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2015 Radical RXC Driven

Ben Barrywriter

If you want the V-6 in your Ford Mustang to work harder, you could fit hotter cams and larger valves. Or you could sling it behind your head and clothe it in Le Mans-lookalike bodywork. How about 1985 pounds of curb weight and an equal dose of downforce, a power-to-weight ratio that dusts a Ford Shelby GT500 and a 0-60 mph time of 2.7 seconds? Yeah, that'd do it. That, in a nutshell, is the Radical RXC. Built in the United Kingdom, the RXC is now available in the U.S. The really radical bit is that it will be street legalized on an individual basis.

Radical targets the RXC at the kind of fruitcakes who find Porsche 911 GT3s too soft but aren't hardcore enough to forego air conditioning, electric mirrors, a heated screen and power steering. They'll pay $150,000.

The company has been in business for 17 years, claims the 240 racecars it produces annually outstrip even Porsche, and has been shipping Radicals Stateside in tiny numbers for a decade. There's a distributor in Nevada and another in Florida and, between the two, the biggest potential export market yet to be tapped. You can also test drive Radicals at members' clubs Autobahn (Chicago) and Monticello (New York), as well as Circuit of the Americas.

Though Radical has previously put racecars on the road, this is the first Radical designed for road use. The closed-cockpit design shares virtually nothing with its open-top racers, which typically are powered by Suzuki bike engines. Underneath the Radical RXC there's a new high-tensile, laser-cut tubular steel spaceframe, while the body is designed in-house and riffs on Peugeot's 908 Le Mans racers. There is no connection with Peugeot. Radical liked the 908. That's okay with us.

You open the gullwing door, climb over the high sill and stand on the driver's seat before lowering yourself into the cockpit. You slide into a Corbeau seat, legs straight out in front of you but canted towards the car's center line, rollcage criss-crossing around you. Everything suggests noise, vibration and harshness, and while that's true of the road- and transmission-cacophony, the V-6 pulses warmly and idles smoothly. It's a disconcerting disconnect.

The Radical RXC's seven-speed Quaife sequential transmission is one of the few components borrowed from Radical's racers. You'll need the clutch to move off and stop, but the tactile little paddleshifters control the important bits in-between.

That clutch might feel a little heavy if you're coming from a road car, but compared with a racer it's breezy, with a biting point that's easy to finesse; no undignified kangarooing at the drive-through fast food restaurant here (though the Plexiglas side windows might hinder the transaction). So you move off, cycle quickly through first gear, pull the paddle and - whoah! - you're driving a racecar on the road. Everyone stares. Of course they do, but mostly they stare with a "hey, that's not street-legal!" furrow to their brow. You feel like shouting, "I know, crazy, it shouldn't be!"

Yet the Radical RXC does a very good impression of steering and riding like a road car. The steering - electro-mechanical with driver-adjustable assistance - has nice weight, crisp definition at the straight-ahead and a hunger to its responses, and there's a pillowy absorption to the damping that allows the RXC to breathe with the road surface, not fight against it.

Small digression: during Schumacher's world championships with Benetton, rivals suspected traction-control-based foul play, but it was actually the compliant dampers that soothed wheelspin. Guess what? Intrax made Schumi's dampers and also developed the RXC's, which is good because it too has no traction control. So not only does the RXC ride well, it also translates all 380 hp and 320 lb-ft into a lunge at the horizon.

Radical Performance Engines adds a bespoke AER Life engine management system with an electronic fly-by-wire throttle, a full-race dry sump system with a bank of externally mounted belt-driven oil pumps, a lightweight flywheel, competition Helix twin-plate clutch, competition starter motor and alternator, and its own plenum/air filter and tubular race exhaust system with manifolds in order to increase the 3.7's numbers from the stock 305 hp and 280 lb-ft.

So you put that power down and pull for the next gear. Upshifts are of the Bruce Lee variety, but our tester occasionally failed to engage without recourse to the clutch, and getting the thing into reverse necessitated vigorous swearing. We're working on it, promises Radical.

Turn into a corner hard and the usual sensations of body roll preceding loss of grip in a road car are absent in the Radical RXC. Turn in, the nose bites; accelerate hard, the rear sticks. The brakes give your internal organs a workout too. There are six-piston calipers without an ABS safety net, so the pedal has good feel and brings you to an abrupt stop… provided you don't lock up.

The RXC's composure comes partly from its highly accomplished chassis, but also because it's not quite as fast as its Le Mans looks suggest, and delivers its power in a very predictable way. Yes, it's very quick and if you'd put a V-6 Mustang owner into the RXC he'd whoop with speed-fear, but this is not insane velocity, and the drama of the bodywork deserves a more spine-tingling, high-rpm climax; the buzz of a GT3, say.

Lucky then, that along with the 380 hp throttle-bodied motor we drove, plus an entry-level, 350 hp model, Radical has been developing an RXC with the 3.5-litre turbocharged Ecoboost. Rated 365 hp in the 2014 Ford F-150, it'll make 450 hp in the Radical, and its torque moves north to suit a road-racing lunatic rather than a laborer with a load to haul.

No doubt about it, you'll need more than headwork and cams to keep up in your F-150.

2014 Radical RXC Specifications

  • On Sale Now
  • Price As Tested $150,000
  • Engine 3.7L V-6
  • Power 380bhp
  • Torque 320 lb. ft.
  • Transmission 7-speed sequential semi-automatic
  • Drive Rear-wheel
  • Fuel Mileage 25/35 mpg (city/highway, est. )