LOTUS ELISE SC
The new Lotus Elise SC promises to be faster and easier to drive - but has it gone soft? Adam Towler flies to Spain to find out...
We're used to Lotus unveiling yet another Elise variant - but there's nothing wrong with that. After all, most of us will always have time for another derivation of Lotus' seminal sports car. But now, just as the company is able to shift its focus to an all-new product for the first time in years – say hello to Project Eagle - Lotus has brought us a new Elise range-topper. Without wishing to give too much away early on, it’s a real high for the lightweight two-seater.
The reason behind this claim is the supercharger installation on the 2-ZZ VVTL-i 1.8 litre Toyota engine. As any 111R driver will attest, the regular Toyota engine is peaky in nature, with a narrow power band that doesn’t get going until 6,200rpm and then revs frantically until 8,500rpm shows on the dial. And although it’s no slouch at lower revolutions thanks to the lightness of the Elise, you do need to cane the R if you’re to fully tap into its performance potential - and not to drop out of the angry cam zone with the next up shift either.
So not only is there that peak power figure of 217bhp developed high as ever at 8,000rpm, the angry cam now kicks in at 4,000rpm meaning a fat 4,500rpm band of power (relatively speaking) to work with on the road. Torque may have only risen to 155lb ft at a still high 5,000rpm, but that needs to be viewed, as ever, in the context of a 903kg kerb weight. Lotus claims the 0-60mph sprint in a scintillating 4.4sec, 0-100mph in 10.7sec, and a maximum speed of 150mph to unnerve any scalp when the roof is off.
The additional torque and breadth of power is an utter joy, hauling this Elise out of tight hairpins in second gear that would need to be a first gear scramble in a 111R to sustain the pace, and then shrinking the next short straight before the Elise can be enjoyed through another sequence of corners for all the reasons we love it in the first place. Some things haven’t changed, and nor did they need to.
Throttle response is better than ever on this SC, and the brakes have a heartening resistance that inspires confidence and facilitates fancy footwork. Overall, it’s simply great fun, and the kind of car you end up wishing the road you’re driving on would just never end. It’s also worth noting that with a combined fuel consumption of 31mpg and a Co2 figure of 200g/km, it doesn’t have to be a particularly guilty pleasure either. Well, as long as you don’t take your speeds across country into account, I guess…
I suspect there will be some that miss the highly-strung character of the atmospheric Toyota engine, and the added commitment required to keep it working hard on a challenging road. That’s a matter of personal taste, either unnecessary hard work or devotion to the challenge of judging a road just right, but although it’s easy to dismiss the obvious flexibility of the SC in daily driving as a sign this Elise has grown up and gone soft, an urgent blast to the redline soon reassures you that not only is this Elise as vociferous and sharp as a 111R, it’s also quite a lot faster.
Lotus Elise SC
217bhp @ 8,000rpm
155lb ft of torque at 5,000rpm
1796cc 4 cyls in line, supercharged
6 Speed gearbox