What is it?
In its 16th year of production and still going strong, the Lotus Elise now richly deserves recognition as one of Britain’s all-time sporting greats. But its reputation hasn’t been delivered on exquisite handling alone; giant-killing performance has, for most of the car’s life, also been a big part of the mystique. And since the 2011 model year revision and the demise of Elise R and SC, it’s been a missing part.
But not now that Hethel’s released its new ‘S’ version of its junior two-seater. Using a Toyota 1.8-litre ‘2ZR-FE’ engine force-fed by a Magnuson supercharger, the new Elise S develops 217bhp at 6800rpm – the same maximum power figure as the fizzy old ‘SC’. But it also produces much more torque than the last fast Elise: 184lb ft at 4600rpm, up from 156lb ft at 5000rpm. And this from a car that still weighs plenty less than a tonne, even with fluids on board.
What’s it like?
The transformation of the basic ‘Series III’ Elise’s performance is pronounced. While the 1.6-litre car takes almost 19 seconds to get 100mph from a standing start, the Elise S does it in little more than 11 seconds. 62mph comes up in 4.6; and while that’s almost a second sooner than it does in Porsche’s more powerful, more expensive new Boxster, it’s also quicker than the ‘991’ 911 Carrera we road-tester earlier this year. Welcome back, David: you have been missed.
This latest Elise seems to want for nothing in terms of accelerative pace. We discovered as much in a first test of the car conducted at Lotus’ own circuit at Hethel. No road driving was possible, so observations about the car’s road ride will have to wait. But we can report that extra power and grip hasn’t blunted the Elise’s dynamic responses in the slightest.
That engine catches in undramatic fashion when you thumb the starter button. There’s a little supercharger whine when you flick the dainty right-hand pedal, but none of the evil crackle-and-pop audio fireworks that the old ‘SC’ supplied. So it’s perhaps a less characterful engine we’re dealing with this time around, and reaches a generous but much less frantic peak power output than the old car did, as it screamed away at 8000rpm.