RE: Lotus Elise Sport 135: PH Fleet

RE: Lotus Elise Sport 135: PH Fleet

Thursday 8th August 2013

Lotus Elise Sport 135: PH Fleet

More thrills and spills on Danny's Elise-based emotional roller coaster



A delightful aspect of Lotus ownership is never quite knowing whether the next drive is going to involve agony or ecstasy. Some people might consider this unpredictability to be a flaw, and they tend to become ex-Lotus owners rather quickly. I guess the fact I've still got mine means I'm slowly learning to accept it as part and parcel of the Lotus experience.

New dampers brought a spiky edge to handling
New dampers brought a spiky edge to handling
Last month began with some welcome highs. It's been just over a year since I had the entire suspension refreshed on the Elise. Alongside refurbished wishbones and a full complement of new bushings and balljoints the old Bilstein fixed rate dampers were replaced with Nitron NTR units. These units feature a simple damping adjuster that tunes both compression and rebound in ratio via a single dial. Of course, despite paying a premium for all the bells and whistles I've not touched them since they were fitted.

My trip to Scotland, however, gave me the motivation I needed to, er, get underneath the arches and have a fiddle. On amazing roads, which should have perfectly suited the Elise, I was treading on eggshells. If I'm honest, I've lacked a bit of confidence in the car ever since the suspension was overhauled. Undoubtedly the damping had much more control, and the ride over small bumps was considerably improved, but I always felt that the limits were uncomfortably angular and abrupt, that push too far and it would snap without warning. Consequently I've always been pretty circumspect behind the wheel. This narrowing of the performance window was something alluded to in one of the comments when I took it to Brands Hatch last year, but I'm ashamed to say it's only now that I've gotten around to doing anything about it.

Softening things off has transformed confidence
Softening things off has transformed confidence
Getting at the adjusters was pretty simple, and after a few minutes fiddling I had gone from 10 clicks front/12 clicks rear from full hard to five clicks front/four clicks rear from full soft. And what a difference it has made. The car is completely transformed. Obviously I've still got the excellent compliance I had before, but now there's a much greater depth to the suspension travel. There's now a small amount of body roll, and the dampers now load up progressively, really communicating the forces being channelled through them. Where before there was a wall of silence leading up to a massive tantrum, now there's a constant dialogue. I'm happier, the car feels happier and all it took to make things click were ... a few clicks.

The handling transformation came just in time for an enjoyable (and roofless, you'll be pleased to hear) drive down to Goodwood for the Festival of Speed followed by a track day at Bedford accompanied by an Elise owning colleague. His car is an immaculate S1 TT190 with the Turbo Technics Supercharger kit and it's also running the Nitron NTR damper, but set up much closer to standard ride height, so there's a bit more suspension travel.

And then something else went pop...
And then something else went pop...
This extra body movement on his car was noticeable even from the passenger seat, although it felt like the dampers took equally good care of controlling that travel as they moved through the stroke. More obvious still was the extra power and torque; while my S1 Sport 135 is all about the top end, the TT190 just surges away from lower revs, despite its taller gearing.

But if that sounds like the prefix to another round of upgrades, it's not. I've reached a point where everything seems to be gelling perfectly, and I'd be mad to jeopardise that balance. It's more at home on track than it's ever been - poised, communicative, adjustable - and on the road it's better still. So, does that mean there's harmony at last in our relationship? Sadly no, because on the drive home from Bedford I lost all power and the car spluttered to a halt just half a mile from my house. The likely cause is a melted alternator, but I've yet to get it in for the full diagnosis. Highs and lows; the bread and butter of Lotus ownership.

Track photos by Lee Marshall/MSV Photography


Fact sheet
Car:
 1998 Lotus Elise Sport 135
Run by: Danny Milner
Bought: October 2010
Purchase price: £9,500
This month at a glance: Suspension fettling brings new levels of confidence and enthusiasm, only for the bubble to burst thanks to alternator problems.


Previous reports
Scottish road trip answers 'should I sell?' dilemma
Is it time for the Elise to go?
A cry of alarm from the Lotus - just drive me!
To Goodwood in the Elise
Why is the Elise slower on its new suspension then?
Nitron suspension upgrade for Danny's Elise

Author
Discussion

Tydeides

Original Poster:

265 posts

137 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
Lotus spent a great deal of time tuning the Elise's suspension, particularly in relation to the tyres which were developed with the car. It's not a surprise that changing this dynamic required a little adjustment. Personally I simply updated the Konis to the S2 Bilstein, but always fancied the Nitrons.

Having owned a few sports cars I would have to say that the Lotus ownership dilema is nonsense though. You had trouble after a track day with a 15 year old car. The cost of the fix will be buttons compared to a Porsche or Ferrari. Whilst I've moved on from Lotus, personally I feel that Elise ownership offers cheap thrills like no other marque. Sports cars are expensive to run and maintain, Lotus is better than most. The "Lots of Trouble Usually Serious" label is old, boring and lazy.

TimDogg

9 posts

75 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
I'm looking at replacing the aircon on a 2004 S2 111R at a cost of £2200. To me, that isn't cheap motoring.

xiodene

43 posts

93 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
TimDogg said:
I'm looking at replacing the aircon on a 2004 S2 111R at a cost of £2200. To me, that isn't cheap motoring.
Elise's shouldnt have aircon, there saved yourself £2200 wink

gofasterrosssco

1,114 posts

176 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
Understand your comments on adjusting the damping on the suspension. I have Nitrons on my VX220, and the supppliers 'recommended' road setting really did the car no favours on the road - its made for a substantially more uncompromising and spikey experience, except for a few, very uncommon, smooth section of B-road where you could properly lean on it.

A few clicks downwards and its significantly more compliant and quicker overall. A set of Elise 111R Bilstein suspension was almost as good on the road for a fraction of the price.. So easy to change I'll prob keep these for winter use..

HeMightBeBanned

519 posts

118 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
Tydeides said:
Lotus spent a great deal of time tuning the Elise's suspension, particularly in relation to the tyres which were developed with the car.
Not for the S1 they didn't. Pirelli tyres off the shelf and Koni dampers saw many many S1s going backwards through hedges. They got a more bespoke setup for the S2, via Bridgestone RE040s and Bilsten dampers with Eibach springs.

I have the S2 Bilsteins on my S1 but will be fitting Nitrons asap as, in my experience from owning a Nitron-equipped S2 for many many years, they're much better.

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juansolo

3,012 posts

218 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
Yokohama Advan Neova LTS came a little later for the S1, but they were designed specifically for the car.

SidewaysSi

5,190 posts

174 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
I have a late S1 with Yokos and soon to be Bilstein suspension. I have done a fair bit of research and believe for what is a pure road car, this is probably the best option. For me, the Elise should be brilliant on road and any change in suspension carefully considered.

And mine has been totally reliable...A cheap Elise may not be the best buy but a good one should be very little trouble/cost. I much preferred the drive of the S1 to the S2 and various Porsches at the time and think it is a brilliant little car!

TimDogg

9 posts

75 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
xiodene said:
Elise's shouldnt have aircon, there saved yourself £2200 wink
Mate, you are not wrong - next time I'll buy an Elise without aircon!

rm0rgan

45 posts

105 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
TimDogg said:
I'm looking at replacing the aircon on a 2004 S2 111R at a cost of £2200. To me, that isn't cheap motoring.
£2200!!!!!

You're talking to the wrong repair shop - get another quote from someone based on planet earth. You should be looking at a lot less than that IMO.

Voe/ had my AC fixed on my Exige for a lot less ;-)

chrispj

259 posts

83 months

Thursday 8th August 2013
quotequote all
xiodene said:
Elise's shouldnt have aircon, there saved yourself £2200 wink
Agree, if it's hot enough for aircon the roof is generally off.

GregorFuk

497 posts

140 months

Friday 9th August 2013
quotequote all
SidewaysSi said:
I have a late S1 with Yokos and soon to be Bilstein suspension. I have done a fair bit of research and believe for what is a pure road car, this is probably the best option. For me, the Elise should be brilliant on road and any change in suspension carefully considered.
Agree 100% with this. My S1 has S2 Bilstiens and Yokos, seems perfect for the road and good enough for occasional track use. I had a previous S1 on Nitrons and it was just painful.

Mr E

18,464 posts

199 months

Friday 9th August 2013
quotequote all
I went from stock bielsteins to nitron streets on my S2, and for the first 50 miles I was convinced I'd ruined the car.

They settled, and now while firmer the ride is still good and the body control is much improved.

Not been near a track yet.

pthelazyjourno

1,765 posts

109 months

Friday 9th August 2013
quotequote all
TimDogg said:
I'm looking at replacing the aircon on a 2004 S2 111R at a cost of £2200. To me, that isn't cheap motoring.
Buy an S1, you wouldn't have that problem. tongue out

Aircon is a luxury, and the sort of thing that inevitably costs big money if it goes wrong. Unfortunately with Lotus it does tend to go wrong. Then again - how much would it cost to fix on an Audi, BMW etc?

By and large they do offer cheap motoring. There will always be niggles or exceptions. Hopefully you didn't buy a Toyota car in the hope of avoiding a £500 HGF!

(BTW, what's actually failed on your air con?).

TimDogg

9 posts

75 months

Saturday 10th August 2013
quotequote all
It's interesting because the condenser has corroded against the radiator causing both to leak. Apparently the pipes in the sill were never upgraded so would need replacing as there is also leaking from there. I don't need aircon so have decided to get rid of it. I feel that the cost to replace it all is too much so I'll spend what I save on making the alloys black and carbon wrapping the front access panels - the car is aubergine.