Heavy Metal Affliction - 2016 Lotus 3-Eleven

John Schommer
Thursday, June 8, 2017

 

There are few whose roots are as directly derived from racing as that of Lotus. After graduating university with an engineering degree, Lotus founder Colin Chapman flew airplanes in the RAF before borrowing 25 pounds from his then girlfriend, to start Lotus Engineering Co. His very first one-off build was a modified 1930 Austin Seven saloon. The 2016 Lotus 3-Eleven from Forza Horizon 3’s Mountain Dew Car Pack is the latest evolution of vehicles inspired by him.

 

Chapman had never even attended an auto race before, and entered that Austin Seven as somewhat of an afterthought. When he won, it spawned a hunger for victory that was unrivaled in the annals of motorsport. Chapman’s brilliant engineering, unrepentant drive to succeed in racing, and some of the greatest drivers in the history in motorsport has given Lotus a remarkable home in racing history.

 

 

The innovations of Lotus were always based around Chapmans most famous quote “Simplify, then add lightness.” Lotus and Chapman were notorious for utilizing concepts and improving upon them, whether on a concept as simple as the space frame chassis or revolutionizing the Brickyard with rear-engined Indy cars. The truly ground-breaking innovations came from Chapman and his team though. Consider Lotus’ impressive list of firsts: the monocoque chassis, using the engine as a stressed member, ground effects, active suspension,  and they were first in Formula One to use a full carbon-fiber car. On the business side of racing, Lotus was the first team to begin advertising on their cars.

 

Many drivers won races solely due to the advantage of Lotus designs and great drivers often find their way into the best cars Sir Stirling Moss gave Lotus its first Formula One victory while racing for a privateer. Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Dan Gurney and Ayrton Senna all raced for Lotus. If there is a greater resume of drivers a manufacturer can claim, I have never seen it.

 

 

Among the most influential and successful Lotuses is the Eleven. Built between 1956 and 1958 it was the epitome of lightness, weighing in at hardly 1,000 pounds. Moss drove it to a speed record at Monza and it touted several class victories at Sebring and Le Mans. That car was the inspiration for the Lotus 2-Eleven produced from 2007-2011. The 2-Eleven was a modern day track car that was amazingly lithe at 1,477 pounds. In the world of Forza it made a name for itself as a nearly unbeatable leaderboard car.

 

Lotus spent two weeks at the Green Hell proving the 3-Eleven

 

Proving that Chapman’s quote “Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere” is true, the new 3-Eleven does both. In two weeks of testing at the formidable and famous Nürburgring, the 3-Eleven proved it was capable of sub seven-minute laps. On street tires, no less. At the Hockenheimring, Road Test Editor Christian Gebhardt for sport auto, put the 3-Eleven at the top of its production car lap times. To put that in perspective, the number two car is the Porsche 918 Spyder.

 

Watch and listen to the 3-Eleven at the Hockenheimring

 

The Lotus 3-Eleven is the fastest production car the company has ever built. Only 311 models were produced, with both a road and race model being produced. You will find the road version in Forza Horizon 3. For reference, the race version does not have a passenger seat, has a sequential six-speed transmission versus the six-speed manual and is both lighter and delivers more power plus it has some additional aero.

 

In the style of the classic Eleven, and the pursuit of lightness, the 3-Eleven, which weighs in at just over 2,000 pounds in road trim, has no doors, a roof, or windscreen. So, to be street legal and keep the bugs out of your teeth, a driver needs to wear a helmet. While this is without a doubt a track-oriented car, you could drive it every day.

 

At its core mechanically, you will find a 3.5 liter V6, and to enhance what is already a great motor, Lotus added an Edelbrock supercharger and charge cooling. Japanese reliability in an English supercar is certainly a benefit, but the explosive punch of the power-to-weight ratio is what makes this drivetrain so special. Doing the math (2,039lbs/410hp) is impressive, even to the layman. That’s one horse power available to move less than five pounds of car.

 

 

Put that power-to-weight ratio together with 64 percent of the weight over the rear end and you might think that understeer would be a factor. According to Top Gear you can get the front end to push, although to the 3-Eleven’s credit, it is predictable and the chassis gives you time to manage it. Their overall impression? “Overall it’s mind-boggling. The combination of speed, grip, precision and adjustability put it in a different realm entirely from conventional supercars and hypercars.”

 

 

In the real world the price tag of around $100,000 may resonate as a bargain when you compare it to the cost of some of the cars it matches up with performance-wise. If you are expecting the 3-Eleven to be luxurious or laden with options, you are missing the point. This is a production car whose DNA comes straight from the track with simplicity being equally defining as the aforementioned lightness.

 

Some of its coolest features outside the way it drives come from racing as well. Consider the simple dials to adjust traction control and ABS, and you begin to understand the focus of this car. That is if the lack of a roof and doors didn’t clue you in in the first place. Certainly one trip through the gears around a few of your favorite roads in Forza Horizon 3 let the 3-Eleven speak to its own virtues.

 

Colin Chapman died suddenly of a heart attack in 1982; he would have been 89 this year. The impact of the concepts he brought to motorsport that have trickled into Lotus production cars will last forever. Under his direction, Lotus acquired seven constructor championships, six driver championships and an Indy500 win. The legacy of the of the cars he created are embedded in the latest cars like the Lotus 3-Eleven and that is something that is as timeless as the cars themselves.

 

 

All photos courtesy of Lotus Cars