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Lotus 2-Eleven 2008 Review

Nothing compares to racing with the Lotus 2-Eleven.

And lack of the latter makes for a truly formidable amount of the former. With a power-to-weight ratio of 3.9kg per kilowatt and performance to do over supercars with price tags to make the Lotus's $127,500 seem modest.

At 3.9 seconds from standing to 100km/h and 8.9 seconds to 160km/h, it'd be faster than all of them here at Oran Park.

Ripping down its straight last week, even this most tentative track-day pilot felt what it was to easily exceed that speed. The bare numbers tell the story but can't begin to convey the sensation of experiencing them in this windowless open topper. Fabulously agile, instantly responsive and completely, utterly, involving; the 2-Eleven is everything you love about Lotus, only more.

It takes someone of the calibre of our host, Dean Evans, to demonstrate the car's dynamic potency.

Yet even for a comparative novice, one who hadn't previously enjoyed Oran in its full openness, the Lotus is a total joy toy, thoroughly accessible and exhilarating.

Even an impromptu spin, the result of fat headedness and ham- footedness, serves only to emphasise the 2-Eleven's general tolerance of driver dopiness.

Settling into something approaching the correct lines, the variable traction control set for indulgence, we stay in the third cog of the six-speed gearbox all the way round, using the supercharged 1.8's tractability.

Fourth is snicked only as the rev warning light flashes, the tacho approaching 8000rpm and the speedo 180km/h.

If you've never sampled a Lotus you must, if only for the steering. Most manufacturers treat turning the wheel as an onerous chore and in relieving the effort, they will invariably diminish sensation.

The 2-Eleven's steering is bursting with feel. Unadulterated by assistance, it is sabre sharp and almost disconcertingly direct but an utter joy.

If only you could drive it to the shops. Sorry, but you'll have to keep a Europa on the side, because the 2-Eleven's cleared for track use only (and a full face helmet is an entirely necessary accessory). The 2-Eleven, first seen by most at the Australian International Motor Show, is the fastest production car in the marque's rich history.

With only 100 to be built annually, head-turning is guaranteed on track days. Based on modified Exige S running gear, the 2-Eleven runs a Toyota-derived 1.8-litre supercharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder with variable valve timing and lift.

Tuned to develop 188kW at 8000rpm, it's 16 per cent more powerful than the street-legal Exige S — and 20 per cent lighter. It's also more tractable, with an enhanced torque figure of 242Nm, so urge comes hot and strong and in linear fashion. The launch and traction controls are manipulated via the same system, the former providing starts of varying explosiveness, the latter a choice of 18 levels of electronic intervention from dictatorial to do and be damned.

We've said it before (and the odds are short that we'll say it again) there just ain't nothing like a Lotus.

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