What is it?
This is the improved, better-equipped version of the Lotus Europa SE, the company’s Elise-based, glassback coupe.
First launched in 2006 as the Europa S, the Lotus Europa SE has all the good bits from the Elise and Vauxhall VX220 (extruded aluminium chassis, all-independent suspension, turbocharged 2.0-litre engine) plus bigger brakes, different wheel and tyres sizes and a 10 per cent increase in power and torque.
Now with Lotus-tweaked engine management, the latest Europa SE packs 223bhp instead of 198bhp, plus an enhanced torque output of 221lb ft.
As the Lotus Europa SE weighs just under 1000kg, this gives it the same torque-to-weight figure as a Ferrari F430, which accounts for strong performance. Lotus claims a 0-60mph time of 5.5 seconds, and 0-100 mph acceleration of 13 seconds dead. Top speed is 143 mph.
The Europa’s suite of improvements came to fruition when Lotus engineering director Roger Becker took charge of the car’s development programme.
The previous ‘S’ model has been axed and now ‘SE’ spec adds wider tyres, AP racing brakes, an all-leather interior and a beefier sound system to the standard car’s spec.
What’s it like?
Much improved. Where the original car tended to understeer, this one is far more neutral, even at racetrack cornering speeds.
But the car is also usefully more refined than an Elise or Exige. The ride is surprisingly supple, though body control is still very much in the sports car league. And the only thing meaningfully more direct than the improved steering is a pair of handlebars.
Lotus has fitted new-spec Europas with an NVH pack; though the car is never going to rival a limousine it can certainly be used for longer journeys, especially on give-and-take road where its roadholding, brilliant brakes and sheer speed out of corners are vital factors.
In particular, the SE’s torque, agility, compactness and great braking make it particularly good for today’s crowded roads.
There’s instant passing power without a lot of gearchanging, the car has stability to burn, and it remains fun even in conditions other cars would find difficult.
And as long as you can cope with a fair, but not outlandish, degree of wind and road noise you’ll enjoy its tall gearing and long legs.
Should I buy one?
Don’t treat the Europa as a substitute for something like an Audi TT. This is a harder-edged and more enthusiast-focussed car than that. And you need to be sure you want the torquey, 2.0-litre turbo instead of the Elise’s normally aspirated Toyota unit.
Assuming you prefer the Europa’s poke, you’ll be getting a car that’s more exclusive than either of the others. Lotus is making only 500 Europas, and at the readjusted prices, it offers a far more compelling proposition than before.