Lotus Europa

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ewand

Original Poster:

577 posts

158 months

Sunday 18th November 2012
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No, not the flat-bed-look 1960s/70s car, but the short-lived "Lotus builds a GT" project undertaken from 2006-10.



The Europa is brethren of the Elise/Exige and the Vauxhall VX220 Turbo, in that it shares a lot in common with the former (the interior architecture, for example, and much of the under-skin mechanicals) and the engine & drivetrain from the latter. So what we have here is a machine with the same wheelbase and GM mechanicals as the VX220t, but with the look and feel of a Lotus. They thought they could sell it as a GT car that would sit 'above' the sports cars of Elise/Exige vintage. They were wrong - in the 4 years of production before it was finally killed due to emissions regs, Lotus produced 458 Europas in total, many of which went overseas - it's thought only just over 100 stayed in the UK.

I bought my Europa earlier this year. It's a late 2008 Europa SE, so it has bigger wheels & brakes, it's lower and stiffer and it has a different interior (the lux touring pack that was also offered to Europa S owners as an option, albeit in different colours) and a different turbo too. You could think of the SE as the "Evolution" model which addressed a few of the concerns with the S, though there were few beyond its billing and remit.


Lotus tried to position the car as a GT, but it was never thus. See here or the Australian brochure, here . At heart, though, it's still too compromised by a high sill (comparative to other GT cars, even though it's lower than the Elise S2) and small luggage space, as well as a hard and noisy ride for such a car.




Think of the Europa as a less track-focussed, hardtop Elise with a fat wodge of turbo torque, and you're maybe nearer the mark. And if you take the 225PS variants - either the SE that came out in 2007, or the factory-retro-add update for Europa S's to the same power, and it starts to make a lot more sense. It's not really a GT; it's a sports car that's a bit easier to get in and out of than an Elise/VX220, but it has a better power-to-weight ratio than most (about 223bhp/tonne).

I had an S2 Elise (with lux touring interior & aircon) for a white shortly overlapping the Europa ownership, and it was an interesting comparison. The Europa had a bit more leather in its trim, but otherwise the architecture was exactly the same - even if the Elise had a slightly more updated instrument binnacle despite being a year older. The Elise was notably lighter but had far less capable brakes and was clearly down on power. My Elise had a lovely factory-fit sports exhaust which had a great rasp and bark to it, too.



Anyway, life with the SE has been fine so far. I bought the car from a PH ad, got the previously-fitted Chris Tullet exhaust from the prior owner (though only realised it had been a special-order, cat-free variant when I received it... given that it's a 3-4 hour job to change the exhaust, I didn't want to go through any grief come MoT time, so shipped the downpipe back to Chris Tullet and they retrofitted a 200-cell Cat to it, so it'll pass MoT regs and still sound decent).

Now the car sounds as good as it looks and goes. The aircon is currently bust, which means the whole front clam needs to come off for a condenser replacement - a job for the winter, at a Europa specialist no doubt (eg Hofmanns of Henley, who've been servicing this car for a couple of years and really know their onions when it comes to Europas). Whilst the clam is off, it might be prudent to do a few other things as well - like replace the radiator for a sturdier variant (if required).

The Europa is a quick car - in SE trim, it's sub 5-sec 0-60 and once it's on-boost, it pulls like a freight train. There are, of course, the usual "yeah, they all do that" Lotus 'features' like the creaking that comes from the bulkhead behind the driver, but all in, I'm very pleased with the car. It's so rare, you'll hardly ever see one - and of the 458 Europas manufactured, only 47 Europa SEs were made (according to Lotus' own archives), and only 5 were for the UK. My car is the only SE that was finished in Persian Blue.

Here's 40% of the UK Europa SE population that happened to meet up for breakfast one day:


At the time, the Europa was poorly received by the press as it was neither fish nor fowl - if you want a track-focussed, sports car, go & buy an Exige, but if you want a GT car then you'd be better off with a Cayman or a whole slew of other alternatives. As time has gone, the Europa is being appreciated more for what it is - a sports car that is more practical than an Elise or Exige, but has all the steering and handling delicacy. Think of it as a turbocharged Exige for the road and you're not too far off.


Edited by ewand on Sunday 18th November 16:28

lewisf182

1,799 posts

132 months

Sunday 18th November 2012
quotequote all
I think these are lovely apart from those ghastly alloy wheels which look like halfords wolfrace tat, really reduces the look of the car completely. But I would take a europa over an elise all day

Lovely car OP

Breadvan72

31,624 posts

107 months

Sunday 18th November 2012
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Having owned two 1970s Europas I am naturally interested in the successor version, and think it a shame that the car did not do well in the market, although you have correctly identified why that was. It seemed to me at the time that the car was not sufficiently distinct from the Elise. Perhaps it should have been badged the Elise GT. When the Evora came out, I wondered if Lotus regretted having already used the Europa name.

Anyway, good car, OP, thanks for showing it to us.

Edited by Breadvan72 on Sunday 18th November 10:07

ewand

Original Poster:

577 posts

158 months

Sunday 18th November 2012
quotequote all
Thanks for the thumbups ... as for the wheels; I kinda agree. I actually really like the standard fit Europa S wheels (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lotus_Europa_S.J... ), but with the bigger brakes fitted to the SE, they'd be too small. The SE multi-spoke jobs don't look so good in photos, but they're better in the metal.

Edited by ewand on Sunday 18th November 10:21

fridaypassion

4,499 posts

172 months

Sunday 18th November 2012
quotequote all
As you touched on there the Europa has aged brilliantly to say what a flop it was when it was released.

SpeckledJim

18,826 posts

197 months

Sunday 18th November 2012
quotequote all
Breadvan72 said:
Having owned two 1970s Europas I am naturally interested in the successor version, and think it a shame that the car did not do well in the market, although you have correctly identified why that was. It seemed to me at the time that the car was not sufficiently distinct from the Elise. Perhaps it should have been badged the Elise GT. When the Evora came out, I wondered if Lotus regretted having already used the Europa name.

Anyway, good car, OP, thanks for showing it to us.

Edited by Breadvan72 on Sunday 18th November 10:07
I believe that's because it didn't have a conventional genesis involving things like a brief or a strategy. AFAIK Europa was a mopping-up exercise for the remaining parts (chassis?) from the VX220 programme.

There wasn't ever a grand design for the Europa, which is why it seems too close to Elise for comfort (pardon the pun).

That said, and styling aside, I'd rather have a Europa than an Elise.

ewand

Original Poster:

577 posts

158 months

Sunday 18th November 2012
quotequote all
You're right, the "grand design" for the Europa was probably "how can we build something else that won't cost us a lot to engineer". I can't lay hands on it right away, but I'm sure the "it was used to get rid of spare bits left over after the VX220 project" was refuted. Lotus apparently took delivery of 500 Z20LER engine units from GM, after the VX production had finished, and (according to http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/lotus/europa/16597/lo... at least), expected to sell 500 a year, worldwide. Production continued until they could no longer use the same engine even though they only sold a handful in the last couple of years.

Maybe the Europa S was something to tide Lotus over until Project Eagle (the Evora) came along: it was certainly in early stages of development at the time the Europa was being produced. Given that the Evora is still being produced, it's a safe bet that the early cars will creep down in value to the point where it might even crossover (or be close to doing so) with the top end of Europa used prices.

The current week's AutoExpress has a Europa buying guide and despite the depressingly familiar, half-arsed journalistic "that'll do", the article basically concludes: "Unusual Vauxhall-engine sports car is great fun... if you can find one". The PH Classifieds currently has 2 Europa S for sale, and 54 Evoras.

Edited by ewand on Saturday 26th April 08:12

melvster

6,841 posts

129 months

Sunday 18th November 2012
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Always been a fan of the Europa, it is a shame it never caught on that well in the UK as i think it is a great looking car especially from the front, cleanly styled yet quite aggressive.

Redlake27

2,240 posts

188 months

Monday 19th November 2012
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I had one for 2.5 years. Excellent car - a proper mini-supercar. I've a Cayman now - a better all rounder, but not as exciting or as supple.

Altrezia

8,355 posts

155 months

Monday 19th November 2012
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Looks fab - Always been a fan smile

gez c16b

182 posts

117 months

Tuesday 20th November 2012
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I think these are gorgeous cars. Well done.