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2010 Lotus 2-Eleven Review
With the 2-Eleven, Lotus has built a track day superhero
By Colum Wood, Mar. 09, 2010

The 2-Eleven track car epitomizes the Lotus philosophy of “performance through light weight.” Tipping the scales at just 1,643 lbs (on a full tank), this 250-hp lap day superhero makes even the Elise seem heavy. In fact, the 2-Eleven, thanks to a full composite body and the lack of either a roof or a windshield, weighs 341 lbs less than the Elise.

FAST FACTS

1. The 2-Eleven’s supercharged 1.8L 4-cylinder makes 250-hp at 8000 rpm and 179 ft-lbs of torque at 7000 rpm.

2. Acceleration to 60 mph takes roughly 3.8 seconds.

3. At just 1,643 lbs, the 2-Eleven weighs half that of a BMW 328i.

The engine is a familiar 1.8-liter, four-cylinder Toyota powerplant mated to a supercharger. The same setup can be found in the Elise GT3 car, as well as the Exige Cup Car. Torque is rated at 179 ft-lbs and thanks to the car’s light weight, you can actually feel it.

The real power, however, doesn’t come on until you wind the thing up.

I recently had the chance to run a coupe of laps in a 2-Eleven at the Spring Mountain track outside Las Vegas, shortly after having jumped out of an Exige S 240. This might not have been the brightest move on the part of Lotus PR as allowing test-drives of such an incredible performer so close to any other model has a certain result. You see, after the 2-Eleven, I’d bet anything short of an Enzo would seem inferior.

The feeling of being behind the wheel of the 2-Eleven made me forget entirely about the Exige. Although looking back, it also provided a great reference point. When you think about how phenomenal a track car an Exige is, the 2-Eleven simply destroys it. Yup… it’s that good!

The acceleration, handling and braking are incredible. It isn’t “like” an open wheel formula car, it is one… just with a few extra body panels. It delivers an almost unimaginably high level of Lotus’ trademark brand of fun.

HELMETS AND HARNESSES RIQUIRED FOR THIS TRACK-ONLY MACHINE

The 2-Eleven doesn’t have any doors, so I hopped over the side of it and dropped myself into the ultra-tight racing seats. As a track machine, it comes from the factory with 4-point racing harnesses, which help keep you in place during the immense lateral g-forces and under braking.

As I put my full face helmet on I was advised by a Lotus engineer to “have fun.” Yup, it’s that simple. The car might look like it requires a full racing license to pilot, but it operates just like any normal Elise or Exige.

INCREDIBLE HANDLING, PLUS A MOTORBIKE SENSATION OF SPEED

I immediately noticed how light the steering is. With light-weight forged wheels and very little weight to begin with (including just 38 percent of it over the front wheels), the steering wheel turns more readily than on any other Lotus. I found this amazing as most times you get into a machine with such an open-wheel feel, the steering is heavy. Not so here, meaning that even over prolonged periods, the car doesn’t wear you down.

The minimal weight also makes the tires’ job much easier. In fact, it was almost impossible to make them complain, no matter how tight the corner or how much throttle I applied. Dive into a tight corner too aggressively and the car would just grip, refusing to understeer. Try and get too greedy with the throttle and the tires would hook up and rocket you forward. Truly amazing!

With 62 percent of the weight over the rear wheels you would think the 2-Eleven would be a tail-happy handful once the rear gets rotating, but amazingly, it isn’t. Once you’re strapped in, the balance of weight becomes closer to a 50/50 distribution. Clever thinking on Lotus’ part.

Without a windshield, the feeling of speed in the 2-Eleven is visceral. On long straights you can really understand how hard it is for a car to cut through the air as the wind buffets your head and strains you neck muscles – something motorcycle riders will no-doubt be familiar with.

While the section of the Spring Mountain track we’re using is far from a high-speed experience, the back straight still provides the opportunity to test the car’s legs. Whereas the Exige we drove began to run out of steam in fourth gear, the 2-Eleven pulled consistently until it was time to hit the brakes.

As for the aerodynamics, such as the extended front splitter and massive spoiler, I can say they certainly felt like they were working. While triple-digit speeds are attainable at only one part of this track and it’s likely that the aerodynamics don’t have much effect below 100 mph, I did notice that while rounding the fastest corner (a right-handed downhill sweeper) the car felt extremely stable. By comparison, the Exige twitched slightly as though experiencing a slight lift.

THE VERDICT

Pulling myself out of the 2-Eleven after just a brief test I recalled what one of my colleagues told me as I was getting in: “It’s faster than you would believe.” And he was right.

Lotus has taken its light weight philosophy to new extremes with this track-day prodigy and the benefits are obvious in every area: from acceleration to braking to handling and, most importantly, the width of the smile on the driver’s face.

Those in search of a toy that will hold its own with vastly more expensive German and Italian machines at their weekend track club need look no further than the Lotus 2-Eleven.

LOVE IT
  • Low weight makes for incredible acceleration and braking
  • Incredibly well-balanced with plenty of grip
  • Light and direct steering
  • Amazing track capability for far less than German or Italian machines
LEAVE IT
  • Not street legal