The Rage Comet R is an off-road buggy, the brainchild of two guys who 13 years ago dreamed of creating the ultimate off-roader. It got its name at Goodwood, where someone remarked that the amount of dirt and debris it kicked up resembled the path of a comet. Buggy is a fairly apt description for the Comet R -- at first glance it looks small, squat, and slightly ugly in the flesh. Panels of metal protrude at odd angles; bottles of fluid and fans are unapologetically bolted onto the back. This isn't there to attract whistles of affection, although it will certainly turn heads. It resembles a kid's toy, a juiced-up quad bike, Mad Max's car of choice for traversing the post-apocalyptic landscape.
However, read the statistics of this thing and the idea of it as a novelty falls flat. With 200 bhp coming from a four-stroke engine straight from the Kawasaki ZZR1400, a weight of under 600 kilos, a 0-60 time of around 3.5 seconds, and a top speed of over 120 mph, it is certainly no toy -- more angel of death on wheels. The engine revs to 11,200rpm, which means (aside from earplugs quickly becoming a serious consideration as the noise screaming from this thing beggars belief) that when you think the engine has nothing left to give you've probably not begun to exploit the full rev range. Leave it in a lower gear, keep your foot to the floor, and the acceleration is truly shocking, made extra-terrifying given that you're in a tiny and very exposed metallic bucket. It keeps pulling and screaming and gives an on-the-road thrill that not much else could deliver. That's right, the Comet R is road-legal.
Over the course of the day we had it in three environments: on the road, the track, and off-roading on a motocross circuit. And with only minor setup tweaks for off-road, the Rage took to each of these very different situations like it was designed for them individually. We were at WildTracks Off Road Activity Park, where the staff warned us that certain jumps would likely break anything but a motocross bike. Not the Rage. It took everything we threw at it and then some.
Filming can often be mechanically punishing on a vehicle -- you want the car demonstrating the peak of its performance take after take all day long, and on the hottest day of the year we would have forgiven the Comet for needing a breather, but it kept going long after we'd reached the point of exhaustion. The guys at Rage had no qualms doing this and in fact took the same car to Germany that night for another shoot in the morning. The confidence they have in their product is overwhelming, and it's not difficult to see why.
That a car can have supercarlike stats, feel so at home and fun on the track, and be so capable off-road, doesn't make sense to me. It should excel at one or the other, not both. But it does, and then some. By the end of the day my view on the Rage's looks had changed. I'd seen it gracefully in flight and now thought it was absolutely stunning. There's something beautiful about an object so utilitarian being so graceful.