DRIVEN: LOTUS ELISE S
It's got the engine from a Prius but a supercharger too, and that's the bit we're more interested in
Does your Prius do this?
It gets 220hp like before from a Magnuson supercharger and 1.8-litre Toyota engine combo. This is a new engine though, Euro 5 compliant and shared with … the Toyota Prius. Which is an amusing aside, though to be absolutely clear they are related rather than identical, both from the 2ZR family and both with the same swept capacity and bore/stroke but the Prius version getting its own Atkinson cycle head for furthering its eco pretensions.
Back to basics
What a delight to be back in an Elise though. There’s an argument to be had that the market has moved on from stripped out, back to basics cars like this but, sod the market, it’s as refreshing as it’s always been and the bare aluminium and clear, minimalist interior is as appealing (and cramped) as it ever was.
The slightly thrummy engine note, linear power delivery and lack of drama as the revs build mean it’s easy to run into the redline if you’re not careful and especially if you go chasing the excitement that lurked beyond 8,000rpm on the old SC. And if you’re accustomed to that old engine you’ll find it takes a little time to adapt to the more urgent appearance of the one, two, three red shiftlights on the rev counter.
Make no mistake though, this is a seriously rapid little car that’ll hit 0-100mph 7.2 seconds faster than the 1.6 and comfortably match the previous SC’s 4.6-second 0-62mph time. It does this with official figures that boast of 175g/km and 37.5mpg too. Not quite as eco friendly as the Prius from which it’s nicked the engine but, for this kind of performance, as impressive as you could wish for.
The test car not being road registered our drive was restricted to the Hethel test track, Lotus’s Matt Becker quick to assert that the extra flexibility of the new engine makes it a much easier car to drive on the road than the old SC. More power means a bit more rubber on the road – tyre widths are up half an inch front and back and as much as 73kg more than the ultra purist Club Racer with the optional stripped back spec – but frankly unless you’re a desperate weight watcher it’s so much lighter and more nimble than anything else out there as not to make a difference.
Even in sodden conditions (see the video lap here) it’s the way the Elise so faithfully responds to inputs without any slack or corruption that just seems so refreshing compared with any other relatively mainstream product. That long complex around Hethel’s old control tower – now the clubhouse – is held in pretty much one continuous lock, holding it requiring some decent use of forearm muscle but easy, unthreatening corrections available with tiny throttle applications and/or steering inputs. Flick it out of that long, loaded up left and into the right that follows and the minimal weight shift is well contained, even on wet tarmac, the snappier extremes of the Elise handling envelope long since smoothed over and, ultimately, tempered with switchable stability control.
LOTUS ELISE S
Engine:1,798cc 4-cyl, supercharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Torque (lb ft):184@4,600rpm
0-62mph: 4.6 sec
Top speed: 145mph
MPG: 37.5mpg (NEDC combined)
Price: £36,200 (list)