Lotus has released footage of the test and development phase for its 3-Eleven new. First revealed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the lightweight open-top sports car is powered by a supercharged 3.5-litre V6 engine, which together with a featherweight chassis results in more than 500bhp per ton.
The company has confirmed that delivery of its new hardcore sports car commences in March. Build numbers will be limited to 311 models worldwide, priced from £82,500 for Road versions and £97,083 for the more aggressive Race model - £116,500 including VAT.
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The engine is based on the unit found in the Evora 400, but in the 3-Eleven, hardware and software revisions have upped power by 12.5 per cent to 460bhp at 7000rpm for the racing version (410bhp for the road car), and torque by 10 per cent to 332lb ft between 3500-6500rpm.
Combine these numbers with the Race car’s 890kg dry weight, and Lotus’ claims of a 2.9-second 0-60mph time seem highly plausible. Two top speeds have been quoted: 180mph for Road-spec cars and 174mph for Race-spec models. Road versions are a little heavier at 925kg dry, with a 3.3-second 0-60mph dash.
A key contributor to that performance difference relates to gearing. In Road 3-Elevens, the mid-mounted engine sends drive to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox and Torsen-type limited slip differential. Like the Exige Sport 350, the gearshift mechanism is exposed within the cabin as an aesthetic touch.
Race models receive a paddle operated six-speed Xtrac sequential transmission with a semi-dry sump, oil cooler and limited slip differential.
The Race car also wears bodywork that can generate a claimed 215kg of downforce at 150mph (it's 150kg at the same speed for the road car), largely thanks to the fitment of a front splitter, large rear wing and rear diffuser. The car does without a roof and proper windscreen, instead flaunting a large rollover hoop and a slim aeroscreen.
There's a carbonfibre tonneau cover on the options list, for £2000, and if you like the retro green and yellow livery in these pictures you'll have to spend another £3500.
The car sits on lightweight 18- and 19-inch (front/rear) forged aluminium wheels, wrapped in either Michelin Pilot Super Sport or Michelin Cup 2 rubber (depending on if it’s a Road or Race car). Suspension is made up of lightweight double wishbones front and rear, with adjustable Eibach springs with Ohlins dampers.
Providing the stopping power are AP Racing four-pot calipers and 332mm discs, with Lotus-tuned Bosch ABS and Lotus traction control working in tandem to maximise performance.
Weight has been trimmed thanks to the use of composite materials and resin glues in the bodywork, saving as much as 40 per cent compared to conventional glass-reinforced plastics. The passenger seat is optional, confirming Lotus’ focus on keeping the car as light as possible, with an alternative being the optional fitment of a tonneau panel – which envelopes the driver and further improves aerodynamics. A motorsport-developed lithium-ion battery saves 10kg over a typical lightweight battery.
Lotus has equipped the 3-Eleven with a new race-spec colour TFT instrument cluster, which can be switched between road and track modes. A quick-release steering wheel, sports seats and four-point harnesses are fitted as standard, with Race models gaining the option of a data logger, an FIA approved race seat, a six-point harness, fire extinguisher and battery switch.
In its most extreme setting, the 3-Eleven is over 10 seconds a lap faster around Lotus’ Hethel test track than the Evora 400, crossing the line in just 1min19.5sec to the 400’s 1min32sec. On a track that’s just 2.2 miles long, that’s a massive difference.
Jean-Marc Gales, Lotus’ chief executive officer, said of the 3-Eleven at Goodwood: ‘this new car is a giant slayer, capable of embarrassing far more expensive rivals. It condenses our engineering know-how into one, hard-core package, and is so focused that it won’t suit everyone. This is a perfect demonstration of the faster and lighter concept, something which will be crucial to all Lotus cars in the future.’
2000km at the Nurburgring
That faster and lighter concept has also proven its worth at the Nurburgring Nordschleife in Germany, where test driver Marc Basseng recorded a 7 minute 6 second lap.
What's more, the lap was set while other traffic was on the circuit - Basseng suggesting he could hit seven minutes flat with a clear circuit.
Lotus is far from the first manufacturer to put its sports car around the 'Ring, but it's a mark of how serious the firm is about the new car's performance that over 2000 kilometres were covered there in two weeks of testing. It's the first time the 3-Eleven has been driven in anger outside of Hethel. For Gales, it vindicate's Lotus's continuing devotion to light weight.
Gavan Kershaw, Technical Manager for Lotus Motorsport and Lotus 3-Eleven Development Driver, was also at the Nurburgring. He called the test 'hugely successful', adding that the company further developed the 3-Eleven's aerodynamics, suspension, tyres and brakes, engine calibration and throttle mapping at the track.
We’re certainly excited about the 3-Eleven at evo. On paper at least, the car appears to be an extreme modern take on Colin Chapman’s philosophy for lightness and simplicity. Lotus knows a thing or two about setting a car up for fast road and track use too, so we’re expecting big things from the 3-Eleven. But with stiff competition from the likes of the similarly rapid Ariel Atom 3.5R, it’ll have its work cut out.