Lotus Elise Mk2


Debut: 2001
Maker: Lotus
Predecessor: Elise Mk1



 Published on 27 Mar 2001
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You can call it "Elise Mk2" like Lotus is doing, but calling it as a facelift or mid-life makeover seems more appropriate. The biggest difference between new and old Elise is their appearance - while the old Elise’s wild-cat profile is unchanged, it has received some stylish details from the M250 show car, such as elliptic eyes, round tail-lights and Nike-style intakes. That made it more emotional than the old car.

The new bodywork also improves aerodynamic downforce by incorporating ground-effect diffuser at the bottom of tail. Unlike the previous 111S, rear spoiler in new Elise is an integral part of the glassfiber body. Moreover, the body is shaped such that the distribution of downforce coincides with the distribution of weight, hence a consistent handling characteristic in whatever speed.

Suspension is the second-most improved element. The old Elise was born in a the darkest days of Lotus so that it chose standardised dampers for the benefit of price. As annual production rose from the originally planned 800 to 3000, the new Elise can afford a special damper tailor-made by Bilstein, which enables spring rates to be stiffened (30% up front and 25% at the rear) without sacrificing ride comfort. Besides, 10 mm lower ride height, slightly wider tracks and revised anti-roll bars are also tweaks made to improve handling.

The innovative aluminium chassis is unchanged. Power plant remains to be that K-series displacing 1796 c.c., and it becomes the only choice because the more powerful VVC version is no longer available. However, Lotus rewrote the engine management program to improve throttle response and by the way adds 2 hp and 1 lbft - forget it. In total they are 120 hp and 124 lbft. Sharper throttle response is undoubted, so is better noise insulation thanks to the newly added thin sheet to the firewall. Now the engine feels less harsh and sound better - not in Alfa’s league but it won’t be disgraceful either. As for the future, I am praying to have a stronger engine, perhaps a tuned Mondeo’s 2.0 Duratec HE with 170 hp ? it’s also all-alloy...

Power transfers via 111S’s close ratio 5-speeder to Bridgestones RE 040, another tailor-made item. Wheels have grown an inch both front and rear, but the front tyres measured just 175 in width in contrast to the rear’s 225, obviously designed to kill lift-off oversteer but you know, a combination of new springs, damper, wider track and new tyre compounds might be unpredictable. We shall see the outcome in below.

Most concerned is the important kerb weight. Lotus claimed a new production technique results in thinner glassfiber body panels thus canceling the weight gains in other parts. However, our record shows that the 750 kg new Elise is actually 27 kg heavier than the early Mk1. This inevitably worsen acceleration a little bit.

On The Road

Although Lotus says the cockpit is better trimmed - such as adding plastic cover to sills (I’d rather have the aluminium sills exposed like the old car) and an easier-to-operate soft roof from sister car Opel Speedster (still manual and not all that easy) - it is still by all means spartan. There is no air bag and no air conditioning. The latter would have been a nonsense considering the poor-quality sealing at roof and windows. Lotus still doesn’t care much about build quality and this is the biggest obstacle preventing it from challenging Porsche. Good luck, M250.

Turn the key, the engine fires into life. Transmission noise and vibration disappear, what leaves is exhaust and induciton noise that you want. Flick the close ratio gearbox, gears by gears, hearing the engine revs to 6,500 rpm, you’ll feel the reworked engine management brings more eagerness, responding to your slightest pedal action. So it must be faster ? no, stop watch actually tells you that it reaches 60 mph from rest in 5.8 seconds or 0.3 later than the old one. No matter 0-100 or in-gear acceleration it is also a bit slower. Only top speed of 124 mph levels with the outgoing car.

Never mind, because this is already a very quick roadster, trailing just Boxster S, S2000 and Opel Speedster (for higher speed acceleration). After all, the fun of driving roadster depends on subjective feeling rather than scientific data. In this respect, the Elise is hard to beat, especially it handles so good in corners. It’s no secret that the original Elise is the King of handling, but the new Elise has improved on that solid basis and cured the only flaws: lift-off oversteer. The old Elise rode on Pirelli P-Zero whose stiff sidewall required softer springs for compensation. It meant the Elise changed direction brilliantly and didn’t understeer but when the driver back off mid-corner, the tail runs wide.

New Elise has soft-sidewall RE 020 and stiff springs, the nightmare has gone. It corners at higher limit and in a predictable manner. When you enter a bend too fast and back off, the nose will tighten its line. On the other hand, high speed cornering is a lot more reassuring, thanks to real downforce generated.

There is probably no other cars in the world could be more involving to handle (well, perhaps the unusual 340R could be). Think about it: a mid-engined sports car weighing just 3-quarter of a ton, with all wheels riding on double wishbones suspensions, steering rack is unassisted (thanks to little load on front wheels).... these results in a highly controllable handling. In particular, the uncorrupted steering feel remains to be the biggest advantage of the car. It is perfectly weighted and gives the driver flows of information about grip level. The car is so agile that it goes to wherever you point. On the other hand, as always, it rides with amazing suppleness - we are not talking by sports car’s standard but also by sedan’s standard. You see, lightweight is a double-edge sword. I love Chapman ! 
The only thing you should avoid in the Elise is trying to slide its tail. Remember, 62% weight biases towards the rear axle so that going sideway could be dangerous.

Excitement wise, nothing could beat the Elise, Porsche Boxster S included. It is fun to handle, reasonably quick and affordable. Nevertheless, as a daily car few could be worse. It is poorly built, unreliable, spartan and the company has a poor reputation about service. But you can’t have a lightweight roadster and simultaneously a high quality one.
Verdict:
 Published on 27 Mar 2001
All rights reserved. 
History of Elise Mk1
Debuted in 1996, the Elise immediately became the star of the company and saved it from bankruptcy. The little roadster was named after the grand daughter of Romano Artioli, the owner of Bugatti and Lotus then. What made it successful was that it went back to Chapman’s principle of "weight is your enemy". The car tipped the scale at 723 kg, thanks to small size, spartan cockpit, lightweight K-series engine and most important of all an aluminium chassis weighing just 65 kg. The chassis was supplied by a Norweign metal supplier, Hydro Aluminium. It pioneered a technology of bonding aluminium parts by epoxy resin and rivets rather than traditional welding, thus reduced the thickness of aluminium from 3mm to 1.5mm and save a lot of weight.

Throughout the following 5 years the Elise’s production went up steadily to over 2,000 cars a year and the 10,000 Elise was built in early year 2000. Now it has broken the company production record set by the original Elan. The affordable Elise quickly became the better known Lotus than the slow-selling Esprit, and it was derived into a big family consisting of the standard 118 hp Elise, the 143 hp Elise 111S (using Rover VVC K-series), the SVA-approved Elise Sport (with tuned K-series 190 hp), the kart-alike 340 R (177 hp tuned K-series) and the racy Exige (177 hp tuned K-series as well). Besides, some upgrade kits were provided to create Elise Sport 135 and Sport 160, both named after horsepower.
 Published on 11 Jun 2002
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Elise 111
New Elise 111 looks like the old one in spec. sheet - it is basically a standard Elise equipped with the VVC (variable valve control) version of the Rover K-series engine, offering considerably more punch hence performance. But there are a number of differences. Most obvious is the new iteration of the 1796c.c. VVC engine which produces 160hp in both MG Rover’s models and the Lotus, a 15hp increment from the Series 1 Elise 111S or a full 40hp more than the standard Elise. This lead to a claimed 5.1 seconds and 14.0 seconds for 0-60mph and 0-100mph respectively. Lotus’ official figures for the Elise were usually wild, but the claim that the new 111 is 0.4 second quicker than the standard Elise to 60mph and 2.7sec quicker to 100mph should give you a clearer view. That said, up to 100mph it is no slower than Porsche Boxster S.

Surprisingly, the new VVC engine has a very well manner, not only quieter but also less peaky than the old VVC as well as the standard 120hp engine. Not even the MG Rover version can match its wide spread of torque which produce 90% maximum torque across 70% of rev range. On paper, the max torque of 129 lbft is just 5 more than the standard car, but on road the difference is more than that - you feel the extra mid-range torque so that you can upshift earlier. In the old VVC you had to wind the engine to sky-high rpm to squeeze out the extra power, accompany with unhappy noise. The new VVC engine emits a deeper, special-tuned exhaust note which sounds better to ears while passing noise regulation. What did Lotus do to the engine? a new management program, variable back-pressure exhaust, larger intake ports and throttle body. That’s all.

The 5-speed gearbox also received revised ratios - closer for the first 2 ratios and longer for the remaining. This sharpen low speed response a bit while reducing noise and fuel consumption when cruising. No wonder the latter improved from 38.1 to 40.9mpg. Combining the new engine and gearbox, the Elise 111 is actually more mature and refined to drive than the standard Elise, despite of the stronger performance. Conventional wisdom doesn’t work in this case.

Because the Series 2 Elise has a chassis so capable, the VVC version does not need any tweak to suspensions, tyres and brakes at all. It just received a set of lighter alloy wheels and a more effective rear diffuser. All the goodies of handling and ride mentioned in the standard Elise report above apply to the 111.

Apart from 111, Lotus is also selling a more expensive 111S alongside. However, the "S" is rather misleading because it actually offers extra equipment such as an improved sound system, carpet, leather trim and Alcantara seats. Theoretically it is actually a less sportier choice than the 111.
Verdict:
 Published on 6 Mar 2004
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Elise 111R / US-spec Elise
Ever since its birth in 1996, all the 17,000 Elises built so far were powered by Rover’s K-series 1.8-litre engine. The K-series was renowned for compact and lightweight, and more important to Lotus, it is built in UK and is therefore easily available. Unfortunately, the K-series engine does not comply with the emission regulations in USA because MG Rover does not sell cars there. In order to let the Elise to enter the largest sports car market in the world, Lotus decided to find another engine. They first contacted Honda for its 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine, but it was Toyota who eventually agreed to supply its 1.8-litre VVTL-i engine to Lotus, together with a 6-speed gearbox. Yes, the combo is the one currently serving Celica GTS in the United States.

In DIN rating, the Toyota engine pumps out 192 horsepower at a sky-high 7800rpm. That’s 32hp more than the K-series VVC engine. Both engines rely on variable valve timing to achieve high efficiency, but their mechanisms are different. Rover VVC can infinitely alters intake timing as well as duration. Toyota VVTL-i alters cam timing infinitely, but it can switch to a more aggressive set of cams at high rev, thus increasing valve lift hence breathing. This accounts for the extra horsepower it generates. On the downside, the VVTL-i engine has a 2-stage power delivery - at regular speed it feels nothing special, once after the changeover point at 6200rpm it goes wild. Therefore Lotus had to rewrite the management system by itself to smoothen the transition region.

The 1.8 VVTL-i is a peaky engine. Its maximum torque of 133 lbft (just 4lbft more than the K-series VVC) is not reached until 6,800rpm, where most other engines already has their rev limiters cut in. Below 6200rpm, its advantage over the K-series VVC is almost non-existent, but fortunately, the Elise is 330kg lighter than the Celica thus picks up rev much more quickly. If you are prepared to have fun, you will find the exotic power band easily accessible. Once entered the last 2,000 rpm, the engine pulls strongly and cleanly, delivering another level of performance.

The C64 six-speed gearbox is a joy to use. Not only provides one more ratio than the Rover unit, its gearshift is quick and slick, far more satisfying than the old gearbox. Even if you are not in a mood to exploit the revvy engine, you will definitely enjoy the Toyota powertrain purely due to the beautiful gearshift.

The Toyota engine and gearbox might started life in the Federal Elise project, but it vapored into the European Elise 111R as well. Now the Elise 111R sits above the 160hp Elise 111S and the 120hp standard Elise. Compare with the US-spec Elise, the 111R is sportier, with stiffer suspension setup and less burdening with equipment (such as airbag and air-con). Despite that, it is still more luxurious than lesser Elises, as it has ABS system (first ever to Elise), central locking and standard audio system. Besides, the Toyota engine together with 6-speed gearbox is 36kg heavier than the K-series VVC with 5-speeder. As a result, the 111R is also the heaviest Elise by a lot. It tips the scale at 860kg, compare with 806kg of the 111S, 780kg of the stripped-out 111 and 750kg of the standard Elise.

Anyway, with 32 more horsepower and a 6-speed gearbox, the 111R is capable to accelerate from rest to 60mph in 4.9 sec and then 100mph in 13 second flat, the latter is 1.5 sec quicker than the VVC-engine 111. More important, the top Elise finally has a superb engine and gearbox to match its superb chassis. It is now as quick as sister car Opel Speedster Turbo (Vauxhall VX220 Turbo), just being sharper, more agile, more responsive and more involving to drive. Flyweight sports cars never come this good.
Verdict:
 Published on 4 Aug 2006
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Elise S - the new base model
When Lotus gave birth to Elise in 1996, it intended to make it a performance bargain. Therefore the car was made small, simple and powered by a small engine to enable a price of just under £20,000. As it became popular, inevitably, Lotus started increasing its power and price to raise profit margin. Today, the Toyota VVTL-i-powered Elise 111R (now called Elise R) is sold at close to £30,000, closer to Porsche Boxster territory and moving away from the philosophy of the original car.

Recently there are some changes in Lotus. In May 2006, Kim Ogaard-Nielsen resigned and left his CEO position to Mike Kimberly, a 22-year Lotus veteran and worked as CEO for 8 years since the death of Colin Chapman. Soon, we saw the "new Esprit" project accelerated and then the introduction of Elise S, the new entry level Lotus. It is priced at only £24,000, closer to the £19,000 Mazda MX-5 than the £33,000 entry-level Porsche Boxster. It signals a new direction for Lotus: on the one hand, it moves to the mid-price segment with Europa S and high price segment with new Esprit; on the other hand, it retakes the low price segment once left to Mazda MX-5. This mean Lotus will appeal to wider audiences and hopefully will improve financial stability.

Technically, Elise S is very simple. You can see it as a 111R with its VVTL-i engine replaced with the cheaper, fixed-valve-lift VVT-i engine and a 5-speed manual box instead of 6-speeder. This sounds too simple to be believed, but it is true. In other words, the chassis, suspension setting, tires, wheels and brakes are all unchanged from the more powerful car. The VVT-i engine might lose 56 horsepower to VVTL-i (that is, 136hp vs 192hp), but in real world the difference is negligible, because everybody knows the variable-lift engine is peaky and needs to be worked very hard to deliver its performance advantage. In fact, if you leave the rev at low to mid-range, the VVT-i engine is actually more flexible. It just loses the extra horsepower at the very top end. The car goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, still significantly faster than any roadsters at comparable price.

Perhaps the best news is Elise S possesses the same first class handling as 111R, because virtually everything other than the engine is the same. This make the £6,000 price difference very appealing. Undoubtedly, the standard Toyota VVT-i engine is not that much cheaper than the Yamaha-built VVTL-i engine, so obviously Lotus reduced its profit margin in the Elise S. To the fans of Lotus, what can be better than this?
Verdict:
 Published on 23 Jan 2008
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Elise SC

Almost same old look as before...

S
ince the very beginning Lotus Elise has two major faults: Fault One, a bare cockpit; Fault Two, engine lacks torque. For the first fault there won't be any solutions as long as Elise sticks to its lightweight philosophy. For the second problem, the new top-of-the-range model Elise SC provides an answer: supercharging.

Supercharging is not a new idea to the Elise family, as its sister car Exige S already employed this technology to improve power and torque. However, the supercharger being used in Elise SC is different. Built by Magnuson based on the Eaton unit, it employs a smaller rotor and run at a lower boost pressure. It integrates with the intake manifold plenum and does without an intercooler. As a result, the unit is 8 kg lighter, smaller and therefore doesn't block rearward view as in Exige S. The lack of intercooler means it is not as good as a track days machine, but in road trim it has virtually no difference in output - we are talking about 220 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque. Compare with the naturally aspirated Toyota 1.8 VVTL-i engine from which it is derived, it gains 28 horsepower and 24 lb-ft of torque. The torque curve is noticeably improved. Instead of 6,800 rpm, the peak torque now arrives at a much more usable 5,000 rpm.

Lotus claims the Elise SC can top 150 mph (which is easy), accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds and 0-100 mph in 10.7 seconds. Considering an Exige S has been proved by Car and Driver as capable of completing 0-60 in 4.1 sec and 0-100 in 11.1 sec, the even lighter Elise SC has a good chance of meeting the factory targets. Of course, that is a lot faster than the naturally aspirated version.


The main difference lies here: a supercharger sans intercooler

On the road, the supercharged engine does not feel terribly torquey at the bottom end - by no means like a muscle car - but the delivery is far more progressive than the normally aspirated 1.8 VVTL-i engine and mid-range punch is noticeably stronger. On the one hand it is more relaxing to drive in regular traffic, on the other hand it remains eager to rev beyond 8,000 rpm. In addition to the stronger overtaking ability, the £4,000 additional price is worthwhile.

Apart from a new rear spoiler, other aspects of the car are mostly unchanged from the Elise R. Best of all, it keeps the first-class handling, the highly inspiring driving experience and the fine ride quality intact. The Elise SC is still the most entertaining compact sports car on the market. Now with stronger performance and better drivability, it becomes even more attractive.

Verdict:
 Published on 25 Apr 2010
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Elise 2010 facelift and Elise 1.6

Elise 1.6 is the greenest performance roadster in the market

Mid-life facelift normally comes at the third or fourth model year. However, the progress at Lotus is much slower than the industrial norm. The current Elise has been around for 9 years - or 14 years if you take into account the fundamentally similar Mk1 - and its first facelift has just arrived this spring. This shows Lotus is short of money to do proper update, but it also proves that the Elise is still highly competitive in the marketplace. Until this day, no other lightweight sports car is more fun to drive.

Also because of the above reason, the 2010 facelift is very subtle. Basically, all the chassis setup, no matter suspensions, steering, brakes and tires are left untouched. The cockpit remains the same, too. Ditto the 192hp powertrain of Elise R. The entry-level 1.8 VVT-i engine has been replaced by a smaller 1.6 Valvematic engine, and its partnering 5-speed gearbox gives place to a 6-speeder. Outside, the front end styling has been tweaked to resemble Evora, and by the way to reduce drag by 4 percent. New headlights bring LED daytime running lights. The engine lid has been reshaped to house the taller engine (due to the Valvematic mechanism). Rear diffusers have also been revised. In short, nothing big news.

Lotus said the new entry-level model, now called Elise instead of Elise S, is a lot greener. Thanks to the combination of an extra gear ratio and the smaller and throttleless Valvematic engine, its carbon-dioxide emission has been reduced from 179 to 149 gram per kilometer, making it the greenest performance roadster in the world - assuming you ignore Tesla. Its fuel consumption has been improved to an incredible 45 mpg. That's not far behind many superminis !

Unfortunately, no one buys Elise for low emission and consumption.

Unfortunately, no one buys Elise for low emission and consumption. Judge it by the usual standard of performance, the 1.6 engine is no match with the outgoing 1.8 VVT-i, sadly. Although both produce the same 136 horsepower, the smaller engine is not as torquey, especially under 4000 rpm. This mean you have to use a lower gear and work harder than before to deliver the necessary performance. The official performance figures also said it takes 6.0 seconds to go from zero to sixty, two-tenths longer than the old car.

Not only less punchy, the 1.6 engine is taller and heavier than the 1.8. So what's the point of changing engine ?

Theoretically, the infinitely variable valve lift of Valvematic engine may take its revability approaching the level of the 1.8 VVTL-i unit of Elise R, but in fact the 1.6-liter 1ZR-FAE comes from Toyota Avensis, which is tuned for fuel economy and refinement. So its redline is set at a disappointing 7000 rpm.

On the plus side, the facelifted Elise has its cable-operated gearchange improved, with less slack to allow cleaner shifts.

Overall, the 2010 facelift is a disappointment. It brings too little improvement to the Elise R and even a drop in performance and tractability to the entry-level car. It is rather unnecessary.

Verdict:
 Published on 4 May 2012
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Elise S (1.8 supercharged)


Since the demise of Esprit, Lotus has not been building its own engines. For a low-volume maker, outsourcing engines might make more sense financially, but it also creates a lot of problems. Without controlling the supply in your own hands, it is impossible to guarantee continuous availability, let alone continuous development. Take the Elise for example, when MG Rover collapsed, supply of its 1.8-liter K-series engine dried out. It had to switch to Toyota engines, whose extra weight hurts its handling a bit. However, not even the Japanese giant can guarantee a stable supply because itself has different needs and interests. By the time EU5 emission came into force at the beginning of this year, its high-revving 2ZZ-GE (VVTL-i) engine had to retire, leaving only the entry-level 1.6 Valvematic engine to serve the Elise.

After a few months of wait, Elise is finally available with an appropriate engine again. Based on Toyota Corolla's 2ZR-FE, Lotus has derived a 1.8-liter supercharged engine which is fully EU5 compliant. It produces the same 220 horsepower as the old supercharged 2ZZ-GE on Elise SC, and significantly more torque at 184 lbft against 156 lbft. Moreover, the power delivery is a lot less peaky, with the peak power and torque points lowered from 8000 rpm to 6800 rpm and 5000 rpm to 4600 rpm respectively. At 3000 rpm, the new engine produces 166 lbft of torque, compare with only 125 lbft on the old unit. That makes a big difference to real-world tractability ! As for outright performance, Lotus claims 0-60 and 0-100 mph can be achieved in 4.2 and 11.2 seconds respectively. Traditionally, we found its figures very difficult to replicate, but still it is no question that the new Elise S is a very quick car, one that eats the base Porsche Boxster for breakfast.



The new found low-end and mid-range improvement is due to the fact that the 2ZR-FE engine uses more undersquare combustion chambers (80.5 x 88 mm), its lack of variable valve lift mechanism and a new Magnuson R900 supercharger. The old SC engine also used a Magnuson supercharger, but that unit was derived from the internals of Eaton M45 with 3-lobe rotors. Instead, the new supercharger uses Eaton TVS 4-lobe rotors to allow higher pumping efficiency and flow rate, therefore compensating the base engine's weaker top-end output. As before, Magnuson's work is mainly to repackage the supercharger so that it fits into the small engine bay of Elise.

On the road, the new-found mid-range punch is easily noticeable. It allows the Elise S to pick up speed more quickly in straight line acceleration or when exiting bends. Ease of drive is improved by the fact that it now requires less work on gearshift. With more torque to play with, it also makes the Elise' tail more alive in bends. On the downside, the engine loses the frantic manner of revving to 8000 rpm. Aurally, the old engine was definitely more thrilling.

The rest of the car is virtually the same as the lesser 1.6 model (the only change is the additional rear spoiler). Not even the suspension or tires have been altered. However, considering the car has always been praised for superb handling and communication, there is really no need to change.
Our only criticisms remain to be the spartan interior and the rough packaging, both remind us that the Elise S2 is already 11 years old.

 Published on 15 Jan 2015
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Elise S Cup


Since DRB-Hicom took over Proton and sacked Dany Bahar, Lotus has been put in idling state. Its new Esprit and other 5 new models are cancelled. Its workforce has been cut by a quarter. New CEO Jean-Marc Gales wants to stop losing money by cutting costs and increasing dealerships, but how to attract new orders based on the aging line-up is really questionable. The Elise Mk2 has been around for 14 years without any significant updates. Even the last minor change, i.e. the supercharged Elise S, was introduced nearly 3 years ago. For a company selling halo cars, lack of press attraction could be fatal. However, without getting any cash injection from its mother company, Jean-Marc Gales has very limited options. One of them is to reuse the existing racing parts, mix and match them to create new editions.

In recent years, Hethel increasingly relies on sales to club racers. As a road car, Elise is too Spartan to compete with Porsche Boxster and Cayman etc. As a road and track dual-purpose car, however, it still has plenty of life. The new Elise S Cup is a testament. Basically, it is the road-legal version of Elise S Cup R race car, with full aero kits to generate useful downforce at track speed. At 100 mph, it produces 66 kg of downforce, compared with 5 kg of the regular Elise. At 124 mph (200 km/h) this rises to 104 kg. This enables the car to be 3 seconds faster lapping Lotus’ own test track at Hethel. The aggressive spoilers, skirts, front splitters, winglets and diffusers also improve the looks of the car. At least Lotus has something different from mainstream sports cars.


Disappointingly, Lotus has no budget to rework the engine, so it remains to be that 1.8-liter supercharged four, derived from Toyota's Dual-VVT-i unit and added with a supercharger. 220 horsepower and 184 pound-foot of max. torque are not spectacular these days. Lotus quotes 0-60 mph as 4.2 seconds, which is faster than how the car actually feels on the road. Owing to increased drag, top speed is lowered by 5 mph to 140 mph. As before, the engine output is linear, and it is willing to spin to 7000 rpm, but the noise it makes is not particularly interesting.

Apart from aero package, the Elise S Cup gets slightly stiffer suspension setup and adjustable front anti-roll bar. It is not as uncompromising as you might think, because the regular Elise has always been renowned for a supple ride. A large part of this compliance is carried over to the S Cup, so it is still highly useable on B-roads. Elsewhere, the chassis remains the same as before. It carries over the sweet unassisted steering and strong yet well-modulated brakes. On narrow country roads, there are still very few cars could match its speed and interactive handling. Weighing in less than 1 ton and spans only 1719 mm across its shoulders, the Elise is incredibly agile.


However, you can say the same to the lesser Elises. The S Cup needs a proper racing track to excel. Only on a track you can find enough cornering speed to generate downforce, pressing the car harder on the road for superior cornering prowess. Due to short wheelbase and track widths, the Elise pitches and rolls more in corners or under braking than larger sports cars, but its attitude is easily controllable by throttle and steering. This is still a great driver's car.

Unfortunately, the S Cup is quite expensive. It costs nearly 20 percent more than the Elise S with the same motor, and you need extra cash to get air-con, stereo and proper sound insulation. This lifts it to the level of Porsche Boxster S, which offers a lot more comfort, technology and quality. Club racing is never cheap.

 Published on 25 May 2016
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Elise Cup 250


Another faster, more track-focused version of Lotus Elise. Cup 250 is developed from last year’s Elise S Cup and replaces the latter. Outside, you can hardly spot any differences as it carries the same aero kits that produce 66 kg of downforce at 100 mph. However, there is actually a key difference: it employs soft top instead of hard roof panel just because it saves weight. You may also convert the aero kits to carbon-fiber items to save a further 10 kg, but this costs an absurd £4000, so don’t expect many to opt for it. Behind the driver, the familiar Toyota 1.8 VVT-i engine gets a power boost from 220 to 246 hp. This is achieved by using a smaller pulley to turn the supercharger faster. The ECU is remapped to meet its new duty, of course. Peak torque remains at 184 lbft, but it is now available at a wider band, from 3500 to 5000 rpm.

Although more weight is shed by using lithium battery (-10kg), carbon-fiber seats (-6kg) and forged alloy wheels (-1.5kg), the whole car is just 1 kg lighter than its predecessor. At 931 kg, it is actually heavier than the Euro-spec Alfa Romeo 4C. Anyway, the more powerful engine is already enough to quicken its 0-60 mph acceleration to 3.9 seconds and raises its top speed to 154 mph. It goes without saying this is the fastest ever Elise, not only on straight but also on Hethel track, where it is 4 seconds a lap quicker than its predecessor. Now it is nearly as serious as Exige as a track car.

On the road, the extra power is welcomed, especially when it gains eagerness towards the top end. In fact, the peak power is now delivered 400 rpm higher at 7200 rpm, and the 4-cylinder feels noticeably stronger than before from 6500 rpm upward. The centrifugal blower results in a power delivery far more linear than turbocharged engines. This means it never feels as punchy as Alfa 4C or new Porsche 718 turbo, but it encourages you to rev it to redline and extract the last drop of power like a good old Alfa twin-cam or Porsche boxer. At lower revs, its response is instant, without the soft throttle response of turbo engines. What a pity the exhaust note is thin and civilized.

Lotus has reworked the gearshift linkage of the 6-speed manual. Although it’s no Honda or Mazda-slick, the shift action is much improved, quicker, lighter and more positive. Gear ratios are well matched with the engine output.

The most important change to the chassis is a set of wider front tires. The track-oriented Yokohama A048 rubbers grow from 175/55VR16 to 195/50ZR16, accompanied with the necessary suspension geometry retune. This results in more front end grip, less understeer in corner and accounts for a large part of the improved lap time. In fact, the Cup 250 becomes so grippy that it is difficult to induce oversteer on throttle lift – it’s still possible, but you have to be aggressive with throttle and steering mid-corner to do so. However, its balance remains superb, its unassisted steering remains ultra-feelsome (especially when everyone else switched to EPS), and the agility brought by its lightweight and compact size remains unbeatable. Meanwhile, the brakes with uprated AP calipers are powerful.

Despite of its track pretension, the Elise Cup 250 still rides very well on country roads, a skill only Lotus can master. It is not going to be a grand tourer, of course, as the cockpit is bare – there are not even air-con or radio fitted as standard. Those looking for a proper road car should turn to Porsche instead. However, as a second car for trackdays or Sunday blasts in countryside, the compact yet very fast Cup 250 is a good alternative to the late Cayman GT4, or a cheaper alternative to Lotus’ own Exige S. While it is not going to be a class leader, this is still a remarkable achievement for a car whose basic design is 20 years old now.

Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Elise
2001
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3785 / 1719 / 1143 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Rover
1796 cc
DOHC 16 valves
-
-
120 hp
124 lbft
5-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 175/55VR16
R: 225/45VR17
750 kg
124 mph*
5.8*
17.6*
Elise 111
2002
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3785 / 1719 / 1143 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Rover
1796 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
-
-
160 hp
129 lbft
5-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 175/55VR16
R: 225/45VR17
780 kg
127 mph*
5.0*
14.5*
Elise 111R / Elise R
2004
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3785 / 1719 / 1143 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Toyota-Yamaha
1796 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
-
-
192 hp / 7800 rpm
133 lbft / 6800 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 175/55VR16
R: 225/45VR17
860 kg
150 mph (c)
4.9* / 4.7**
13.0* / 13.1**




Performance tested by: *Autocar, **R&T





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Elise S
2006
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3785 / 1719 / 1143 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Toyota
1794 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
-
-
136 hp
127 lbft
5-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 175/55VR16
R: 225/45VR17
860 kg
127 mph (c)
5.8 (c)
-
Elise SC
2008
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3785 / 1719 / 1143 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Toyota-Yamaha
1796 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
Supercharger
-
220 hp / 8000 rpm
156 lbft / 5000 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 175/55VR16
R: 225/45VR17
903 kg
150 mph (c)
4.4 (c) / 4.5**
10.7 (c) / 12.0**
Elise 1.6
2010
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3824 / 1719 / 1117 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Toyota
1598 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT, VVL
-
-
136 hp / 6700 rpm
118 lbft / 4300 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 175/55VR16
R: 225/45VR17
876 kg
127 mph (c)
6.0 (c) / 6.7*
18.4 (c) / 21.1*




Performance tested by: *Autocar, **C&D





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Elise S (1.8 SC)
2012
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3824 / 1719 / 1117 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Toyota
1798 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Supercharger
-
220 hp / 6800 rpm
184 lbft / 4600 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 175/55VR16
R: 225/45VR17
924 kg
145 mph (c)
4.2 (c)
11.2 (c)
Elise S Cup
2015
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3824 / 1719 / 1117 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Toyota
1798 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Supercharger
-
220 hp / 6800 rpm
184 lbft / 4600 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 175/55VR16
R: 225/45VR17
932 kg
140 mph (c)
4.2 (c)
-
Elise Cup 250
2016
Mid-engined, RWD
Aluminum tub
Glass-fiber
3824 / 1719 / 1117 mm
2300 mm
Inline-4 by Toyota
1798 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Supercharger
-
246 hp / 7200 rpm
184 lbft / 3500-5000 rpm
6-speed manual
All double-wishbones
-
F: 195/50ZR16
R: 225/45ZR17
931 kg (921kg w/carbon aero)
154 mph (c)
3.9 (c)
-




Performance tested by: -





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Elise 1.6 / Elise S

Elise Cup 250


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