Review: Lotus Europa S

30 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Review: Lotus Europa S
Lotus Europa

Review: Lotus Europa S

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Lotus is renowned for building cars with superb handling, no pesky electronic aids and none of the unnecessary extras that add to the final kerb weight. Living with a Lotus is meant to be compromise, but it’s a compromise worth living with because of the payoff the cars deliver when driven at a track. This is where models like the Elise and Exige reveal why their harsh ride, noisy engines and cumbersome entry are highly sought after by motoring enthusiasts around the world.

Despite the reputation for building some of the best track cars of all time, there are people out there who desire a more easy-going Lotus, a car with the comfort of a premium GT. This is why the guys from Hethel have developed the Europa S, a derivative of the hardcore Elise but with an opulent by Lotus standards interior, improved accessibility and a host of accessories and features not usually found in the light weight roadsters. Some of the niceties Europa S owners can enjoy most of us normally take for granted include ABS brakes, dual front airbags, climate control air-conditioning, leather trim and satellite navigation.

Slide in behind the wheel and you’ll immediately realize what Lotus was trying to get at when designing the new Europa S. You still have to be a contortion artist to step into the cabin without getting embarrassed but, compared to the bare-to-the bones Elise and Exige, the interior of the Europa S offers a little more than just bare metal surfaces to please the eyes.

It’s more refined than your run of the mill Lotus but the driving position is the same as in the Elise and the small lightweight extruded aluminum pedals retain the race car feel. Then you see the perforated leather door inserts, thick carpets, and air-conditioning vents, and immediately realize this car is like no other constructed by the folks in Norfolk.

The Europa S measures in at 390cm in length, 11.5cm longer than the Elise and 10.3cm more than the Exige and, at 149cm across, the width of its rear track is slightly down on its two siblings. Trunk space measures 154L all up but is compromised because of the irregular shaped floor and the heat that comes through from the engine.

Like the Elise, the Europa S is hand-built at Lotus’ factory in Hethel and features an extruded and bonded aluminum chassis, composite body panels and an advanced composite energy absorbing front crash structure. The end result of the engineers’ weight saving techniques is an incredibly scant final kerb weight of just 995kg. More amazing is the weight of the chassis alone, which stands at just 68kg and offers the same strength and rigidity as both the Elise and Exige despite its door sills being some 4cm shorter.

As with all Lotus cars, the Europa S also adopts a front anti-roll bar and fully independent sports suspension using unequal length wishbones and Bilstein mono-tube dampers with coaxial Eibach springs at each corner.

The car’s mid-mounted 2.0L turbo engine is derived from General Motors’ Ecotec Z20LER powerplant, and in the Lotus develops a very healthy 197hp (147kW) at an unstressed 5,400rpm and peak torque of 272Nm (200lb-ft) at 5,000rpm. Though peak torque arrives at a relatively high rpm rate, 90% of this force is available from just 2,000rpm, giving the car plenty of oomph in the lower rev-range and adding to its flexibility around town.

Drive is sent to the rear wheels via an aluminum six-speed manual gearbox and an open differential.

The Europa S loses part of the typical Lotus agility that cars like the Exige and Elise are renowned for, but its steering remains lightning fast and the wider torque band of the 2.0L turbo masked most of our mistakes and made hopping around town much more pleasurable. The stiffness of the suspension isn’t as firm as what you’d get in the Elise or Exige but the Europa S is far from comfortable. You’ll feel every rut and bump in the road but it all pays off when you get to the twisty stuff.

The car’s increased size and richer equipment list gives it a significant weight disadvantage over the lithe Elise and Exige, a factor that makes itself obvious when slinging the car around a track. Going into a curve, the Europa S tends to understeer and requires you to lift off the pedal to bring it back onto the ideal trajectory. Give it too much throttle, however, and the car will quickly go into oversteer mode but never so much so that it becomes uncontrollable.

The rigid chassis and stiff suspension means there’s barely a hint of body roll, while the responsive and accurate steering means even the slightest of adjustments to the wheel will see a reaction.

The torquey turbo motor benefits from minimal lag and responds quickly to inputs from the gas pedal. Acceleration is brisk, with the 100km/h mark passing in 5.8 seconds and 160km/h taking just under 14 seconds to come up.

Disappointing in our tests was the car’s braking performance: slowing down from 130km/h required 66m of tarmac. Compare this with BMW’s Z4 and the Porsche Cayman, two cars that weigh more than 350kg over the Europa S and take only 58.6m and 57.8m respectively to slow down from the same speed.

Final Verdict

The Europa S is touted as a more comfortable and livable Lotus alternative to the Elise or Exige but, despite making things a bit more accommodating, it remains almost as harsh and uncomfortable as its siblings. The only difference is that it weighs more, doesn’t handle as well and is slower around the track. Then why would you pick the Europa S over the fully flavored Lotus Elise or Exige?

Our recommendation is to buy a Elise or Exige and get something else to use as a daily driver.Lotus Europa

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