Lotus Elise S Cup: Review

Spinning new derivatives off existing products is established Lotus policy these days but even the most cynical must be able to enjoy a frisson of excitement at this, the most hardcore roadgoing Elise yet built.

Proper job says our man, though at a cost
Proper job says our man, though at a cost
Nowhere are the advantages of the new Lotus Elise S Cup more apparent than Windsock corner on the 2.2-mile Hethel test track. Even in freezing, wet and slimy conditions it's close to 100mph at the apex of the near flat right-hander. The tyres are just on the verge of escalating their noisy protest to walk away abandonment but, thanks to around 66kg of downforce, the little Lotus defies expectations and clings on to the sodden tarmac with the tenacity of a starving man to a hot casserole.

And just like all the best gastronomic wonders, the recipe for this 2015 Elise S Cup is utterly straightforward. You take the latest version of the regular, garden variety 220hp Elise S, steal the suspension from the minimalist Club Racer and then add the AP brakes and aerodynamic package from the hardcore, limited-warranty, race-only, Lotus Motorsport Elise Cup R.

Bridging the gap between road and race car
Bridging the gap between road and race car
Perfect recipe
Ta-da! You've just built yourself a 2015 Lotus Elise S Cup. Now add some details like a single exhaust tip, logo'd seats, and matt silver wing mirror covers. You're done. You've got the most hardcore Lotus Elise to ever be road legal and fully warrantied.

Now, the really clever bit is in what you can't see. It's how Lotus has managed to make this the most balanced, most focused, track day ready Elise we've driven since the original (and far more hardcore) S1 Motorsports Elise.

We could talk about the optional FIA roll cage, kill switches and fire extinguisher systems that are nothing but a tick of an option sheet away. But if you want to go that far, just buy the full race car.

Aero package comes from Cup R race car
Aero package comes from Cup R race car
The only thing more amazing than actually driving this latest Elise around a race track (and we'll get to that in a moment) is looking at the details of the aero package with the critical eye of a homologation committee. Every radius, every protrusion and every gap is simply millimetre perfect.

Old ways
It's great to see the old arts aren't dead. Good old Colin could both conform to, and ridicule, the F1 rulebook with every race car he built. It's easy to believe that today's Lotus boffins have managed to do the same when they built this to global homologation standards.

Proper aero has proper aero effect
Proper aero has proper aero effect
Most cars don't make downforce, they make lift. A standard Lotus Elise S is unusual because it actually generates up to 6kg of downforce at speed. No lift at all. And thanks to the Motorsports guys, this one makes 66kg at 100mph and 125kg at its top speed of 140mph. Lotus claim there's only an 8 per cent increase in drag over a stock Elise, and that it still equates to three seconds less on a lap of Hethel.

Though it's no FIA GT3 car (or even that Motorsports Elise - which could make over 80kg at 100mph) it's still a whole world away from most other road legal track day specials. And not only have the guys at Lotus Motorsport added lap time improving downforce, they've also kept the wonderful balance of the Elise S at all speeds. Whether it's feeling your way into that fourth-gear right hander, or tossing it into a second-gear hairpin, the Elise never fails to delight with its predictability and naughtiness.

Expensive splintering sounds if you don't abide
Expensive splintering sounds if you don't abide
Simple pleasures
The cockpit is predictably Spartan, offering less creative inspiration than a VAT inspector's Filofax. But at least the buttons include the latest versions of the much improved Lotus stability control (Dynamic Performance Management). There's on, Sport and off. No hyper-intelligent self-teaching race mode like the Exige S though.

The step over the alloy sills and the cramped cockpit are just as uniquely Lotus now as they were in 1997. And for the taller amongst you, substitute the word unique with rubbish, because the Elise is still rather selective in choosing its drivers.

Lovely balance, delicate feedback ... Elise plus!
Lovely balance, delicate feedback ... Elise plus!
The imperfections to the 2015 Elise recipe continue with a lower rev-limit in this Prius derived motor. While this might be the fastest factory produced Elise, it's hard to ignore what was achieved with the outgoing Exige S Cup 260. That was indeed the fastest four-cylinder of the family, and its 8,200rpm redline should make the newer EU5 motor blush with shame. And that gearbox is hardly perfection either.

But if those are the only old carrots to be found lurking in this Lotus parts bin casserole, then it's no big deal. Because it's still so good that you'll always be coming back for seconds, thirds, and even fourths. Especially when they're flat out in the wet.

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: 140mph
Weight: 932kg ("Unladen")
MPG: 37.5mpg (Standard S, NEDC combined)
CO2: 175g/km (Standard S)
Price: £43,500 including VAT, plus OTR charges (£47,744 as tested comprising standard fit hardtop; air-con £1,250; Comfort pack including four-speaker stereo, branded carpet mats, sound insulation, aluminium passenger foot rest, driving lights and central locking £1,200* and forged motorsport wheels £1,794)

*Comfort Pack not compatible with fire extinguisher/kill switch option


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Comments (100) Join the discussion on the forum

  • K2iss 14 Jan 2015

    I like this very much, especially in this colour.
    Now it's probably not the best choice of Elise to get if you mainly drive on UK roads?
    If it has the Elise CR suspension setup it should still be pretty good to live with though, and the aero makes it look damn sexy.

  • 240R 14 Jan 2015

    I like this a lot - I do hope some brave souls go out and buy it.

  • billzeebub 14 Jan 2015

    That looks absolutely sensational. I love the Lotus philosophy

  • ehonda 14 Jan 2015

    I'm sure it'll be great, but 47 grand and it looks like it got its wing mirrors from a scrappie. I may be missing some motorsport cue, admittedly.

  • rhinochopig 14 Jan 2015

    I'm confused now. So is this essentially Exige then - can you no longer buy a 4 pot Exige?

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