Always one to make its cars lighter, Lotus has put its racy little Elise S on a diet. But is weight-loss too far?
It's Lotus' already-featherweight Elise S sports car but put on an even more stringent diet. The men from Norfolk have managed to shave off an extra 20kg from the Elise's weight and it's now down to a slight 904kg. But that's still 52kg more than the standard Elise Club Racer. Confused?
It's exceedingly good fun to drive. Elises have always scored highly in the entertainment stakes and this Elise S Club Racer continues that tradition. That 20kg saving has been made by ditching the air conditioning system, central locking, carpets and some sound deadening. But considering our test car had all of the above fitted (apart from the sound deadening and instead of central locking we had remote central locking) we're pretty sure ours drove exactly the same as a normal Elise S. That means an incredibly involving drive with an almost lying down driving position, a snickerty gearbox – that has a delightfully mechanical and old-fashioned shifting action – bags of grip and a 217bhp 1.8-litre Toyota-sourced supercharged four-cylinder engine positioned in the middle of the car. It's terrific.
Sparse. Even with all of the deleted kit added back on again – what was the point in that Lotus? – there's not much to talk about. All the basic ancillaries are there, as are a pair of body-coloured plastic seats, though precious little else. Oh, there's a soft-roof which takes longer to put on than that on a semi-detached new-build, but that's half of the point of the car.
No, not really. Actually, I'll rephrase that. It's not practical at all. There's plenty of room for thin six-footers but not for anyone even remotely generously proportioned. You need to be slim to drive a Lotus, not only to sit in the thing but also to be able to crawl out of it. There's a small boot but once you've taken the roof off and deposited it in there, there's just enough room for a Boots Meal Deal paper bag.
If you've got your heart set on one, there's probably little that can be said to persuade you not to. This is a car you buy with the heart and not the head. Priced from £35,600, it's not cheap – but you'll be having so much fun you probably won't care. However, we can't help but feel a normal Elise S would be a better bet, or even a used one.
Lotus Elise S Club Racer
Engine: 1.8-litre, supercharged petrol
Top speed: 145mph
0-60mph: 4.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 37.5mpg (combined)
Emissions: 175g/km CO2
October 4, 2013