Lotus 2-Eleven (2009) naturally aspirated review

Published:26 January 2009

Lotus 2-Eleven
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

The Government hates the car, and whether that’s true (or whether they just like taxing the motorist), there’s no getting away from the fact that life on the road can be pretty hard. So we need to escape, yet supercars are big and unpractical and out of the reach of almost all of us.

Thus the track car came into existence – something light, reasonably powerful, but also reasonable to maintain, something for a day on a circuit or a Sunday morning blast. Now you can have everything from a Caterham to a KTM. Lotus even got in on the act in 2007, introducing the 2-Eleven and reminding the world that they invented the Seven, not Caterham.

But the first 2-Elevens were supercharged cars and cost £40k. Only now has Lotus got round to offering a cheaper version, a naturally aspirated car that can be yours for a little over £27k.

So I can buy a Lotus 2-Eleven for £27k and hit the road?

Er, not quite. You see, your £27,399 does indeed buy you an entry level 2-Eleven, but one that isn’t road legal. So on top of your £27k you need to add  £3421 to get an SVA pack with lights, a horn, side mirrors and all the other bits and pieces you need to pass the government requirements. And then you must hand Lotus another £950 for on-the-road costs. And then you really need a passenger seat, which is £734. But then, then, you’re ready to go – call it £32,504.

But the beauty of the 2-Eleven is that once you think you’ve mastered this naturally aspirated car (or just want more oomph), then you can upgrade your car in a few years' time. So you can get Lotus to add that supercharger, or adjustable Ohlins dampers, lighter wheels, a big wing and front splitter, two different types of diff, a removable steering wheel or a full FIA-approved seat wit six-point harness. And if you like to show off, then you can get leather on your seats and get the brake callipers painted.

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Sounds good, but remind what a 2-Eleven is again.

You probably haven’t seen one on the road, so let’s reassess. It’s basically a Lotus Elise but stripped back and pared down, the chassis itself using some Series 1 parts up front but the S2 rear to support the 1.8-litre Toyota engine that’s mid-mounted in the aluminium tub.

And that’s about it. There’s no radio and no windscreen, because they’re not even on the options list. Having said that, because there’s very little in front of you, and what bodywork there is drops steeply away to the road, you get an absolutely glorious uninterrupted view ahead. Forget about what’s behind you, though; you’ll be faster than just about anything on the road, and the wing mirrors and rear-view mirror are tiny and next to useless. 

Is it as magical as every other Lotus?

Better. Even with the SVA pack and passenger seat, there’s less than 750kg to haul around, so it stops, steers and goes like little else. The 2-Eleven is so nimble, so light, like a fighter up on their toes. It feels a lot more darty than a Caterham, though that’s in part thanks to the steering, which is ultra-light. It’s still full of feel, very talkative, but the lack of weight can be unnerving and disconcerting at first, until you learn to trust these pure responses.

Grip levels are massively high and any sort of body roll non-existent. Make sure you strap yourself in tight too, because the brakes are mighty, and full of feel. And there’s loads of room in which to work; this is no cramped Caterham.

You won’t miss the supercharged engine either. Sure, its scream helped you tell when you were approaching 8000rpm, and the wind roar against your helmet in the naturally aspirated car all but drowns out the engine noise, but it’ll still hit 60mph in 4.3sec and 100 in 11.9sec.

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Gripes?

Hardly any. The pedals are a little further apart than in a Seven, so heel ‘n’ toeing is a little harder, but still easily achievable. You know there’s no roof when you buy it, and the tiny aero screen actually does a very good job of keeping any rain off your face (once you're up to speed). Oh, and you have to step on the seats when you – literally – climb in, because you have to clamber over the sills and there are no doors. But these are minor complaints.

Verdict

The Lotus 2-Eleven is sublime. Some won’t get the appeal of an even more extreme Elise, but those that jump inside will love it. There’s perhaps less character than a Caterham – but it’s just as fun and fast, and if you ever do get bored you can whack on that supercharger and scare yourself silly.

Specs

Price when new: £27,399
On sale in the UK:
Engine: 1796cc 16v 4-cyl, 189bhp @ 7800rpm, 133lb ft @ 6800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.3sec 0-60mph, 140mph
Weight / material: 746kg/aluminium and fibreglass
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3822/1735/1112

Rivals

Other Models

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  • Lotus 2-Eleven
  • Lotus 2-Eleven

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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