It might not be a winning roll of the dice in Las Vegas, but Group Lotus is betting big on the new 3-Eleven it’s unveiling at the Goodwood Festival of Speed today.
With its distinctively minimalist windshield and extremely long nose, the long-struggling British maker claims the new model will be its fastest production road car ever. Actually, there will be two versions produced, one for the street, another for the track.
“We always say that to make a sports car better, you make it faster and lighter. The new Lotus 3-Eleven carries that philosophy to a new level, and is perfectly in keeping with our brand values,” said Jean-Marc Gales, chief executive officer for Group Lotus plc, during a presentation at the annual Goodwood event.
To keep weight down to just under 2,000 pounds, Lotus is using an all-new resin-infused composite body sitting atop a chassis of extruded and bonded aluminum. The Road model wraps an integrated roll cage with twin side bars for impact protection around its open cockpit, notes Lotus. The Race version adds additional structure to meet international track regulations.
The suspension, meanwhile, is a double-wishbone design, front and rear, with an adjustable front anti-roll bar, Eibach springs and adjustable Ohlins dampers. That will allow an owner to fine tune handling.
The new Lotus 3-Eleven will be powered by a supercharged 3.5-liter V-6, a revised version of what’s now in the Lotus Evora 400, complete with integrated water-to-air charge cooler. It’s rated at 450 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, punched to the wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox for the Road model. A Torsen limited-slip differential will be standard fare.
The 3-Eleven Race model will get a six-speed sequential transmission with a semi-dry sump, oil cooler, paddle-shifters and that limited-slip differential.
Lotus notes this works out to a hefty power-to-weight ratio capable of launching the 3-Eleven from zero-to-60 in just 3.0 seconds, with a top speed of 174 mph for the Race version and 180 mph for the Road edition.
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In not-so-modest fashion, Gales declared, “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.”
Lotus clearly needs a giant slayer. The once-proud British maker has gone through tremendous turmoil in recent years. Former CEO Dany Behar promised to roll-out a fleet of new models before being suspended in 2012, kicking off a series of legal issues and corporate turmoil that had many wondering whether Lotus would even survive. It recently updated the Evora and is now struggling to show that there’s life left in the company.
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Visually, the Lotus 3-Eleven makes a strong statement with its open cockpit design. Whether it will find a market remains to be seen, of course.
The British maker isn’t offering fuel economy specs yet. And we’re waiting to hear whether the Lotus 3-Eleven will make it to the U.S. – which would almost certainly require some modifications to the windshield design to meet federal safety regulations.
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In Britain, Lotus says the Road version of the 3-Eleven will go for £82,000, or roughly $129,000. The Race version will bump that to £96,000, or $151,000. The Lotus 3-Eleven will be largely hand-made at the maker’s plant in Hethel, UK.