Introduced in 1957, the iconic Lotus Seven was later rebadged as a Caterham in 1973, when newly founded Caterham Cars purchased the rights to the design. The British firm continued to improve the model, making it both lighter and more powerful, but the styling has remained practically unchanged over the last four decades. However, there is one company that has completely redesigned the old Lotus Seven, giving it a more modern appearance and a turbocharged engine. It goes by the name Donkervoort, and its based in the Netherlands, and has been making Seven-based sports cars since 1978.
The return of a legend… The legendary RS is back! And its ambitions are just as great as those of its predecessor, which drew the world’s attention when it set the lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 2004 and 2006.
The Dutch sportscar manufacturer is concentrating on two cars going forward: the more comfortable road-focused D8 GTO-S, and the less compromising GTO-RS which is road legal, but more focused on track time. Described as the ‘ultimate D8 GTO’, the RS will not only feature redesigned front and rear ends, but it will also be slightly larger and more powerful than any other Donkervoort unleashed to date.
Styling-wise, the D8 GTO is massive departure from the modern Caterham Seven. It has a much more aerodynamic nose, the headlamps are integrated into the body, it has wider wheel arches, bigger doors, and a taller decklid area. The windscreen and the side windows are also different. All these changes not only contribute to a more modern and aggressive appearance, but also improve the car’s aerodynamics. For the RS, Donkervoort redesigned most of the sports car’s body panels. The body is constructed using Donkervoort’s own X-Core carbon fiber components which uses a light foam sandwich construction.
The GTO-RS sees some important aerodynamic modifications with a redesigned nose, a closed carbon fiber bottom plate, side skirts that all contribute to 20% less aerodynamic resistance than that seen on the D8 GTO.
Up front, the roadster received a wider nose that incorporates a reshaped grille with five horizontal openings instead of four. The elements still sports chrome detailing, but the upper section is now painted black. Also, the lower section of the grille extends toward the splitter. The engine hood features additional vents for a race-inspired look. The side panels are also new and have been integrated into the front fascia. They also include foglamps. The headlamps have also been reshaped into a more aggressive, almost triangular design that mimics the shape of the elements flanking the lower grille.
The company had nothing to say about the RS’ interior, but the first photos show that the cabin is identical to the standard GTO’s as far as design and features go. Most of the dashboard and the door panels are made from carbon-fiber, while the center console and the seats are wrapped in leather. The steering wheel is swathed in Alcantara for optimum grip, but the center element comes in leather just like in the GTO.
Mind you, despite all these options designed to provide the ultimate and most extreme performance, the D8 GTO-RS remains a completely street-legal sports car with associated comfort level. The lightest and fastest GTO ever built!
Making the RS stand out are the white faces of the analog gauges, the white background of the instrument cluster, and the red-and-black upholstery. The center console, seats, and door panels feature red leather with black stitching, while the steering wheel has black leather with red stitching. The RS also sports a carbon-fibre tunnel section, the first Donkervoort to do so. It could also get a few custom features that can’t be had with the standard GTO, but we won’t find out more about that until Donkervoort spills the beans.
The Donkervoort D8 GTO is powered by a turbocharged, 2.5-liter TFSI 5-cylinder engine borrowed from the previous Audi TT-RS. Donkervoort has been using it since 2013, when it replaced the 1.8-liter turbo-four that was also sourced from the German automaker. The five-banger cranks out between 340 or 380 PS (335 or 375 horsepower) depending on the model’s specification. Although Donkervoort didn’t reveal the actual output of the GTO-RS, it did say that the engine was further improved with help from long-time partner Bosch for ‘even more acceleration and driving comfort’.
To give another perspective, the D8 GTO Bare Naked Carbon Edition had a top output of 380 hp, with a remarkable 0-62 mph time of 2.8 seconds. That GTO also weighed under 1600 lbs. Since the RS promises to be the lightest and fastest GTO ever, it should be in the same ballpark.
This probably means that the RS isn’t more powerful than the range-topping, 375-horsepower GTO, but quicker from 0 to 62 mph. Given that the GTO needs around 2.8 seconds to hit the benchmark, it’s safe to assume that the RS will be able to get there in 2.7 ticks. The sprint could drop to 2.6 seconds if the new aerodynamics are backed by a significant weight reduction, but the Dutch firm didn’t release actual figures. Donkervoort did mention that the RS is the lightest GTO ever created, which means it should tip the scales at less than 695 kg. Top speed should remain unchanged at 270 km/h (168 mph), which is more than any Caterham Seven can deliver.
Other upgrades include a new suspension that has a wider track and provides ‘stronger grip on the front axle’ and a ‘completely redeveloped’ braking system. The sports car also features a Bosch-developed launch control system and a double-clutch function.
Pricing for the D8 GTO-RS starts from €151,173 excluding taxes, which converts to around $172,180. This sticker makes it significantly more expensive than the 1000 Miglia Edition, priced from €115,000 (about $130,980), but more affordable than the Bilster Berg Edition, sold for €194,000 (around $220,960) before options.
Only 40 units will be built. So far, already 21 units have been sold among the Donkervoort Ambassadors in the pre-sale period.