The Lotus Elise is a roadster conceived in early 1994 and released in September 1996 by the English manufacturer Lotus Cars. The car has a hand-finished fiberglass body shell atop its aluminium extrusion and bonded frame that provides a rigid platform for the suspension, while keeping weight and production costs to a minimum. Capable of speeds up to 240 km/h (150 mph).
The design philosophy of Lotus is “Performance through light weight”, a philosophy first adopted by the founder of Lotus, Colin Chapman. The motto drives Lotus to obtain very high performance with lightweight cars in spite of their relatively modest power outputs, with a strong emphasis on driving purity and dynamics.
Series 1 Lotus Elise at the Apex of Snetterton’s Russell Chicane
Series 1 Lotus Elise at the Apex of Snetterton’s Russell Chicane
The result is a sports car that in production form in 1996 weighed in at just 720 kg (1,587 lb). Compare this to a Porsche Boxster which is also considered to be an extremely lightweight sports car but weighs nearly twice as much; 1,250 kg (2,756 lb).
As a result, the Elise’s acceleration (0-60mph in 5.8 seconds), braking, cornering, and fuel consumption (all of which are improved by reductions in a car’s weight) were astonishing for an engine put out a relatively modest 120 bhp (89 kW), compared to the 201 bhp (149 kW) produced by the 1997 Porsche Boxster.
Although high-tech, it represented affordable cost of ownership for sports car lovers on a budget who still wanted performance and looks.
Besides the “standard” higher-performance variants listed below, Lotus also released some limited edition models such as Sport 135 (1998/9) with approx 145 bhp (108 kW), Sport 160 (2000) with 150–160 bhp (112–119 kW) and Sport 190 (190 bhp / 142 kW). These were more competent on track with sports suspension, wheels and tyres, seats according to model. There were other special editions which were basically cosmetic treatments such as the 50th Anniversary Edition (green/gold) celebrating 50 years of Lotus cars, the Type 49 (“Gold Leaf” red and white two-tone), and Type 72 (“JPS” black/gold) to recall their successful Grand Prix car type numbers.
The original Elise, called the Series 1 was augmented by a faster edition called the 111S, named after the Lotus type-number of the Elise — M111. The 111S was introduced in early 1999 and contained a VVC Rover K-Series engine with a modified head and VVT type technology producing a declared 143 bhp (107 kW) rather than the standard Rover 1.8 L K-series 118 bhp (88 kW) unit, along with a closer ratio gearbox and lower ratio final drive. It also had more padding in the seats. The 111S also received some cosmetic changes including: headlamp covers, rear spoiler, cross drilled brake discs, alloy window winders and a new 6 spoke road wheel design.
In 2000, the 340R limited edition model, based on a Series 1 Elise was introduced. This roofless car was a special edition, limited to only 340 cars being built. The name 340 refers to the 340 bhp/tonne (254 kW/tonne) power-to-weight ratio of the original prototype which had 177 bhp (131 kW) while weighing just 500 kg (1,100 lb). The final production versions however weighed 568 kg (1,250 lb) in race trim.
Also in 2000, Lotus introduced the Exige — a hardtop version of the Elise with the 177 bhp (131 kW) engine from the 340R — as well as different front and rear clams, larger wheels, and a rear wing. Many models received an upgrade to 190 bhp (142 kW) with better driveability due to changes to ECU and cam timing.
Announced on October 9 2000, the Series 2 Elise was a redesigned Series 1 using a slightly modified version of the Series 1 chassis and the same K-series engine with a brand new Lotus-developed ECU.
The design of the body paid homage to the still-born M250 project and was the first Lotus to be designed on computer. The Series 2 Elise is built on the same production line also created for the Vauxhall VX220/Opel Speedster in a newer facility at Hethel. Both cars shared many parts, including the chassis, although they have totally different drivetrains and powerplants. The Vauxhall / Opel version ceased production in 2004.
The series 2 was also available as a 111S model, with the VVT engine technology. Also released was the Lotus Sport 160, which is a Lotus 111S Series 2 with the additional track handling package. The 111S models were discontinued in 2005.
This Series 2 Elise model comes in European 111R version or a version sold in North America, called the Federal Elise. It is powered by the all-aluminium 189 hp (141 kW) 1.8L DOHC Toyota engine with a Yamaha designed twin-cam head offering variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust valvetrain, a 6 speed manual Toyota gearbox. The Series 2 model is acclaimed as the best version of the Elise to date, with tremendous performance numbers, with many tests resulting in 0–60 mph (0–100 km/h) in approximately 4.9 seconds or 4.7 seconds with the Sport Package. The engine management computer is a Lotus programmed unit. A radical cam timing shift at ~6,000 rpm makes the car feel like it has two different engines.
The 2005 Lotus Elise was the first to be sold commercially in the United States, in the summer of 2004. Approval for the Elise, however, required intervention by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) who provided a three-year exemption for the car, as it had failed to meet US bumper and headlight regulations. All Lotus Elise cars manufactured after January 1, 2007 include the new headlights and 2.5 mph (4.0 km/h) bumpers, although they are hidden in the front.
This model has been followed up by the 2006 Model Year Elise 111R and SportRacer models. Lotus made a limited edition (50 in the US) version of the Lotus Elise as well, called the Lotus Elise Sport.
2006 models also differ from the 2005 models in a few aspects. 2006 models sport LED tail lights, drive by wire (an updated ECU), improved gas mileage, as well as more comfortable seats.
For the 2007 model year Lotus there were several further minor changes made. The LOTUS lettering on the rear of the vehicle, which was previously flat stickers, was changed to raised lettering. The headlamp units were sealed. Also, in order to comply with US Federally mandated bumper restrictions, the frontal crash structure was slightly changed and rear bumperettes were added next to the license plate mount. Approximately 100 2007 model year “launch” cars were shipped to the US without these bumper changes.
Also in 2007 the Elise S was released and the 111R renamed Elise R. The Elise S is the new base model with a Toyota sourced 1.8l engine replacing the previous models K series rover engine. The 1ZZ-FE engine produces 134 bhp (100 kW) at 6200 rpm (an increase over 120 bhp (89 kW) rover engine). The inclusion of airbags, ABS brakes, electric windows, and carpet in addition to the new heavier engine has increased the base weight to 860kg (1895lb) (approximately 85 kg (190 lb) higher than the previous S model).
For 2008, there have been several additions to the Lotus line-up. There will be two versions of the Elise. Lotus will continue to provide a naturally aspirated Elise producing 190 hp (140 kW). The second version will be the Elise SC sporting a non-intercooled supercharger producing 220hp. 0-60mph is reduced from 4.9 for the base Elise or 4.7 seconds for the Elise with Sport package to 4.4 seconds for the Elise SC. The NA Elise styling will be similar to the prior model years. The Elise SC, however, will be distinguishable from the NA version by a rear spoiler identical to the Type 72-D edition spoiler and new wheels. Weight remains a Lotus-claimed 1,987 lb (901 kg); just 3 pounds (1.4 kg) more than the previous year.
Several new color options for 2008 have been brought to the marketplace. These include new metallic colors (additional $590) Persian Blue and Liquid Blue; new Lifestyle color (additional $1200) Isotope Green; new Limited Color Level (additional $3,300) Candy Red, Ice White, and Burnt Orange; and the new Exclusive Color Level (additional $5,100) Prism Green and Moonstone Silver. The following colors have been discontinued for 2008: Nightfall Blue, Aubergine Purple, Magnetic Blue, Polar Blue, Autumn Gold, Chili Red, and Krypton Green.
* Sport 190
* Sport 135R
* Type 23
* Type 25
* Type 49
* Type 72
The Series 2 Exige, comes with the same high revving Toyota engine and six speed gearbox as the Elise 111R, replacing the Rover K-series engine of the previous Exige.
The Series 2 Exige has been followed up by the limited-edition Lotus Sport Exige 240R, incorporating a Lotus-developed supercharger atop the Toyota engine. The US Federalized version with the supercharger fitted is known as the Exige S.
List of cars sharing the Elise platform
* Lotus Europa S
* Circuit Car
* Lotus Exige
* Lotus Elise GT1
* Lotus GT3
* Lotus 340R
* Opel Speedster
* Tesla Roadster
* Vauxhall VX220