BY: Jesse Kenealy
We headed to Monterey Car Week - and it was an awesome experience! We took this as an opportunity to put as many miles on one of our new 3S’s as we could (it’s a tough job, but, someone has to do it…). To do this, we shipped a Demo unit to Sector 111 (our California Dealer) which is located in Sothern California. Mark and I attended an evening “Meet and Greet” with several other West Coast Atom owners and our journey was slated to begin the next morning.
At 9 a.m. sharp, I jumped at the opportunity of driving the car and headed for the hills… As many of you know, California is notorious for its canyon roads and I can now state that the 3S is made for these roads. Every turn you can think of was found while tearing through the mountains of California. Decreasing radius, sweepers, double/late/early apex’s, and anything else that was thrown at the 3S was taken with ease thanks to the engineering and testing that went into the suspension/brake package that is now standard for the 3S model. The power comes on smooth throughout the rpm range thanks to a year of development.
It truly is amazing how capable the Atom is on the street, but, the street is a double edge sword. If California is known for its canyon roads, Los Angeles is known for its traffic, and even the fastest cars have to stop for it… I was hoping that the ride to Monterey would be a vacation on wheels but work has a tendency to interfere with the luxury lifestyle... Where TMI is located (Sothern Virginia), we don’t have rush hours, we have rush minutes, traffic is one of the last things to expect during a commute. We knew we had to test the 3S’s capabilities of handling all road situations, including the grueling thing called traffic. Sitting in traffic, especially in the California heat, can be the hardest job for any vehicle, let alone a high performance exotic. There is no wind to cool the car’s radiators, oil temps will rise, and the car is idling for long periods off time. The 3S’s extra horse power would all but add to the problem if it wasn’t for the additional radiator and air-to-water intercooler that are housed in the twin side pods.
We eventually made it out of LA and after a quick stop at an In-N-Out burger, it was time to hit the highway to start putting some real miles on the 3S and get to Monterey ASAP. Thanks to the windscreen and side panels, that are also standard on the 3S, highway speed comfortable (think of it as riding in a convertible car, just don’t forget the sunscreen). We hit some major landmarks on the way up including the famous intersection that took James Dean from us.
The road signs and environment indicated that our destination was getting nearer as the air turned from a dry heat to a cooler breeze. We also knew that we were close after the cars passing by slowly turned from Hondas and Toyotas to Ferraris and Bentleys. At 7:00 P.M. we had arrived at our destination, Monterey, California! The sun was setting as we unpacked our luggage from the chase vehicle. It was only then that the realization hit me that I had just driven 10 hours, in one of the fastest road cars on the planet, and I wasn’t even sore! Don’t get me wrong, a 10 hour trip in any car is exhausting, but I was expecting much worse. The new custom fit upholstery that is being offered for the first time this year really helps with any extended road time.
The days following our arrival were filled with reporters, test drives, car spotting, concourses, and race tracks. You couldn’t drive down the road without pedestrians stopping in their tracks to take a picture of the iconic Ariel Atom. But, all good things must come to an end, and it was eventually time to make the trip back to Southern California. I again jumped at the opportunity to drive and can now say that I hold the record for most time spent in an Ariel Atom 3S in one week. 20+ hours spent in a well-engineered machine is enough to determine its highs and lows, there are some items that we notated that we will take back to the drawing board to help in the never ending mission to improve the car, but, I wouldn’t have wanted to do the trip in any other car. I am looking forward to next year as we’re already discussing our epic return and how to make the trip longer, dare I say, cross country…