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Lotus 2-Eleven s/c (2008) review

Published:24 September 2008

Lotus 2-Eleven s/c (2008) review
  • At a glance
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The 2-Eleven is the most track-focused road car Lotus has ever built. And we’ve emphasised the ‘road car’ bit because despite the wings and splitters and launch control and racing stripes the Lotus 2-Eleven can be driven to the shops. There is a track-only version that does without lights, a horn, etc. but having driven the 2-Eleven comprehensively on the road we can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t go for the full SVA-approved version.

Hold your horses. Road? Track? What exactly is the Lotus 2-Eleven?

It’s a lightweight track car. It has no doors, no roof and no concessions to comfort. You can’t drive it on the road without a crash helmet – well you could, if you like the taste of bugs – and you don’t really want to be venturing too far from home if there’s rain in the air. However, when sun is shining and you’re faced with a long ribbon of empty tarmac (road or track) the Lotus 2-Eleven sings.

So what makes the 2-Eleven ‘sing’?

Once again, it’s all about weight – or lack of it. Overall, the 2-Eleven tips the scales at 670kg – around 200kg lighter than the Elise S (itself no chunker) – but packs a whopping 118 more horses from its 252bhp supercharged, four-cylinder 16-valve Toyota engine.  

The 13-piece fibreglass bodywork is constructed with a material called Coremat that is pretty much the strongest nonwoven (i.e. non-carbonfibre) material available. It’s also cheaper and easier to produce – the 2-Eleven’s clothes weigh just 38kg.

Underneath, the Lotus 2-Elven’s underpinnings are a combination of the original high-sill (and therefore stiffer) Elise chassis and the latest rear subframe, accommodating the transverse mid-mounted Toyota engine. The result is a car that can sprint to 60mph in 3.8 seconds, 100mph in 8.9 seconds and reach 150mph.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Lotus 2-Eleven first drive 

Sounds thrilling

Thrilling? The Lotus 2-Eleven injects pure adrenaline directly into your jugular. Few cars react as quickly to driver inputs and reward with such extreme layers of feedback. The acceleration is instant – no lag, no pause, just immediate throttle response and an even spread of power up to 8000rpm. Play with the launch control and the 2-Eleven juggles revs and wheelspin in a brutal spectacle of raw acceleration. There was some resistance within Lotus to the idea of launch control (and indeed traction control), but while the launch system is rather gimmicky the fully switchable and adjustable traction control is a massive advantage. Operated via a rotary knob, the traction control gives the driver a multitude of traction levels - and indeed sideways angles.

It’s a Lotus right? So I presume it handles?

Oh yes. One of the 2-Eleven’s many USPs is that is makes the driver feel instantly comfortable. The driving position is suitably low, there’s plenty of elbow room (Caterham, take note) and the steering delivers such instant feel from the even the lowest speeds that you’re never unsure of how much grip there is on the nose.

And it's these factors that make the 2-Eleven so exploitable. You can drive up to, and then nibble that entertainment zone just over the limit without fear of having a huge prang. It’s simply beautifully resolved, adjustable, compliant, and most importantly: fun.

Verdict

Very, very few. The 2-Eleven can’t hold a candle to the (admittedly more expensive) KTM X-Bow in terms of visual drama and carbon loveliness, and the Ariel Atom and Caterham R500 are more visceral (i.e. scary) rides. There’s an enemy within too: while not ultimately as fast, the Lotus Exige S delivers gorgeous prototype-chic styling plus the option of a roof and air-con for a similar price. However, for now the 2-Eleven is the ultimate Lotus. 

Which would you have - a Lotus, Caterham, KTM or Ariel? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

Specs

Price when new: £41,180
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1796cc four-cylinder, VVTL-I variable cam system, supercharged, 252bhp @ 8000rpm, 179lb ft @ 7000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 3.8sec 0-60mph, 150mph
Weight / material: 670kg (road pack)/aluminium and core-mat composite
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3822/1735/1112

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  • Lotus 2-Eleven (2008) CAR review
  • Lotus 2-Eleven (2008) CAR review
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