Fail of the century #36: Lotus Europa S | Top Gear
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Fail of the Century

Fail of the century #36: Lotus Europa S

Published: 23 Mar 2023

You could see where Lotus was coming from. Its featherweight, bare-bones Elise was famously great for whanging down a B-road, but terrible for whanging across a continent. So why not transform the Elise into a bit of a grand tourer?

As it turned out, plenty of good reasons why not. Trying to GT-ify an Elise proved rather like... trying to transform a whippet into an Arabian stallion. Can’t be done, at least not without violating several important laws of ethics and nature.

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Not that Lotus didn’t give it a good shot, ditching the Elise’s nat-asp Toyota engine in favour of a Vauxhall-sourced turbo unit, treating it to a leatherier interior, raising the roofline, and improving NVH levels from the Elise’s baseline of ‘zero NVH’. 

Problem was, what Lotus ended up with wasn’t an Arabian stallion, but something very obviously still a whippet, now wearing a fake bushy mane and tail, a small saddle, an ill-fitting set of horseshoes and a confused expression.

And the further problem was, the fake mane and tail and horseshoes not only failed to transform the whippet into an Arabian stallion, but also made it significantly worse at doing all its original whippet stuff. The Europa wasn’t a GT, it wasn’t a sports car, and no one wanted one.

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