Not so fast, but offers cheaper and purer thrills

What is it?

This is the entry level model of Lotus’s trackday hero. It's still powered by a 1.8-litre Toyota 2ZZ engine, but in this case without the supercharger, so power drops by 63bhp to 189bhp and the price drops by £4500

Lotus also offers owners the chance to come back at any point and upgrade their car from the extensive list of option packs, including retro fitting the supercharger.

So you could buy the naturally aspirated car, spend a season learning the car and then when you want more power, or when funds allow, have the supercharger bolted on or add the sport pack.

To take the concept to the extreme, you could return again and convert your 2-Eleven to GT4 spec and go racing.

What’s it like?

There is, of course, less outright performance than the supercharged car (0-100mph at 11.1sec is 2.2sec slower), but still sufficient that on the road you are unlikely to need more. For track work, it depends on the circuit and the length of the straights.

What is certain is that the naturally aspirated engine possesses markedly more character thanks to a pronounced step change in the cam profile at 6000rpm, the engine not only spinning more freely beyond this, but the engine note changing to a deliciously hard-edged bark.

This is essentially the same engine as in the Elise R, but the 2-Eleven’s lower mass means that you get a greater response when the engine is off-cam.

When chasing lap times it is best to keep the engine singing, but otherwise you can relax a little without constantly wishing for more mid-range torque.

As with the supercharged car, the chassis balance and steering feel are about the best you will experience in a car eligible to be driven on the road, and although ultimately you have less power to play with, the pure and precise nature of naturally aspirated power feels like a better fit with the 2-Eleven’s character.

It is often said that a car can be steered on the throttle, but there is no car that demonstrates the theory better.

So delicate is the throttle response and so communicative the chassis, that every corner is an opportunity to revel in the joys of controlling and exploiting a car, without ever feeling like you’re taking unreasonable risks.

Should I buy one?

With Lotus’s modular pricing scheme there is no reason not to. Natural aspiration has made the 2-Eleven experience more accessible than before, not only financially, but by reducing the power while increasing the precision with which it is produced, you can more easily learn the lessons the 2-Eleven has to teach.

Many will buy this entry model and never tire of it, never questioning the need for more power. But for those that do, Lotus has the answer, and that is the genius in their plan.

Jamie Corstorphine

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Add a comment…
autocar@cognovi... 1 October 2008

Re: Lotus 2-Eleven 1.8

However much it is, it looks poor value compared to a Caterham. For that money, you get an R400, with 60% more power/weight.

And Caterhams are not exactly renowned for being cheap...

bruh_la 30 September 2008

Re: Lotus 2-Eleven 1.8

The headline on the home page claims it costs 32,440 the title of the article says 27,995 and the price as tested at the bottom of the article say 33,440 (as well as 27,995)

Sorry, but how much is it?