3 February 2004

The most powerful production Lotus Elise has hit the road and, in this week's Autocar, we've pitted it against the car it will inevitably have to beat to prove its worth - Vauxhall's VX 220 Turbo.

At £27,995, the new Elise costs some £2500 more than the blown Vauxhall lightweight with which it shares so much componentry.

With the arrival of the Toyota 1.8-litre engine and six-speed gearbox, the new Elise 111R offers performance figures an Esprit would be proud of: 0-60mph in 4.9sec, 100mph in 13.0sec and 150mph top speed.

The Celica engine features lightweight metal matrix composite construction, variable valve timing and a bespoke exhaust system liberating 189bhp at 7800rpm and 134lb ft of torque at 6800rpm.However, economy drops to 32.1mpg from the 40.9mpg of the K-series-engined 111S, and CO2 emissions rise by 45g/km to 208g/km.

Outside, the only changes to the four-year-old Elise Mk2’s design are badges and a new rear diffuser with twin centre-exit exhausts. Wheels and tyres are carried over from the 111S. Under the skin there’s a new rear subframe, retuned springs and dampers and, for the first time on an Elise, servo-assisted brakes with anti-lock.

The 111R includes an unprecedented amount of kit for an Elise. There’s half leather trim, central locking, a CD player and even sun visors. Weight is up too, from the standard Elise’s 750kg to 860kg; this rises to 916kg if you tick all the options boxes.

The 111R went on sale last week and heads a three-car range, joining two MG Rover K-series powered models: the £25,995 111S and the £22,995 Elise.

Read the twin test on page 48 of this week's magazine.

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