Designed and engineered by an amiable collection of ex-McLarenand ex-Ford employees, the Elemental RP1 is unlike any other road car I have ever driven. And there are several reasons why.
One, it features a driving position that is exactly like that of a contemporary Formula One car, in which you sit with your feet several inches above your backside, arms out stretched, your back seemingly at an angle of around 45 degrees to the road.

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Two, it has a carbon composite tub at its core with double wishbones at the front and an F1-style suspension design at the rear, again featuring double wishbones at each corner.

Three, it tickles the scales at a phenomenally light 540kg (dry) with the first of its two available powertrains installed, or just 580kg with the second option fitted. Bearing in mind that powertrain number one is Ford’s 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine that produces 180bhp and 280Nm, and that option two is Ford’s 1995cc Ecoboost engine which produces a heady 320bhp and 450nm, you can only imagine what sort of performance we’re talking about here.
Except in reality you will never be able to get your head around how fast the RP1 feels until you climb aboard it for yourself – which takes a bit of practice on its own – and open up its accelerator with your own right foot. And then the world very quickly goes into hyperspace.

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Elemental claims 0-60mph in 3.2sec for the 1.0 and 2.8sec for the 2.0, with 0-100mph times of 7.8sec and 6.4sec respectively. Top speeds are either 145mph or 165mph, and the car costs the same £75,750 no matter which of the two engines you go for.

Once the first 10 cars have been sold at £75,750, the RP1’s price will rise to £90,900, Elemental suggesting that for the first 10 customers through the door the VAT will be taken care of in house.
That might sound a little bit strange, charging the same amount of money for a lot more (or less) power and performance. But the 1.0 weighs less than the 2.0 so is even more agile, points out company founder and chief engineer John Begley. As a result the 1.0 is even more fun to drive and is a bit less crazed in a straight line, hence the reason it costs the same as the 2.0.

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I drove the first prototype RP1 for half an afternoon recently, and I climbed out of it feeling certain that I’d driven the future. The car was fitted with the 2.0-litre Ecoboost motor and was only producing “about 280bhp” but even so it still felt like one of the quickest things I’ve ever driven.

And it was the combination of huge, instant torque and a very obvious absence of weight that defined the driving experience most clearly. The RP1 produces an almighty flow of acceleration from as low down as 2000rpm, right up to 6500rpm and beyond, with almost no lag above 3000rpm and a deliciously loud exhaust bark to go with it. Up to around 120mph it feels as fast as anything you can buy with a prancing horse on its nose, including the granddaddy of them all, the LaFerrari.
It goes around corners rather nicely, too, with none of the “will it, won’t it” snappiness that too many lightweight mid-engined cars tend to suffer from. There’s not much roll and the steering response is ultra-fast for a road car, but the RP1 also has a lovely sense of balance about it.

So despite the fact that it produces a claimed (and believable) 200kg of down force at 100mph, it also feels friendly and manageable and, well, just a really lovely thing to climb in and drive.  
The driving position is definitely part of the magic because it does genuinely make the RP1 unique. I also thought the gear change was similarly brilliant. The car comes with a six-speed Hewland sequential with pneumatic shifters. At the moment chief engineer Begley reckons the changes on the prototype are “still a bit clumsy with too much movement needed at the paddles.”

But I thought it changed gear beautifully, up or down, with instant response to your fingertips and a nice blip of revs on the way down, just like you get in a full blown single seater racing car with paddle shifters.

At £75,750 the unknown-about RP1 might appear expensive at face value. But in many ways it’s actually a bargain at that amount of money – because at the moment there is nothing else quite like it.

To get this sort of performance, with this much aero grip, this much feel beneath your backside, and this much know-how to go with it, you’d need to spend four or perhaps five times as much money with an established manufacturer – and even then it’s debateable whether you’d have as much fun behind the wheel.

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