Wanna humiliate german sports cars at the wheel of a British bathtub ?
Admittedly, this title is quite boisterous. But, it illustrates a reality. In the paddocks, german car owners take a light-hearted look at the 3-Eleven. Then comes the time to meet on track.
Conflicts of interest
Well, you see it coming from a mile away, this article won’t be objective. In fact, you believe we’re subservient to Hethel’s firm.
And you’re looking for a neutral media. We admit, Supercar Blondie did a review on Youtube, which looks sexier than Road Rug Cars‘ articles. Additionally, there is this paper in the mainstream press, which dares a (short) comparison with the Renault Spider.
Eventually, you realize the english prototype has gone under the radar of most car magazines. And that’s a shame, as it would have deserved much more interest. So, selfless as we are, we thought we had to tell you more about our experience.
The Lotus 3-Eleven, a scalpel to be cautiously (man)handled
For us, a Lotus is above all steering accuracy and feedback. True UFOs in an era of a soulless sports cars production, the Norfolk’s little bombs transmit information like no others.
The Lotus 3-Eleven is in line with its genetics, holder of a VIP card at the sharp scalpels selective club. But like any surgical tool, it must be handled with care. Obviously, one don’t juggle with a sharp object.
Gifted children of the family, this car is nonetheless delicate to handle. If a V6 Exige tolerates the constraint, and even reveals itself in a subtle sideslip at the exit of a bend, this is not the case of the 3-Eleven. This latter is clearly mounted on rails, and it can be hazardous to deviate from the optimal trajectory.
As you increase the pace, the beast concedes a slight understeer. The driver must redouble his efforts to reach the clipping point. Does the fault lie to the huge pie shovel used as a rear wing? It is probably not the sole culprit, considering its angle was set to the minimum during our test day.
In fact masses distribution, mostly on the rear (64%), probably does not help. The front drive train can appear very light, to the point of sometimes being disturbing.
Let’s be honest, you have to tickle the beast before to measure the effects described above. A Lotus dealer who passes by confirms that a geometry set up can help to sharpen (even more) the steering.
Playing with knobs of the 3-Eleven
Having kept a child’s soul, we can’t help fiddling with buttons and knobs of all kinds. It doesn’t take us much to put the jack on the blue dots on the flat floor and start tinkering with the Ohlins.
The well-known Swedish suspension factory provides 2-way dampers (compression and rebound) on the track version. They constitute a highly appreciated option on the road version. While the suspension adjustment may scare the layman, the car enthusiast quickly starts to enjoy it. Indeed, once the user manual integrated, it can improve a lot the handling.
The anti-roll bars are also adjustable, as is the spoiler. To me, those settings are part of an immersive motorsports experience, that the 3-Eleven offers. It would be a shame not to take an interest at it.
We decide to relaxe the front suspension. It’s seems to be a good choice : the 3-Eleven, which was already greedily swallowing the track, becomes even more incisive. Unless it’s psychological?
To tell the truth, with standard set up, the grip is phenomenal and the trajectories are tight. The car literally jumps from one corner to the other and accepts to take the Dunlop curve at full throttle. Ride semi-slicks, and you’re not far to reach motoring paradise.
The 3-Eleven endures a lot, asks for more, and more again. Until the grip breaks at the rear axle level, without really calling you. It was already a distinguishing feature of the 2-Eleven compared to the Exige. However, on last generation, this is less noticeable, and even acceptable considering the cornering speeds.
One foot (and a half) in the premier league.
With the 3-Eleven, you evolve in the premier league. On the Bugatti track, the car looks at its ease among more powerful cars.
It must be said that the faithful 3.5L V6 Toyota, proven on the Exiges and Evoras, is pushed to 416 horsepower. It rises to 466 in the Cup version. While some tuners manage to get close to 500 hp without substantial modifications.
We’re happy with the 416 horsepower engine (already quite enough), which reaches 100 Kph in barely 3.4 seconds, i.e. 0.3 seconds more than with the cup version. God, the needle reaches the red zone very quickly as the driver sinks in its bucket seat.
The 3-Eleven dares to scream. Scream loud ! This is a massive change from the light meows to which the Elises have accustomed us.
Finally, the only cloud in the sky to fight on equal terms with its opponents is the gearbox, the Achilles’ heel of Lotuses. Of dubious locking, it is clearly not up to standards. To the point of envying the sequential gearbox mounted on the Cup version.
The homologated sport-proto you’ve been dreaming of.
When comes time to fill up the tank, the Le Mans’s inhabitants, who we imagine to be used to exotic machines, seems to be taken aback by our drive of the day. Indeed, the 3-Eleven is road legal (in France it’s enough incredible to be mentioned). This means that you could, in a perfect world, take your children, at last your child, to school with you.
Heresy, you will say? Not necessarily. At the antipodes of the 2-Eleven, rather unpleasant elsewhere than on a track, the 3-Eleven is comfortable, even on bumpy departmental roads.
However, you have to pay a €20,000 tax plus the car registration, a substantial amount for a car destined to track use. According the hearsay (not verified) only one french owner has license plates. (except our test model, which has a special status).
Without taxes, the road version was sold new for approximately €110,000 (VAT included). This is relatively affordable considering the prices announced by other factories for similar bolides. Even more given its level of exclusiveness (only 311 3-Eleven were produced).
Nowadays, on the second-hand market, you can get one for around €80,000.
#FunToDrive Score: 95/100
for a lotus not like the others.
Here in Le Mans, we have this expression “it’s in the old jars that you make the best jam”. Its designates a method which works and that does not need to be changed. The English manufacturer understood this, by developing without ever really innovating its Elise / Exige range. Why would it do it anyway?
But with the 3-Eleven, which shares many parts with the Exige S, things are quite different. In fact, this sport prototype is closer to its predecessor, the radical 2-Eleven!
Ironically, the 3-Eleven receives one of the highest #FunToDrive scores in our rankings, even though it’s not literally fun to drive. Seriousness is the main word while driving the car, as it goes fast, as it turns fast, and as this English high speed train can’t stand carve errors.
It is finally once out of his saucer that the astronaut can say “what a great time we had on Mars!”