RE: Lotus Elise Cup 250: Driven

RE: Lotus Elise Cup 250: Driven

Sunday 1st May 2016

Lotus Elise Cup 250: Driven

How to improve the very light and very fast Elise? Make it lighter and faster still!



Chatting with Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales about this Elise Cup 250, and about Lotus more generally, is a fascinating experience. His unwavering focus on shedding weight everywhere is extraordinary; if weight can be saved without costing the earth (presumably in every sense), Gales wants to do it.

Throughout he repeats the key stats for this car, that it's 21kg lighter and 26hp more powerful than an Elise 220 Cup. He can tell you where every kilo came from and where some has been added back in (about a kilo for the leather over the sills, for example). Soon you're wondering what excess mass you can save as a driver to really get the most out of it. This fascination with weight saving will characterise Gales' future products and, if they continue in a similar vein to this Cup 250, they promise to be absolutely brilliant.

In fact, it's worth getting what's less incredible about this little Lotus out of the way first. As you may have noticed, this particular car has the Carbon Aero pack fitted, saving another 10kg to take the unladen weight to 921kg and lightening your wallet by a further £4,000 in the process. This car also didn't have a radio; fine for a brief blast, and probably in keeping with the Cup ethos, but you suspect a few customers will want it back in. And finally, the gearbox still isn't quite as sweet and as sharp as you'll find in Sevens, Atoms or some other hardcore Brit lightweights.


Elise, but more so
Other than that, the Cup 250 is a triumph. Yes, it may have more than twice the power of the very first Elises, but the joy of this car is that it retains everything that's made Elises so great over the past 20 years. With some very grown-up circuit ability. It's not lost sight of being an absorbing and exciting road car, but neither has this consideration compromised it for track.

Before even leaving the Hethel car park, the Elise is a reminder of just how good properly developed unassisted steering is. Note that's not simply unassisted steering, because Alfa Romeo has shown us that doesn't automatically tally with good. But even compared to very good power steering systems - McLaren springs to mind - the Elise is a world apart for telling you every last detail of what the front wheels are doing. It's not hyper alert like a Caterham, but the response perfectly suits the car.

On the road, you'll notice more weight to the steering than you might expect. This is due to a substantial tyre upgrade, the fronts now 195/50 Yokohama AO48s from 175/55 previously. It makes resistance to understeer on the road just tremendous, but don't assume because it's grippy it's dull. Through the steering and through the seat you're always being told so much about what the car has left to give. Yes, it's more than you can reasonably commit to on the road, but being so involved with the process is adequate compensation.


Pick a number...
Initially the engine seems merely a tool to get you to the next corner, but then it becomes apparent those corners are coming at you quicker and quicker and quicker... The Cup 250 is a terrifically fast Elise, one that's entirely accommodating of really going for it and a more relaxed gait too. The 184lb ft torque peak is available from 3,500-5,500rpm and peak power is at 7,200; it may not scream past 8,000rpm like an Elise may have once done, but as the shift lights flash and the car keeps getting faster, it's more than exciting enough. The brakes are superb too, though a slightly firmer response at the top of the pedal would be nice.

However good the Elise Cup 250 is on the road though, on circuit is where it really needs to shine. If it doesn't, why not save £10K and buy an Elise S? Fortunately, even with just a few laps of the Hethel test track, the Cup 250 shows just why it's worth the premium. Sure, you would expect it to be good on the track used for its development, but there's enough here to suggest the Elise will be superb on any circuit.

As on the road, it's not the pace that stands out immediately, even if this car is now as fast as a standard Exige V6 S around a lap. It's the way the Elise makes the driver an integral part of what's going on, rather than them just being a guide. An obvious point when appraising a Lotus perhaps, but one that remains relevant as so many cars distance you from their workings. It flatters with its composure but it also challenges with its ability, which is just what you want from a track car.


Gripping narrative
Those tyres provide outstanding grip, but of course there's the aero to rely on also. The 66kg at 100mph figure is handy, because that's about the speed for the Windsock right-hander at Hethel. For something so small, it feels fantastically stable and like it could carry even more speed lap after lap. It then charges on to nearly 130mph (in an Elise!) before stopping with absolute confidence for the tight chicane.

Some may object to traction control and ABS featuring in a Cup Elise, but so well-judged is their calibration that you won't even notice. The Sport setting is ideal for track days; turn everything off and the grip reserves are simply huge with the tyres warm. It will push to understeer eventually, the car easily brought back into line with a lift. Get it right and the Cup can be straightened under power, but this is a track car for nailing braking points and apexes rather than the Caterham school of slow in and sideways out.

It's a special car then, this Elise. With a radio and the roof optioned in, it could make perfectly habitable transport to and from a track day while also being one of the fastest cars at it. Sure, it's a lot of money for an Elise. No doubt some will call for a cheaper, even lighter Elise that celebrates the purity of the original instead. But this is the Elise we have, and it's absolutely stellar. Consider it not as 'just an Elise', but instead in the ranks of c. £50K track cars, and it's hard to imagine a more complete package.


LOTUS ELISE CUP 250
Engine
: 1,798cc, four-cyl supercharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 246@7,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 184@3,500-5,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.3 seconds
Weight: 921kg (unladen, with Carbon Aero pack)
MPG: 37.7 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 175g/km
Price: £45,600 base, before delivery (Key option prices include air conditioning £1,250; Clarion CD/MP3/radio £1,000; hard top £1,000; harness bar with four-point harness £1,560; quick-release steering wheel/airbag delete £1,000; fire extinguisher/battery isolator £2,400; towing eyes £295; sports air filter £120; Carbon Aero Pack £4,000)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Stan Papoir

Author
Discussion

DPSFleet

Original Poster:

191 posts

95 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Lovely and refreshing, Lotus back to first principles that always made it a great brand, Colin Chapman would be pleased I am sure. What was that quote of his, "add lightness". After years with various lotuses since early 70's I kept with the brand until quite recently (the old hips are a problem) but this car may see me back in one again! Keep it up Lotus.

Gandahar

5,736 posts

62 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Why can't they sort the gearbox out? They've had enough feedback over the years.

They need a good manual and a good dual clutch gearbox to sort out the one area they are lacking in

The rest of the car looks fantastic compared to a turbo Porsche Boxster which is a bloater nowadays.

JMF894

2,619 posts

89 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Not a fan of the rear end tbh but I know it's there to do a job.

Pricey though.

jl34

378 posts

171 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
the last they need is a dual clutch gearbox , it would weigh a ton and i doubt it would appeal to lotus drivers anyway

Audemars

385 posts

32 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
I own an Elise but these new Elises are getting too boy racer-ish in their looks. What an awful spoiler.

The S3 Exige is ugly, now the new Elises are ugly.

Lotus are losing their way.

The Evora 400 is a lovely looking car yet no one is buying them.

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gm77

76 posts

54 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Audemars said:
I own an Elise but these new Elises are getting too boy racer-ish in their looks. What an awful spoiler.

The S3 Exige is ugly, now the new Elises are ugly.

Lotus are losing their way.

The Evora 400 is a lovely looking car yet no one is buying them.
I beg to differ. I have a 400, and am meeting with 4 others in the next couple of weeks, all who live within 10 miles of me, who also own 400s. Near me they are becoming, dare I say it, common!

Hamma

92 posts

36 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Yeeeess Lotus! More tire and honing that great package further is exactly what we (I) are looking for! And that car looks absolutely stunning! I hope the gearbox isn't too much of an issue.

And I'm still asking for a limited-slip-diff for us driving in slipperier conditions... I know it's probably available in the aftermarket, but somehow I'm hesitant about messing with the Lotus-developed handling balance.

Now make a bigger sized but otherwise conceptually identical model that's easier to get in and out of, an option for a lot more sound deadening, and either an automatic roof or a manual one that's quick to use like in the MX-5 and you'll at least triple your sales! That car wouldn't be for me or the usual Lotus crowd (only indirectly so Lotus' R&D budget will increase), but a bit of Lotus magic for the masses that are currently buying Boxsters and TTs...

SidewaysSi

4,648 posts

168 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Love this. Always believed the Elise is the best road and track car for this side of £50k. Nothing offers such a brilliant blend of practicality and road and track ability.

kambites

55,078 posts

155 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Gandahar said:
Why can't they sort the gearbox out? They've had enough feedback over the years.

They need a good manual and a good dual clutch gearbox to sort out the one area they are lacking in
They've been slowly improving it. It's not really bad these days, it's just not particularly good either.

In simple terms, the reason they've never offered a dual clutch gearbox is that Toyota don't have one. I suppose it would also add quite a lot of weight. If they did offer one, I'm sure some people would buy it but it'd be a much lower proportion than in mainstream cars like the Boxster; I think mostly the sort of people who buy an Elise prefer a manual gearbox.

ETA: I think if they were going to go to the effort of producing/buying in a DSG style automatic, the Evora/Exige would be a more natural home for it than the four-pot Elise.

Edited by kambites on Thursday 28th April 13:52

Lefty

15,105 posts

136 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
jl34 said:
the last they need is a dual clutch gearbox , it would weigh a ton and i doubt it would appeal to lotus drivers anyway
Absolutely. It's a car for really driving, a car for mechanical interaction between human and machine. I kind of wish they'd go back to the old days of no brake servo too.

SirSquidalot

2,990 posts

99 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
What a lovely little thing, for the money though you could have a Caterham 620s...

Oddball RS

1,755 posts

152 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
I'm struggling here, really what am I seeing that hasn't been done on an Elise / Exige in some way shape or form in the past, I had an Exige Cup 240 10 years ago?

And for that money I would expect the body panels / clams to be modified to incorporate those add ones they look truly vile.

Its great but nothing new, its moving nothing on.

kambites

55,078 posts

155 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Oddball RS said:
And for that money I would expect the body panels / clams to be modified to incorporate those add ones they look truly vile.
I have to agree with that, the random bits of carbon fibre look truly awful.

mmm-five

6,906 posts

218 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
What are those seats, and where can I buy a set?

Gandahar

5,736 posts

62 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
kambites said:
Gandahar said:
Why can't they sort the gearbox out? They've had enough feedback over the years.

They need a good manual and a good dual clutch gearbox to sort out the one area they are lacking in
They've been slowly improving it. It's not really bad these days, it's just not particularly good either.

In simple terms, the reason they've never offered a dual clutch gearbox is that Toyota don't have one. I suppose it would also add quite a lot of weight. If they did offer one, I'm sure some people would buy it but it'd be a much lower proportion than in mainstream cars like the Boxster; I think mostly the sort of people who buy an Elise prefer a manual gearbox.

ETA: I think if they were going to go to the effort of producing/buying in a DSG style automatic, the Evora/Exige would be a more natural home for it than the four-pot Elise.

Edited by kambites on Thursday 28th April 13:52
Good point Kambites but as well as light weight Lotus needs to have modern technology. They are a technological firm after all. So they need a "light" dual clutch gearbox and trumpet that fact.


Gandahar

5,736 posts

62 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Lefty said:
jl34 said:
the last they need is a dual clutch gearbox , it would weigh a ton and i doubt it would appeal to lotus drivers anyway
Absolutely. It's a car for really driving, a car for mechanical interaction between human and machine. I kind of wish they'd go back to the old days of no brake servo too.
Er, they need to sell cars rather than doing your wishful thinking which would sell one car.

To you.


Blackbird425

429 posts

39 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
kambites said:
I have to agree with that, the random bits of carbon fibre look truly awful.
Spot on. Looks ridiculous. A lovely thing when they introduced it some 15 years ago. They've slowly been ruining it since.

kambites

55,078 posts

155 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Gandahar said:
Good point Kambites but as well as light weight Lotus needs to have modern technology. They are a technological firm after all. So they need a "light" dual clutch gearbox and trumpet that fact.
There's no way it would be commercially viable for them to make their own, though. At least not unless they think they can sell it to other people.

If we ever get a DSG type box in a Lotus it'll be a Getrag or some other off-the-shelf box with whatever the smallest modifications they can get away with to integrate it into the Toyota drivetrain.

Edited by kambites on Thursday 28th April 14:33

andy_s

13,427 posts

193 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Hamma said:
And I'm still asking for a limited-slip-diff for us driving in slipperier conditions... I know it's probably available in the aftermarket, but somehow I'm hesitant about messing with the Lotus-developed handling balance....
New Evora has a LSD.


They binned the extruded aluminium pedal-art! New ones look lighter though I guess; great it can lap like the Exige V6, that's a shift on. Don't (visually) like the CF rear deck, but it provides substantial down force over standard and it is a Cup version after all.

cmoose

42,668 posts

163 months

Thursday 28th April 2016
quotequote all
Audemars said:
I own an Elise but these new Elises are getting too boy racer-ish in their looks. What an awful spoiler.

The S3 Exige is ugly, now the new Elises are ugly.
Agreed. But it seems the market likes this kind of awful glued-on tat.