Europa gets more performance, more spec and a price cut

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.

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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JamesBailey 3 January 2010

Re: Lotus Europa 2.0 SE

I agree with Wanger and Bourj. I've had my 225 for 2 years now and I really struggle to think what I'd replace it with. Short of a secondhand supercar, there is nothing else out there that combines such rarity, driveability, value, mid-range performance and handling. The Cropley piece is spot-on. It is a car that is hard to 'get', but it is immensely rewarding to own and drive. I've done 500 miles in a day to Skye without any backache, a blast across the Brecon beacons in torrential rain with superb stability and lapped Donington, Silverstone and Bedford Autodrome in a laptime that humbled many a more expensive car. It is pointless to compare it with the TT or Z4. They both have their appeal, particularly if you like your creature comforts. A Cayman S comes close, and is arguably a better day-to-day all-rounder, but it lacks that final bit of fizz and feedback that makes this Lotus, and indeed any Lotus, stand out. If there was such a thing as a Cayman Clubsport then that may tempt me from the Europa. I wish the turbo-4 was a little more charismatic, but apart from that it is near-perfect. At £19K-£22K for a good secondhand one, and Vauxhall-esque running costs, it is almost a sensible buy.

Wanger 3 January 2010

Re: Lotus Europa 2.0 SE


I fully concur with your assessment...£33k for the experience this car offers and its individuality is cheap actually cheap!

"If you want a car that you can drive quickly out of the box. That’s practical, refined, well built and has low C02 emissions by all means get a TTRS, Porsche, Cayman, SLK, BMW….."

You could have also added, "and be a unimaginative sheep!"

Long live individuality..........Long live LOTUS!

Bourj 27 June 2009

Re: Lotus Europa 2.0 SE

Just to clear things up. The roof is not welded as the car is fibreglass I believe the roof is bonded. The standard S has a 0-60 of 5.5. Upgraded S’s (Most of them are) and SE Europas are just sub 5 seconds, but this is all paperwork and you will be missing the Lotuses trump card. Sit in one and drive to understand. It’s all too easy to play top trumps when sat at a table. Most comments so far seem purely from reading specs and not driving said vehicles. Love it or hate it.

If you want a car that you can drive quickly out of the box. That’s practical, refined, well built and has low C02 emissions by all means get a TTRS, Porsche, Cayman, SLK, BMW…..

If you want a car with a course engine that vibrates the cabin on start up. That whistles on accelerating and grunts when slowing. Gives you constant brail like feedback though your hands. A car that needs to be mastered to be driven quickly as well as slowly. With a badge of heritage that gets nods from drivers and questions from gooey eyed kids. Then get a supercar. If you cant afford the ownership of a supercar and want something really rare then get a Lotus Europa!

The feeling of putting the hammer down to get some well read pistonhead out of your rear view mirror is so gratifying and yet done so effortlessly!