Be Left Breathless: the Lotus 3-Eleven

Sam Kessler (Online Editor)
On road or track, the new Lotus 3-Eleven delivers the ultimate driving thrill. Just avoid the rain.

There are cars built for comfort, others for speed, even some for the sake of practicality if you’d believe it. They all have their merits, whether it’s crossing the Alps in lightning speed or simply navigating British floodwaters without casting adrift. A select few however are built for something else entirely – the thrill.

It’s understandable that British cars generally conjure thoughts of Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and the like; marques whose performance is undeniable but are more on the sophisticated, luxurious side of things. Lotus, in that case, is considerably different.

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You need but a brief automobiles 101 to recognise a Lotus from any distance. Even aside from the signature palette of green and yellow – a theme established since the company’s founding back in the late 1940s – there’s no mistaking the pared-back simplicity and aerodynamic performance of the small two-seaters.

Small maybe, but certainly not lacking in any respect. After all, the only reason for keeping things minimal is to ramp up speed – acceleration in particular - to new extremes. Take the new, stunning Lotus 3-Eleven as the perfect example.

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The thrill you get from driving doesn’t tend to actually come from the top speed; you get there rarely enough for it to barely matter off the track. No, the rush you get, the adrenaline soaring, is from the acceleration. So while the 3-Eleven’s top speed isn’t the most extreme out there (not that 180mph isn’t impressive), managing 0-60 in less than 3 seconds certainly is.

That’s acceleration enough for a track car. Indeed, the looks of the 3-Eleven, like many a Lotus, are directly inspired by the marque racing heritage, in more ways than the usual livery. The sleek, low, lightweight chassis, that exhilarating acceleration, with just a couple of adjustments it would be a car fit for competitive racing. Which is why Lotus have opted to release two different versions.

Rather than settling for a compromise between the performance of a track car and the restrictions employed on the road, Lotus have created the 3-Eleven in two, differently-tuned iterations. On the one hand you have the road car, a heavier, more accessible driving experience. On the other, the untamed beast of the race version.

Now, while it might bear the title of road car, that particular version is certainly not practical. With the open cockpit and, shall we say, restrictive luggage space, it’s not a car to do the school run in. Or drive in the rain for that matter. And you might want to go all 1940s with a pair of goggles; there’s no windshield either.

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But then, this is a car to keep safe in your garage until it’s needed, when the sun’s out and you feel the need to let loose. A jaunt around the countryside, tearing up the coast, the exhilaration of a delicate press of the 3-Eleven’s throttle makes it a toy car with a bark almost as impressive as it’s bite.

The thing is, if you’re contemplating a Lotus, you’re probably someone that longs for that driving thrill, the sheer fun that even the most phenomenal of cars sometimes struggle with. Meaning your thoughts will inevitably stray towards the race version. And, should you have access to a track on demand, you won’t look back.

On the surface the changes don’t seem that drastic; a more aggressive aero kit, a sequential gearbox and an FIA approved driver’s seat with a six-point harness are the most visible, along with a lighter chassis (less than 900kg dry) and a few tuning adjustments. But the changes mount up.

The 3-Eleven track version is the purest iteration yet of exactly what Lotus do. On a stage where practicality simply doesn’t matter (as long as it makes it round for every lap at least). The unprecedented acceleration is joined by razor-sharp cornering and agility that very few four-wheeled speedsters can compete with.

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Here the drawbacks of no roof or windshield don’t apply. Instead their lack simply immerses you ever deeper into the driving experience, hearing and feeling each and every twist of the tarmac. You might need a decent level of experience to get the most out of it, but you’re made of stone if you don’t want to go again straight after.

The Lotus 3-Eleven is a car built for fun. It might not be practical or luxurious, but what it lacks in Corinthian leather upholstery, seating for six and… a roof, it more than makes up for the first time you press the accelerator. The track version might be the untamed beast, but the road certainly holds its own and, no matter which you choose, you’ll be left breathless.

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Prices start at £82,000 for the Road version (including VAT and on the road costs) and £96,000 excluding VAT for the Race version (£115,200 including VAT). Make an enquiry HERE.

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