Car reviews - Lotus - 2-Eleven - roadster
Outright pace, brilliant handling, powerful brakes, adjustable traction control, sounds fantastic
Room for improvement
High price, can’t be driven on the road
28 Apr 2008
WHILE all of the cars that roll out of Lotus headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, are a tad indulgent, the 2-Eleven gives indulgence a new meaning.
Given it can’t be registered in Australia, you can forget about taking it to work to impress your colleagues or escaping down the Great Ocean Road at weekends.
The 2-Eleven is simply a $127,500 toy.
There is nothing wrong with that. People spend a lot more on boats and when we last checked you can’t use them on the road either.
If you are loaded, the 2-Eleven is the ultimate track car. In skilled hands, or even semi-skilled hands, it is good enough to challenge and often beat some of the most expensive machines to come out of Europe, including Ferraris and Porsches.
In selected race meetings in Australia it has beaten cars worth two and three times the price.
On the track at Wakefield Park in Goulburn, the 2-Eleven proved it is a simply stunning piece of machinery.
Lotus cars always perform well on the track, as did the Elise SC also available for test drives at Wakefield, but the 2-Eleven takes the experience to a new level.
It is the closest thing to a Formula Ford car I’ve driven, but has more grip and power.
Getting in without looking silly is probably the hardest part of driving this car. With no doors, you have step over the side of the car, stand on the seat base, swing your other leg over and then sit down.
Once nestled in the wrap-around race seat you take in the view. There is nothing in the cabin except for the steering wheel, tacho, speedo, a handful of controls including a start button, which is hidden behind the rollcage, plus two seats, a gearstick and three pedals.
Depending on your seating position you can only just see over the windscreen, if you can call it that given it is only about 8cm tall.
There are three rear-view mirrors sticking up from the bodywork, but a good driver in this car will not need to use them.
The 2-Eleven comes to life with a gruff roar. The exhaust is loud, really loud.
After moving carefully up pitlane it is time to unleash. The 2-Eleven slings forward, emitting both a cracking exhaust note and supercharger scream.
All the action is happening just behind your head, so you hear and feel everything. Thanks to the boost, and the fact this car is as light as a feather, the engine has more than enough power for the car.
It has a fairly progressive power delivery and you can keep revving all the way through the rev range. This reveals the advantages of strapping on a supercharger as the naturally-aspirated 2-ZZ engine was very peaky in the Toyota Celica and Corolla Sportivo and the powerband peaked only between 6000rpm and 8000rpm.
Thanks to the boost, the 2-Eleven has a nicely linear power delivery, which really helps when you are learning to drive the car hard as you don’t have to keep the engine revving within a narrow band.
You can push the 2-Eleven’s engine to around 8500rpm, when a shift light suggests you pick another cog. By this time the engine sounds fantastic, from both the point of the occupants inside the car and spectators outside.
Back off the throttle as there is a fantastic crackle and pop.
The six-speed gearbox, also from Toyota, is crisp and sharp, with a short-throw gearbox allowing for quick changes.
The pedals in the 2-Eleven are nice and close, which helps when you arrive at a corner and attempt some heel-and-toe braking and throttle blipping.
Every Lotus is impressive when it comes to braking and the 2-Eleven is even better again.
After pushing close to 190km/h at the end of the straight at Wakefield, it is time to rush through the right-hand kink and then jump of the anchors.
For several laps you find yourself braking too early, until you finally realise just how good the brakes in the 2-Eleven really are.
It’s cornering is also exceptional. With such direct steering, you can place the car exactly where you want.
The chassis set-up and the sticky Yokohamas combine to give the special Lotus incredible cornering ability. It simply manages to get through corners at a speed you never would have considered possible.
I found that the car handled a tight bend so easily in second gear that it was time to try third and carry some more speed. It worked for about two laps until the pace was just too quick.
The 2-Eleven swapped ends in an instant and speared off the track sideways. While it can’t save you all the time, the adjustable traction control helps you keep the 2-Eleven stay straight on the way out of corners.
In the 2-Eleven it was easy to get the back drifting at Wakefield in the dry, so the traction control would be manna from heaven in the wet.
The system still helps out a lot in the dry and being able to adjust it means you can allow a bit of sideways action before the system comes to your aid.
As you become braver, you can turn down the assistance. But when the car costs $127,500, it will take a very confident and/or wealthy owner to turn it off completely.
While it can be tricky to drive on the limit, it is quite easy to get in and go fast straight away, and the 2-Eleven gives you a buzz that will take days to die down.
It’s impractical, expensive and unable to be used on the road, but the extreme 2-Eleven is what driving pleasure is all about.
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