What they’ve ended up with is a car of a similar skeletal character as an Atom, one whose tyre contact patches and beautifully machined front wishbones are visible through the partly open frontal structure but whose size and proportions are both much less toy-like and more imposing than those of an Atom. This car has looming, predatory presence – just as a 1180bhp hypercar should.

The Hipercar we’re looking at is Ariel’s first full-bodied running prototype. It has 3D-printed body panels for ease of manufacture, whereas finished versions will have all-carbon panels for a more upmarket material appeal. But I must admit, as graphic as it may sound, I do want more of the car’s innards on display. I want to see it working, the way you do an Atom – especially around the drive motors and that gas turbine at the rear. I want the whole car to be like looking at a Lego Technic model kit – because that feels like an Ariel thing now. Trouble is, the Hipercar will be a fully type-approved vehicle – crash tested, wind tunnel tested, emissions tested, the works. And where the Atom can get away with its scaffolding-like frame via the individual vehicle approval process, the rules on bodywork gaps in type-approved cars are much, much stricter.

There’s a slightly beetlish quality about the Hipercar’s cabin-rear silhouette. The cockpit could almost be sitting behind a compact, front-mid-mounted V8 engine if you didn’t know better. Instead, however, there’s a 295bhp electric motor for each of its individual drive wheels; a 62kWh drive battery under the cabin floor; a tremendously complicated multi-circuit cooling system for the car’s various heat sources; and what looks to all the world like a tiny rocket booster sticking naughtily out of that perky rear end. 

“That’s the gas turbine range extender,” says Saunders, “and I’m afraid we can’t demonstrate it for you today. Our supplier isn’t quite happy with its refinement yet, so they’ve asked us not to run it. When it’s working, though, it does sound a bit like a jet engine, which justifies all the styling references, we hope!” For now, we’ll just have to take the man’s word for it.

It feels odd to be opening a door on an Ariel at all, and stranger still finding comfortable leather seats, three-point belts and, err, a windscreen once you have. This is more of a fully fledged sports car than an Atom might ever be, of course, and Saunders is clear about the added usability and convenience that will be expected of it. 


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