’re doing road driving, the more softly set-up Mono is actually quite a treat. It rides far better than you might expect. Suspension comfort isn’t going to be the thing holding you back from doing long journeys in it. The exposure, however…

I’ll wear a helmet. And get out regularly to admire it.

It is a good looking thing isn’t it? All that exposed suspension and trick positioning of components. It’s a race car, but without the tie-wraps and gaffer tape holding it together. The shape does deliver downforce, but it’s as much about reducing drag – most lightweights are blunter and struggle to top 150mph.

What’s BAC’s next step?

Another single seater. In 2023 the Mono F will arrive, BAC’s first car with forced induction. Power will be similar to the current car, but torque will get a huge shot in the arm.

You’ve done some good stuff with the Mono of the years, haven’t you?

All sorts. Jason Barlow drove one in Death Valley, we had a long termer that Ollie Marriage drove around the coastline of Wales, and Jeremy and Stig have both had their way with it at Dunsfold.

What's the verdict?

As practical as a pair of lead water wings, but one of the most entertaining cars ever built

It’s silly money and hard to justify on paper. £160,000 (the Mono R, limited to just 40 cars, is an even more terrifying £235,000) for a car with no windscreen, powered by a humble four cylinder engine? Wrong way to look at it. The Mono is all about the experience. Being in it, driving it, seeing it, touching it – no other lightweight is remotely as well executed and finished as this. If McLaren were to build a lightweight road-going single seater, this could be it.

At Dunsfold the original version was as fast as a LaFerrari. BAC claims the uprated R did a 1m 32.96s lap of the Red Bull Ring – six seconds faster than a LaFerrari. But it’s the experience of driving it, rather than the outright speed that stays with you. Being sat square in the middle of the car, feeling all the components and elements working harmoniously, the sense of solidity that surrounds you. If you want something that’s focused on driving to the exception of everything else – and yet rewards on so many levels – look no further.

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