Lotus brings back an old name - Europa

The Lotus Europa name dates back to 1966 but ever since that first illustrious model run the Europa name has not seen the light of day on any recent Lotus till now. In order to expand on its recent success Lotus has decided that the best direction to take was not follow the race track prowess of the Exige but to refine and make the new car a more agreeable proposition.

Lotus identified several areas where they would be able to achieve the desired result. First the Europa would have to be less frenetic. While acceptable for a track car, for a grand tourer it would be too fatiguing for the occupants especially over long distances. The engine is the main culprit of the noise and harshness so Lotus has procured another unit this time from General Motors. This turbocharged motor produces 200 bhp so it is no surprise that this motor slings the lightweight Europa to 100 km/h in just 5.9 seconds and to a top speed of 242 km/h.

However that is not the entire point of the engine. Lotus wanted an engine that could deliver bags of torque from low engine speeds without the need of constantly shifting the gearbox to find appropriate gears. This allows a more relaxed driving style to be adopted by the driver as the engine is potent from any engine speed as long as there is about 2000 revs available for the turbo power to kick in.

Another bugbear was the difficulty with ingress and egress. Lotus has addressed this problem by providing a larger door aperture and though this helps, it still requires some dexterity to get in and out of the Europa thanks to its low seating position adopted in the interest of sporting dynamics.

And finally the issue of accommodation and comfort had to be addressed on many fronts. Being based on the Elise platform meant that the cabin room could not be enlarged so Lotus decided to enhance its luxury quotient by using a lot more leather upholstery to cover up as much bare metal finishing as possible. Now it looks more presentable though hardly what would qualify for what is in a Jaguar. This spartan appearance has a purpose, that of saving weight and for a specialist automaker who prides itself on making extremely lightweight cars, the Europa nearly tips the scales at 1000-kg. Lightweight for every other manufacturer but not Lotus.

Walking around the Europa reveals its pert dimensions and it appears larger than it really is. To get in demands the same agility and technique as the Elise meaning one has to literally drop in, rear end first. Getting out is considerably more difficult though easier than with the Elise. The drive is snatch free and pleasant as we turn out to the country roads. As we give it more wick, the engine comes alive and the turbo whistle accompanies a rise in torque. There is no need to swap gears much as the broad swath of turbo power ensures one blasts past ambling traffic with surprising ease. It is a different driving technique from what we know of past Lotuses, choosing gears so one has the engine at 3000 rpm rather than at 6000 rpm to have the engine really storming.

And while all this is going on, the Europa does not seem to be pounding the cabin with the familiar Elise agitation. The Europa is actually supple yet the unassisted steering is just as informative as before, writhing slightly in your grip as the road surface undulates. What is surprising is the newfound comfort from the suspension despite equipping the car with larger wheels and tyres. Their chosen characteristics contribute to the pliant ride of the suspension without compromising the level of sporty handling. Sure the absolute directness of the race-bred Exige is not there but it is still far better than most of the GT cars out there as Lotus' internal benchmark for their cars is far more extreme than all but a handful of machinery. So not surprisingly the Europa feels similar when driven nearer the limit yet more pleasant when not really pushing it that hard.

Lotus has set themselves a modest annual sales target of five hundred Europas, a figure we believe they will easily attain after having driven the car. Of course it is unchartered ground for Lotus who have for the longest time been pandering to serious hardcore enthusiasts whose second home is at the race track. However Lotus have struck a brilliant compromise between what is ideal and what appeals to a wide audience. Not many who have the money to indulge in a sportscar wish to spend it on something quite so bare bones as an Elise or Exige. The Europa provides added comfort and elegance but it does not lose the essence of a Lotus, that intimate driving experience that all enthusiasts crave for.


Body: Two-door sports coupe, aluminium chassis GRP bodywork

Engine:1998cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged, dual overhead cams, 16-valves
Max Power: 200 bhp @ 5400 rpm Max Torque: 272 Nm @ 5000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Steering: Unassisted rack and pinion

Brakes: Ventilated front discs, rear solid discs

Suspension: Double wishbones all round

Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 5.9 seconds

Top Speed: 242 km/h

Fuel Consumption: 12.7 L/100 km in urban cycle

Standard Equipment: Air-conditioning, Stereo, ABS, bucket seats, alloy wheels

Price in 2006: $278,000 with COE, 1-year warranty, unlimited mileage



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