Masterstroke Lotus- 340R

Car Specifications
1796cc, Normal Aspiration
Cylinder Layout: 
in-line 4, 16-valves
Top Speed: 
209 km/h
5-Speed Manual
4.5 seocnds
177 bhp at 7800 rpm
172 Nm at 6750 rpm

To catch a glimpse of this gem is a rarity but to drive it is a privilege few will have. One of the reasons is there will only be 340 examples of this particular Lotus made worldwide and most of them have already been spoken for. No doubt a few will make the trip to our shores but into the hands of enthusiasts and collectors. Lotus may have had a checkered past but in recent years, the extremely focused specialist automaker from UK has been turning heads in more ways than one.

Based on the Lotus Elise’s aluminum extrusion chassis, the 340R is a beefed up version without doors. This fact itself lends considerable rigidity to the open top chassis. Its main components are still bonded together as before and with so many examples running around, any doubt as to its integrity seems unfounded. Its wild open wheeled styling will certainly raise eyebrows but that is but one reason for this car. If you are looking for creature comforts, look elsewhere. This is very much a car in its purest form, unfettered by anything luxurious. You will not find any stereo, air-conditioning, power steering or ABS here nor does it look like it can be retrofitted.

The 340R feels noticeably different from the Elise. It is not just about the better seats or shark-like styling. Running stiffer springs and dampers is one reason but the chassis is so rigid it actually manages to feel supple as it rides over rather than crashes into the rough bits. There is also a set of racing-compound tyres that give the 340R far more adhesion than the Elise. While it was easy to explore the limits of the Elise, the same cannot be said about the 340R on its race tyres. To break its considerable grip needs courage and effort as the 340R really grips tenaciously at a point far higher and more race-like than any other street legal car tested. But once you have been there, it is hard to accept anything less.

Originally the 340R name was to come from its power to weight ratio of 340 bhp per ton. However the truth of the matter is the engine is only worth 177 bhp in road-going tune driving an albeit featherweight chassis of 701-kgs, still puts it way off the projected figure although Lotus claims to have a prototype with nearly 240 bhp, resulting in 340 bhp per ton. This is not to say the 340R is slow. On the contrary, it will easily post a time of around 4.5 seconds for the 0-100 km/h sprint, placing it firmly in the supercar category.

But it must be said that although it is in a high state of tune, the engine seems to have better driveability than the Elise. This is the other important thing that differentiates the 340R from the Elise. There is now a lot more attitude thanks to the engine. Contrary to popular belief that this is the special continuously variable cam engine, the 340R’s engine is really a tuned version of the standard 118 bhp found in the Elise. The mechanical clatter may still be there but now there is serious urge and intake roar to accompany it especially when going for broke. Although it is more baritone in timbre than say a Ferrari, it is still music to our ears.

Moving off from standstill is effortless thanks to the low weight. Unlike the Elise, there is a new directness in the way the 340R moves and responds to the steering. There is not a lot of self-centering as the geometry purposely keeps it manageable because it can be pretty tiring in an unassisted set-up. It should be said that the steering is more weighty than the Elise when cornering because of the race tyres .

Apart from having to physically climb in and out of the car, one has to worry about wet weather all the time because the 340R does not have a roof of any kind nor is one planned. To add to the sheer impracticality of the 340R, there is hardly any space to carry your overnighter unless you consider ejecting your passenger.

However if one just focuses on a very narrow corridor of performance and handling. Suddenly all the inconvenience and impracticality of the 340R vanishes and it rises to the top of the pack. If you want the most raw, undiluted driving experience ever, there is no doubt it’s the 340R. Lotus has reworked the 1.8-litre K-series engine to pump out far more power and it now sounds and feels right. In this 700-kg car it flat flies and while the low weight helps with the scorching acceleration it does wonders for the handling and braking as well because the chassis and brakes have much less to cope with. It slices and dices the corners like no other. 

Capacity : 1796cc
Cylinder layout : In-line 4-cylinder
Valves : 16-valves
Redline : 8000 rpm
Maximum power : 177 bhp at 7800 rpm
Maximum torque : 172 Nm at 6750 rpm

Type : 5-speed manual
Driven wheels : Rear, mid-engine

Top speed : 209 km/h
0-100km/h : 4.5 seconds

Front : Double Wishbones
Rear : Double Wishbones

Type : Non-Assisted Rack and Pinion
Turns lock-to-lock : 2.5

Front : Ventilated Discs
Rear : Ventilated Discs

Type : Yokohama A039
Size : f: 195/50 VR 15, r: 225/45 VR 16

ABS : No
Airbags : No
Traction control : No

Length : 3620mm
Width : 1702mm
Height : 1080mm
Wheelbase : 2300mm
Kerb weight : 701-kg

Price IN 2000   : $320,000



Thanks to the low weight, the steering remains unassisted making this one sharp instrument. Connect that to the uprated suspension and the tenacious race tyres, the 340R becomes your make believe Formula One car. After a long drive, part of the ritual is having to climb out of the tub and the other is to pick road grit from between your teeth because one will find that grin has become a permanent feature on your face. AL
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