What makes a car great? Speed? Style? Comfort? Driver involvement? A combination of all of these? Or is it the ability to plaster a grin across your face whatever the circumstance?
Having just contorted myself out of the Lotus 2-Eleven with freezing hands and bruised shins, spent a good five minutes wrapping it up in its protective tent and disengaging the electric switch, I reckon it’s definitely the latter.
Any enthusiast will be familiar with that sense of unadulterated glee tinged with adrenaline that you get when you round the perfect corner in the perfect car. It’s a rare occurrence. But there are cars that can give you that feeling all the time and the Lotus 2-Eleven is one of them.
Even at 30mph in town, getting stuck at traffic lights and pulling muscles you didn’t know you had just to try and see if there’s a car in the lane next to you, there’s still a smile behind the helmet.
Perhaps it’s just the rebelliousness of driving such a completely impractical car in winter, or maybe it’s the attention it gets you going to my head.
But I don’t think so. I get the same enjoyment from pelting around in our long-term Defender, and I also enjoyed every one of the 1200 miles I did in the Caterham that colleague Jamie Corstorphine ran last year. So what makes these cars special?
They’re all a challenge, and I suspect that might be the key. Knowing that you’re driving a 2-Eleven on semi-slick rubber on icy roads is always going to focus the mind. The Caterham offered similar pleasures, and trying to avoid tight parking spaces in a 110 Defender with a turning circle best measured in furlongs will also keep you entertained.
A BMW 330d might be all the car that any enthusiast will ever need. But you’ll never be bored in a car with no windscreen.