RE: Driven: Lotus Elise S

Monday 30th April 2012

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



Frankly it’s a bloody relief to stop talking Lotus politics and concentrate on Lotus cars. And amidst all the recent excitements one that was in danger of getting lost among the shouting was the return of the supercharged Elise, now badged S and giving the Elise range teeth it’s lacked since the Euro 5 inspired cull of the old 1.8-litre 2ZZ-GE Toyota engine.

Looks familiar ... because it is, mainly
Looks familiar ... because it is, mainly
The remaining 136hp – 142hp with the dealer fit ‘track only’ pack on the Club Racer – 1.6-litre has been the lone voice in the Elise range since the 1.8 was killed off, this new S nothing new in concept beyond an Elise with a bit more power. Nothing wrong with that.

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.

Less revvy than an SC but just as quick
Less revvy than an SC but just as quick
Suffice to say, it’s more interesting when paired with a supercharger, the big difference with this engine being that it’s a lot more undersquare than the previous one and much more torquey as a result – 184lb ft over the SC’s 156lb ft. OK, it doesn’t rev quite as manically – peak power is at 6,800rpm rather than 8,000rpm – and it’s not quite as charismatic but flexibility is the reward.

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.

Proper Lotus minimalism lives on in the Elise
Proper Lotus minimalism lives on in the Elise
Likewise the tiny, wriggling wheel that you cup in your palms and feeds back every detail in all its unassisted glory.

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.

Steering feel and feedback like nothing else
Steering feel and feedback like nothing else
Your flexible friend
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.  

More rubber than standard Elise
More rubber than standard Elise
Look, it’s an Elise with an engine update. You know what you’re getting. How many people are still buying such things at the £36,200 asking price is probably the bigger question but, at face value, it’s still as delightful and pure as it ever was. And, once again, properly quick with it. If you’ve got posters of Colin Chapman and Jim Clark on your wall the Club Racer remains the purist choice, for the rest of us the S probably the most rounded, most exciting and useable Elise yet.

 



LOTUS ELISE S
Engine:
1,798cc 4-cyl, supercharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp):220@6,800rpm
Torque (lb ft):184@4,600rpm
0-62mph:  4.6 sec
Top speed: 145mph
Weight: 924kg
MPG: 37.5mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 175g/km
Price: £36,200 (list)


A lap of Hethel in the new Elise S

 





   
Author
Discussion

justin220

Original Poster:

3,747 posts

138 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Interesting choice compared to the Exige!

AyBee

8,939 posts

136 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Why are all these new Loti built as test demos with LHD? The Exige Harris drove was too, yet they're built in the UK mad

kambites

55,092 posts

155 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
AyBee said:
Why are all these new Loti built as test demos with LHD? The Exige Harris drove was too, yet they're built in the UK mad
Probably because most are sold in LHD markets these days.

Does seem a bit odd when they're going to be used for road testing in the UK, though.

braddo

5,942 posts

122 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Maybe they are LHD so they're much easier for non-UK journalists to get to grips with (and hence be more able to exploit the car and be more inclined to write good things about it).

jason61c

2,877 posts

108 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Thats a lot of wonga for a posh kit car!
Advertisement

otolith

35,825 posts

138 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
jason61c said:
Thats a lot of wonga for a posh kit car!
Interesting, so what donor car is it based on then?

kambites

55,092 posts

155 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
otolith said:
jason61c said:
Thats a lot of wonga for a posh kit car!
Interesting, so what donor car is it based on then?
The Prius apparently. hehe

Don't feed the troll. smile

Crow555

1,037 posts

128 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Anyone else tempted to whip a supercharger to a used Prius? scratchchin

peter450

1,650 posts

167 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
I like it, shame the 1.6 is not supercharged aswell, an entry level supercharged 1.6 170hp car and a 220hp range topper would have been sweet, the old 190hp R was the entry level point for most people, the old 1.8 134hp basecar was almost forgotten in the range.

I think the cost of 220hp version might put a few off though, while the slow pace of the 1.6 does the same at the other end of the scale, the 1.6 should have been S/C and slotted into the range as a replacement of sorts for the outgoing R

Still it's good to see the cars getting built again, hopefully a for sale sign wont pop up over the company in the next few months

kambites

55,092 posts

155 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
I don't think that's fair - the old 140ish bhp 1.8 sold pretty well and some people actually thought it was a better car than the 190bhp. The Elise has never really been about straight line speed, so not having a lowish powered, relatively cheap, entry level car would be something of a retrograde step. A 170ish bhp version would be a valuable addition to the middle of the range, but not at the expense of the current entry level car.

Kong

1,503 posts

105 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Expensive? This is only slightly pricier than a Golf R which is much slower.

kambites

55,092 posts

155 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Kong said:
Expensive? This is only slightly pricier than a Golf R which is much slower.
It's a funny old world where a bespoke sports car costs about the same as a (slower) hot hatch but gets accused of being overpriced by people claiming to be car enthusiasts, isn't it?

sneaky schnell

1,296 posts

139 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Lovely little car and I'm sure it will be an enjoyable steer.

I agree with other posters that it is too expensive and there should be a car between this and the Club Racer. I have to assume that Lotus will see the (gaping) gap between the two models.

Great to see Lotus being talked about for the right reasons.

tommobot

447 posts

141 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
0-100mph 7.2 second?

That seems bloody quick! Is that correct?

kambites

55,092 posts

155 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
tommobot said:
0-100mph 7.2 second?

That seems bloody quick! Is that correct?
That's how I read it initially, but it actually says 7.2 seconds faster than the 1.6; which I think makes this about 11-12 seconds.

Mr MXT

6,991 posts

217 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Crow555 said:
Anyone else tempted to whip a supercharger to a used Prius? scratchchin
Covered in great detail over here and makes for a good read. He later took the supercharger off and turbo'd it.

http://autospeed.com.au/A_111655/cms/article.html

otolith

35,825 posts

138 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
kambites said:
It's a funny old world where a bespoke sports car costs about the same as a (slower) hot hatch but gets accused of being overpriced by people claiming to be car enthusiasts, isn't it?
Yet it happens every single time.

I think there is a place for the 1.6 base car for polar bear huggers, and I think it's priced at the level it has to be. I think the range needs higher performance versions, though, and the pricing of the S seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I think people are too used to 35k top-of-the-range cars being 12k bottom of the range cars with a bigger engine and a bit more equipment and a much larger profit margin.

MagicalTrevor

6,212 posts

163 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
Nice video, I see lots of rear view mirror and roof where I'd like to see the track wink

It's great that you're doing these in-car shots but please take the time to get your angles right smile

herebebeasties

364 posts

153 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
kambites said:
That's how I read it initially, but it actually says 7.2 seconds faster than the 1.6; which I think makes this about 11-12 seconds.
Official specs say 11.2, which is a smidge slower than the old SC (which Lotus quoted at 10.7sec).

Kong

1,503 posts

105 months

Monday 30th April 2012
quotequote all
kambites said:
Kong said:
Expensive? This is only slightly pricier than a Golf R which is much slower.
It's a funny old world where a bespoke sports car costs about the same as a (slower) hot hatch but gets accused of being overpriced by people claiming to be car enthusiasts, isn't it?
yes I don't think people realise how quick 220bhp in a 925kg car actually is, you really don't need much more. Then when you factor in the excellent long term residuals and the high MPG - I can think of much worse ways to spend £36k..