Retro review: the trackday-ready Lotus 2-Eleven Reviews 2021 | Top Gear
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First Drive

Retro review: the trackday-ready Lotus 2-Eleven

Published: 21 Jun 2021
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This review first appeared in Issue 184 of Top Gear magazine (2008)

I arrived to drive the 2-Eleven in a Citroen Berlingo Multispace. The drive up to Hethel was very comfortable, and I had lots of space to store things like my helmet. It’s a very, very practical car, that Multispace.

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The 2-Eleven isn’t. This is the new, non-supercharged version, but it’s still bare, stripped-out and hardcore. It represents those core Lotus values of lightweight minimalism, coupled with scalpel-sharp dynamics. 

It’d be easy to say this is ‘just’ the regular 2-Eleven; that the supercharged version is the choice for real drivers. That’d be wrong. Because it does 0–60 in 4.3 seconds, and sounds even better than its more powerful sibling, doing without the supercharger’s whine and going with its own rortier soundtrack.

You get all the same bits as the Supercharged too, depending on how you spec your car. The passenger seat is optional, and so are the lights. As is the SVA pack, just to get the thing road-legal (trackday hard-nuts won’t bother). But most importantly, you can have the switchable traction control. More on that in a bit.

Swing a leg over the side of the car (no doors here), steady yourself on the FIA-approved roll cage and drop down into the driver’s seat. Inside, it’s nothing more than an exposed aluminium tub, with a few other essential controls. It’s like sitting in an old tin bath. With a steering wheel.

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Then you set off, and realise immediately how beautifully pure it is. It’s not intimidating like an Atom, probably because you feel more protected sat low in the chassis with bodywork around you. The feedback is unreal too. Drive over a tiny piece of gravel, and you’ll feel it ping under the tyre. The steering is unassisted, but utterly perfect – turn it a centimetre, and the wheels move a centimetre. It’s a car in perfect harmony with itself, this.

It’s quick too. Won’t blow your mind, but that’s a good thing, because you focus more on what it’s doing underneath you. With the traction control fully on, you can really throw it about and it just won’t bite. Turn it to 50 per cent (or whatever number you want – you literally dial it in with a switch), and you get some rear slippage, but it’s inherently neutral, not tail-happy. That’d be pointless, and just slow you down. 

If you’re serious about going round a circuit (or even a roundabout) as smoothly and quickly as possible, the 2-Eleven will help you do it. The lack of supercharger shove isn’t a problem. And besides, if you want one at a later date, Lotus will happily fit one for you.

Simple. That’s what this car’s all about. And I absolutely love it.

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Verdict: Get back to basics, and learn what a proper car is all about. Just remember to take a brolly, or a good hood.

1.8-litre four-cylinder
189bhp, RWD
0-62mph in 4.3secs, max speed 140mph
720kg
£31,490

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