RE: Lotus 111R

Thursday 5th February 2004

Lotus 111R

Ted gets behind the wheel of the Toyota engined Elise


Elise 111R Well it's been a long time coming! The Toyota engined Elise is finally here. In line with Lotus's increasingly confusing naming policy the 187bhp Toyota Motor gets the moniker of 111R to differentiate it from the 160bhp 111S.

The car is a biproduct of the project to launch the Elise in the USA. This was a project that filled Americans with excitement and Europeans with fear. More power would of course be welcome, but would loading the diminutive roadster up with air-con, ABS, electric windows and sun visors compromise the Chapman principle of performance through light weight?

The good news is that it doesn't. The air-con is essential for the USA and is a treat for hot days in the UK and Europe. 'leccy windows are also a bit of a luxury but at the end of the day these items aren't the thin end of a heavy wedge, they are just a few creature comforts (and not compulsory).

Power

So that's the extra weight - what about the extra power? Well, from cold the engine is nothing special. Whizzing up the country lanes in near Castle Lotus in Stansted, I didn't immediately fall in love with the environment. The engine and cabin suffer from boom and buzz, and power in the low part of the rev range is adequate rather than inspiring.

Elise 111R Giving the throttle a bit of a prod gave me more noise and a red light at 5,000rpm but I needed to let it warm up before I could explore the part of the dial between 5,000 and 10,000rpm!

Whilst I waited for things to warm up I concentrated my thoughts on the ride and handling. The abilities of the Lotus engineers to come up with a good compromise between ride comfort and handling remains unparallelled. Grasping the miniscule steering wheel gives you a direct line to the road. You can almost feel the exact placement of the wheels and it's absolutely inspiring. The overused analogy of go-kart like handling has never been more appropriate than with this car.

That feedback hasn't compromised ride quality though. Over rough surfaces the clever bits soak up the harshness of the road yet you can still feel the wheel at each corner doing its job.

   

The engine's warming up now and I'm warming to the car. Firmly jammed in my seat I'm comfortable but the concave shape would certainly give my back a bit of jip in the long run. Side support is excellent and the seats are good looking but those with back problems may have to give it serious thought. Then again those with back problems probably couldn't get into an Elise!

In Gear

Elise 111R With the engine warming I had a play with the gears ready to give the car a bit of a caning. The long lever seems a little out of place in such a sporty car, and the action isn't perfect. I wouldn't go as far as calling it sloppy but there's more 'freedom' in the movement than would be ideal and the way it moves the plastic shrouding around the base makes that look cheap. It's easy enough to use though.

Some open road and it's time to see what all the fuss is about. Putting my foot down reveals a very lengthy throttle travel and I have to point my toes to eek the most of the Toymotor. All is quite K Series like to start with and then as the dial climbed to 6,000rpm and I was approaching a comfortable, yet rapid pace, all hell broke loose. Toyota's VVTL-I system doesn't get out of bed below 6,000rpm but as soon as that limit is breached it leaps up, doesn't bother getting dressed and legs it down the road at full pelt. The Elise hurtles forward when you hit the Vario-cam-thing zone like it's been hit from behind.

Like Honda's VTEC system, once into that zone everything starts happening twice as quick. The revs climb, you hurtle forwards and suddenly you need to be paying twice as much attention to not hitting the red line or a tree.

A Blur

Elise 111R The engine really does transform the Elise. Forget how you might drive a conventional car - don't change gear. You need to hang about in second gear if you want to make the most of the 111R. Trailing along behind a car at 40-50mph waiting for an overtaking opportunity now requires use of second and an engine screaming at 6,000rpm in order to be on the power for your manouvre. Get it wrong and you'll amble past only to get a boot up the rear halfway through the process as the valves start doing their vario gymnastics.

Quite where the 111R red lines I don't know. The few times I successfully used the power band I was either holding it between 6 and 8,000 rpm or the indicator was sweeping round the guage and I was concentrating on staying on the road. A flash of a red light or the sense that I shouldn't make the engine scream any more had me grabbing for the next gear.

Slowing the car was an inspiration. I thought I'd try the ABS out but couldn't find it! 30mph on a deserted country road with a bit of dirt and grit should have seen the car grabbing for the ABS as I planted my weight on the middle pedal. No such luck, the car simply stopped in an instant. If I'd have had a sixpence I could have stopped on it. The brakes are immense but the ABS has been set up to interfere only in the most extreme conditions so that it doesn't compromise track or extreme road use.

Quality

The 111R should be a great success. The process of building a car for the US has reflected well on it. The build quality is excellent. The extra features make the car slightly less spartan and don't compromise the car.

Elise 111R I've said before that I'm not keen on the VTEC style engines in road cars and I could level the same criticism at the 111R. It'll be a blast on track where you can keep it in the 'zone'. For road use you'll need to change your driving style to ensure you're near the power band when you need it. That gets a bit harsh on the ears after a while and making use of the performance is always a drama. Performance could almost be described as not enough and then too much!

Personally I still long for an Elise with an easily accessible and rich power band that compliments the stunning ride and handling without me having to thrash the knackers off an engine.

That said, I'd recommend trying the 111R. The blistering performance is sure to entice some new recruits to the Lotus religion.

Thanks to Castle Lotus for the loan of the car

Car tested: Elise 111R
Retail Price: £27,995
Air Con: £1295
Metallic Paint: £595

Touring pack was fitted including: Electric windows, interior stowage net, leather, sound insulation, carpet set with passenger foot rest, auxiliary lamps, Blaupunkt Woodsotck DAB Radio, CD & MP3.

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Discussion

dinkel

Original Poster:

24,634 posts

190 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
". . . before I could explore the part of the dial between 5,000 and 10,000rpm!"

Did you say 10.000?!

mustard

6,992 posts

177 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
10,000rpm ..Yep you read right.... TED was just observing proper running in procedure!

DanL

2,365 posts

197 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
PetrolTed said:
Personally I still long for an Elise with an easily accessible and rich power band that compliments the stunning ride and handling without me having to thrash the knackers off an engine.
That'll the the VX220 turbo then. Not that I'm biased towards VX220's in any way.

Dan

Peter_Ross

47 posts

191 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
Be very interested in a comparison with the PTP Elise, which seems more 'usable' from my reading ?. This one looks like a very pretty car though

>> Edited by Peter_Ross on Thursday 5th February 11:44

>> Edited by Peter_Ross on Thursday 5th February 11:45

PetrolTed

34,324 posts

235 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
The guage reads to 10K but I suspect it must redline at about 9? I didn't see myself. I either chickened out cos it was screaming so much or just changed up when I saw the red light come on. I was too busy keeping out of the hedges as I did it.

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mustard

6,992 posts

177 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
from memory I think it rev's to 9250rpm in the Toyotas, would think the Elise will do the same

onedsla

1,024 posts

188 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
Nope - IIRC it was 8250 redline - the 150 mile old one I was in a couple of weeks ago was having this regularly exploited by the dealer

daydreamer

1,409 posts

189 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
As has been said many times in the past, small, high reving variable valve engines do take a bit of getting used to.

Once you're into them though you genuinely get a dual personality car. The only problem that I can see with the Elise is that Ted didn't love the gearbox.

In an S2000, you can pootle along behind two OAP's in a Rover 45, and at the instant you see the gap, it is a real pleasure to be able to drop a gear (or three) almost instantly and fly past them.

Obviously, if you are fiddling with the lever then the moment is gone

dinkel

Original Poster:

24,634 posts

190 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
daydreamer said:
As has been said many times in the past, small, high reving variable valve engines do take a bit of getting used to. ... In an S2000, you can pootle along behind two OAP's in a Rover 45, and at the instant you see the gap, it is a real pleasure to be able to drop a gear (or three) almost instantly and fly past them. Obviously, if you are fiddling with the lever then the moment is gone


Thanks to Honda their boxes switch rapid . . .

xsaravtr

801 posts

194 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
Think I still prefer the old style rear-end, with the letters rather than the badge. Looks a bit spartan now...

Waveboy14

276 posts

176 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
Yummie!

neon_fox

339 posts

216 months

Thursday 5th February 2004
quotequote all
PetrolTed: Did you find that the very 'cammy' nature of the engine made it more comparable to a turbo motor, or was it's "dual personality" not quite that schizo?

Could you comment on any difference in 'feel' between the 111R chassis and a 111S (or standard) Elise?

Would you say the gearbox is noticable better (or worse!) than the S2 Elise?

It seems you were too busy worrying badgers to give us any real comparison

Fox
---
P.S. It's going to be amusing to see how EVO react to the 111R, and whether they will despise it for some of the same reasons they despised the S2000...

>> Edited by neon_fox on Thursday 5th February 23:11

PetrolTed

34,324 posts

235 months

Friday 6th February 2004
quotequote all
Yes, the dual personality is akin to a turbo. It's a remarkable difference above 6000rpm.

I've not spent enough time in a 111S to make a valid comparison regarding the chassis.

When I have drive S2's, I've not been aware of the gearbox particularly. Whilst I was aware that this was a bit loose I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's a problem.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the car when I got into the swing of things. The braking and steering are particularly fantastic, it's just that I find enjoying the performance was difficult because I was either below 6K rpm or at warp factor nine approaching a hedge . As someone said earlier, you need to adjust your driving style to enjoy these engines and I haven't managed to do that yet.

Roadrunner

2,690 posts

199 months

Friday 6th February 2004
quotequote all
Just seen the USA spec 111R in Evo and have now compared it the our UK spec 111R. I have to say our UK version is much nicer in the details.

The USA car has lost the lovely upper suede type dash and has gone a bit too plastic and shiny. The steering wheel is also the lumpy and ugly vauxhall item with an airbag. Anther detail lost is the lovely large bolted speakers. The wheels look weird IMO too.

Overall I way prefer the UK car.

stevenrt

141 posts

202 months

Friday 6th February 2004
quotequote all
I've test driven an S1 and I've never been more comfortable in a car - the distance to the pedals was perfect as was the steering wheel position, and as a bonus the seat belt fit perfectly, the stalk mounted directly to the seat so the lap portion was in the correct position no matter how far fore or aft you slid the seat.

That's one of my pet hates in a car, when they mount the stalk to the chassis and not the seat so the lap portion of the belt rides up your abdomen. I checked in both a Boxster and 911 and was suprised to see they mount the stalks on the floor, like in cheap cars. Same with an Audi TT, but the new A4 does it properly, mounted on the seats.

Anyway, it's a little thing, but it's something I love about the Elise. A shame I wouldn't be seen dead in one, given the type of person ("peacocks") they are aggressively marketing them to. It used to be that Lotus was the thinking man's sports car, performance through light weight. Now Lotus (=Elise) screams "I can't afford a Ferrari, but I'm that kind of person".

ciuffa.m

8 posts

183 months

Friday 6th February 2004
quotequote all
[quote=PetrolTed]Yes, the dual personality is akin to a turbo. It's a remarkable difference above 6000rpm.

But the 111R is better than 111S or 120hp under 6000rpm or it's only a track car and is impossible to use it in normal road? Other impression says that is look like 111S under 6000 but you have "turbo" effect from 6000.
Wich one do you buy if you have to decide?
Open the gas in IV or V at low speed is a sorting of vacoom or you can get a good response from the car?

Roadrunner

2,690 posts

199 months

Friday 6th February 2004
quotequote all
Or maybe they just like driving a pure simple car with lovely steering. Tw*t

wendyg

2,071 posts

175 months

Friday 6th February 2004
quotequote all
stevenrt said:
I've test driven an S1 and I've never been more comfortable in a car - the distance to the pedals was perfect as was the steering wheel position, and as a bonus the seat belt fit perfectly, the stalk mounted directly to the seat so the lap portion was in the correct position no matter how far fore or aft you slid the seat.

That's one of my pet hates in a car, when they mount the stalk to the chassis and not the seat so the lap portion of the belt rides up your abdomen. I checked in both a Boxster and 911 and was suprised to see they mount the stalks on the floor, like in cheap cars. Same with an Audi TT, but the new A4 does it properly, mounted on the seats.

Anyway, it's a little thing, but it's something I love about the Elise. A shame I wouldn't be seen dead in one, given the type of person ("peacocks") they are aggressively marketing them to. It used to be that Lotus was the thinking man's sports car, performance through light weight. Now Lotus (=Elise) screams "I can't afford a Ferrari, but I'm that kind of person".



What are you talking about? I have rarely come across an Elise owner who is not an enthusiast. Even those who admit that they bought the car for the pose value find that they fell in love with the agility and poise of the car and started developing driving skills. I suspect you have met one to55er, and been put off by that.

PetrolTed

34,324 posts

235 months

Friday 6th February 2004
quotequote all
stevenrt said:
Anyway, it's a little thing, but it's something I love about the Elise. A shame I wouldn't be seen dead in one, given the type of person ("peacocks") they are aggressively marketing them to. It used to be that Lotus was the thinking man's sports car, performance through light weight. Now Lotus (=Elise) screams "I can't afford a Ferrari, but I'm that kind of person".


What aggressive marketing?

dragstar

3,924 posts

182 months

Saturday 7th February 2004
quotequote all
what marketing?