*If the Exige S 240 is good, then the 2-Eleven is a slice of fried gold. Lotus definitely has the formula for distilling cars to the absolute bare essence of driving. And it doesn't get much more potent than this.
Colin Chapman became famous for cars built to his mantra of 'adding lightness.' In order to lighten the 2-Eleven, ideas were taken to the extreme. Some vehicles are described as hardcore because of their lack of windshield wipers and door handles. Lotus laughs in their faces with a complete and utter deletion of glass surfaces and opening doors. The 2-Eleven weighs a scant 1,598 pounds; a flyweight 997 GT3 is nearly twice that.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this car is essentially a rolling skeleton of the Elise/Exige. It's based on the same chassis, but is, unbelievably, even stiffer due to higher sills. Because of the lower mass, track focus and all-round hardcore bad-assness, Lotus decided on a suspension recalibration. Ride height was lowered by roughly an inch and the geometry corrected accordingly. Lotus calls this the best handling car it has ever built. I'd say it's more likely one of the best handling cars any make has ever built.
Lotus is hesitant to give a power rating, but this engine in another vehicle produces 255 hp with a less efficient intercooler. Calculating exact power numbers would be wasting time that could be better spent on track-exactly where this car was developed. Lotus engineers built it as a pet project and its greatness and consumer viability was recognized instantly.
Everything about the 2-Eleven is ceremonial. From stepping over the side and buckling the six-point harness, to the quick flip down of your helmet visor on the way out of the pits. There's something special about driving a true open-cockpit car. You feel what the car feels; as you accelerate, you feel the air ripping at you. There's an appreciation of the aero dynamic forces that lift, push and force the car into submission. A cap and glasses wouldn't stay in place much past first gear.
A few laps around the track is life-changing. By classifying it as a track car, Lotus is making a clear distinction between the 2-Eleven and a racecar. It is, however, as close to a racecar as you're likely to find while still being driveable by the average enthusiast. The car is surprisingly predictable and equipped with the same traction control as the new Exige.
But the car likes to be driven with more precision than the Exige. Slotting the 2-Eleven into the rhythm of the track is addictive, steering inputs are extremely minimal through the racing-sized wheel, yet feedback comes in espresso-like doses. The car communicates even small changes in the track surface and you feel exactly what each tire is doing. Surprisingly, there's little kickback or harshness in the steering. Running over rumble strips and FIA curbing gives a little nudge, but never threatens to rip the wheel out of your hands, even with the most delicate grip.
Braking is equally predictable and insanely powerful. I was moving braking points further toward each corner, even with the greater acceleration out of preceding corners. There's almost no dive-just ease into the pedal and all four tires bite. Jumping on the center pedal can cause the back end to squirm slightly, but it's easily controlled.
Lotus plans on selling around 300 2-Elevens worldwide, a lot for a track machine. This car is street legal in England. It's shame we can't get vehicles like this legalized in America. To circumvent the rules, maybe the company should try selling it with only two wheels. I can put the other two on myself.