Ever since legendary design engineer Colin Chapman first put pen to paper in the Lotus workshop, the company whose badge bears the initials of his name has established an enduring reputation for two things in particular; lightweight agility and pure, unadulterated speed. Each car he designed, whether for the road or racetrack, was conceived with this very philosophy at heart. Today’s Lotus range remains true to those principles but the well-loved Elise, Exige and Evora models are about to be joined by a new, more unhinged stable mate; none other than the fastest and most expensive Lotus production car ever.
Named the 3-Eleven, this all-new lightweight road warrior has to be the most significant statement from the British-based manufacturer since the now-aborted new Esprit project was announced at the 2010 Paris Motorshow.
Revealed at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, the 3-Eleven is a V6 supercharged sports car capable of eating up both the track and the road. The aptly named duo of variants, Road and Race, both boast an astounding power-to-weight ratio, true to Lotus tradition. Providing the grunt is a revised version of the supercharged 3.5-litre V6 engine from the Evora 400 which pumps out an increased 450bhp and delivers in excess of 330 lb/ft torque. At a featherweight 900kg, the 3-Eleven’s all-new lightweight body is a slim line and streamlined masterpiece whose carefully honed aerodynamic package is punctuated by the open single seater cockpit and gaping air intakes for optimum engine cooling. The end result of what could be dubbed in the motoring world as the ‘Chapman Equation’ is that the 3-Eleven Race version offers over 500bhp per tonne and a sub-3 second 0-60mph sprint time. The Road going 3-Eleven will max-out at 180mph, 3mph faster than its track-munching counterpart.
Of course, attacking the racetrack requires a few competition-ready alterations, so the 3-Eleven Race sports a more aggressive aero kit, a sequential version of the Road car’s six-speed manual gearbox and an FIA approved driver’s seat with six-point harness.
A set of lightweight forged Aluminium wheels transfer the full force of the 3-Eleven’s power on to the road and are fitted with
upgraded brake pads on the Race version. As a thoroughbred speedster, the 3-Eleven naturally does away with weighty luxuries such as a windscreen and doors. The roll bar is a fully integrated part of the aero kit, filtering airflow over the cockpit and through to the adjustable rear spoiler.
The new Lotus 3-Eleven will be with us by April 2016 although its strictly limited production run will cease at 311 examples.