Car: Lotus Elise S2 (Touring Pack)
Owned since: 2016
Previously owned: Vauxhall Corsa 1.4, Smart Roadster Brabus 'Xclusive'
"The Corsa was one of the worst handling cars imaginable. When I came to change it I wanted to go completely the other way, so I test drove some cars that were noted for good handling, falling in love with a 1999 Elise S1 111S in the process. Sadly, it was way out of my price range, and I settled for the Smart Roadster, vowing that my next car would be an Elise...
"Fast forward to 2015 and after watching the market intensively for months I start booking test drives.
"I still love the S1, particularly in 111S form, but when faced with the prospect of year-round daily driving one and having to allow time for demisting and deicing the inside of the windows every morning I decided the S2 was a more realistic option. The 111S I tried had a misfire during the test drive, which coupled with the Saffron Yellow paint job was enough to put me off even after the dealer rectified it with some new HT leads.
"The example I came to buy had been tastefully modified with an Exige style grille and the Touring Pack, which makes day to day running that much easier - you still have to lean over the seat to wind down the passenger window, but at least it's just a button press!"
"Having avidly read about them since that first intoxicating taste, I thought I was pretty well prepared for Lotus ownership, and I'd tried to temper the forum scare mongering surrounding head gasket failure and leaky roofs.
"Mine leaked like a sieve from the moment I got it home - the rain was terrible too, which made things worse. Treating the soft top made a huge difference but a factory hard top from eBay ending up being the better fix. It was the wrong colour, of course, but a crafty vinyl wrap later I'm delighted with my targa-style arrangement. Passing similarities to the 20th anniversary edition are purely coincidence, of course...
"Head gasket failure was something I was prepared to face somewhere down the line, and planned to take the opportunity to have the head gas flowed for a bit more oomph. Unfortunately in my case a slow failure was evident within a couple of months, and had probably been there when I bought the car.
"The dealer did a 'sniff test' and swore there was no evidence of failure and said the mayo must be from a previous fix. Naturally I wasn't convinced and took it to an independent garage for verification and they said the same thing.
"It was months later after wiping it out now and then that I took it to a specialist to investigate a misfire and was told it was definitely a slow failure.
"I asked the dealer to have stone chip protection fitted when I bought it and this seems to have done its job really well, but they didn't put any on the sills which are now lightly road rashed after just one year - lesson learned!
"Oh, and in case you didn't know, matt black gets really, really hot! Within a few months of having the hard top vinyl wrapped the headliner dropped right out of the roof and would sit on my head. I realized pretty quickly that when I left the car parked in full sun the matt black vinyl was just soaking up heat and the material had de-bonded. I removed it myself and for now the inside is just plasti-dipped in black. That was meant to be a temporary measure, but I don't even notice it now so I'm in no hurry to get it trimmed."
"Virtually everything to be honest, but the biggest thing is the balance of the thing: I love the seating position - Lotus designed the cockpit for 'Agent Orange', just like fighter planes, so if you're 5'10" like me everything is just right.
"The standard 1.8 K Series delivers a surprising amount of torque in this guise, and although the gear change is a little clunky (I'm getting that fixed at the same time as the head work) the close ratios are sublimely well suited. 0-60 involves just one gear change, and some day I'll hopefully master the art of dropping down to first to use peak torque when overtaking at sub-40mph speeds. After a year of ownership, I can honestly say that I've used every single one of the posted 120hp on more than one occasion.
"I'm lucky to have found a car with an amazing aftermarket exhaust; it's extremely civilized at low revs - quieter than the stainless pipes the Brabus came with - but then thunders joyfully when you give it the beans.
"Oh yes, and at 1.8 litres the engine warms up nice and quick, which is a boon for my short 20-minute commute to work. It means I can be liberal with the throttle once I'm out of the suburbs."
"Tough one this, as hate is really too strong a word, but I'll be honest: there's no mount for the numberplate - mine was just screwed into the clam with self tapping screws - as you can't get behind the mounting area without removing the clam. They've addressed this on the S3 but a retrofit doesn't look possible.
"The headlights and indicators are very tricky to remove, so replacing a bulb isn't a five-minute job, especially in winter with no garage! They are very minor gripes though, and both things that I'm confident I'll have addressed soon."
"This is the tough one! Basic running costs haven't been too bad at all; a full tank of premium rarely costs me over £30 and I'm probably filling up every other week - that being said I only do around 6,500 miles a year. Having had a 2015 Elise S as a courtesy car while mine was at the dealer, it was surprising how much more fuel the later car got through under similar conditions.
"Tyres are surprisingly cheap at around £100 a corner if you fit the Yokohama AD07, which are highly regarded. New HT leads, spark plugs and addressing the engine cover not sealing (which had corroded the leads and the plugs, which was what caused the misfire) cost just over £300 in November and again had probably been an issue since it left the dealer.
"The big one is the head gasket. I'd done enough reading to realise that just having the gasket replaced as cheaply as possible was inviting future issues so I arranged to have the thing done properly. The labour being the big cost I chose to have the head shipped off to Sabre Heads for porting, big valve conversion and sporty cams before being peened, skimmed and shipped back to the garage complete with a Pressure Relief Thermostat to further increase the longevity of the new head gasket. This work might have cost me £1,100 like for like but having planned to upgrade the head at some point I chose to go all in and spent £3,700 on head upgrades, cams, verniers, a larger throttle body, modified intake manifold, remote stat and a few niggling jobs on the steering/suspension (and the headlight bulbs, of course!).
"Adding 50hp cost me £100 year more on insurance via Adrian Flux, with the option of adding another 20 without my premium going up, which just seems like them goading me into fitting an induction kit..."
"All over Hampshire and Sussex, mostly! With two small kids at home the Lotus is my short term getaway, I can disappear off to Stockbridge to buy some sausages and be home three hours later having covered some properly excellent country B-roads. I'm definitely planning some track time and a Euro trip this year though!"
"When you've got the bug it bites hard, and I'm well and truly bitten. The next logical upgrade is a Walshy day - in fact I've got the DVD already!
"I have an Emerald ECU lying around which I'm planning to fit when I can afford to get it mapped properly, going the whole hog and putting in a map switch so I can run a 'lean' map for MOTs, commuting and motorway cruising and then a 'sport' map for recreational purposes...
"I also can't shake the feeling that some Team Dynamics wheels would shave a few kilos off that crucial unsprung weight."
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