After watching all the cars at the Rob Roy Hill Climb do a few runs and viewing a number of spills, we decided to take the Lotus Elise for a spin around the spectacular roads of King Lake, in the outer hills of Melbourne.
Lotus kindly supplied us with the Elise Supercharged variant in the colour red, and it’s true… Red cars do go faster, much faster.
I like to think of the racetrack like my mother, I only want to introduce her to serious girlfriends. The Elise coincidently is a female name and is indeed very worthy of meeting the track.
Lotus was founded by Colin Chapman about 50 years ago, Chapman built his first Lotus car whilst studying engineering at University College in London. The Lotus factory now resides in Norfolk, England where they manufacture the Elise, Exige, Europa and the seriously track focused 2-Eleven. Fortunately in Australia we adopt the whole Lotus model range, even the 2-Eleven which is non-road registerable however the lovely people at the ATO (Australian Tax Office) still whack the Luxury Car Tax on it.
I know a few Lotus owners and they are of the loyal breed, most have owned a Lotus previously and many have upgraded to the supercharged (faster) variant, whilst other Lotus drivers pledge that someday they will also own one.
The Elise is the oldest model in the current Lotus range and in my view I consider it to be the best looking and an all round very cool car. Its exterior styling is sleek and the new rear spoiler is multi-purpose, building on the already purposeful rear end and increasing downforce when she’s playing near the red line.
Entering the cockpit of the Elise takes a bit of practice; it is designed for the track as much for the road therefore is unbelievably low to the ground and yet can still manage speed humps… just. If the roof is in place, you put your left foot in (for the driver), and then back your bum in whilst lowering your head and then slip your right leg in over the side body. It probably sounds more difficult than what it really is, nevertheless it reminds me of trying to get into a racecar which is a pretty special feeling.
The engines ignition is turned on via a start button, a quirky but cool feature which really should only be found in true high-end performance vehicles like this. The pedals are made of aluminium and match the gear shifter, handbrake lever and trim on the steering wheel.
In the first few minutes of driving this car, it gives you a feeling similar to when you first get your car license, lots of nerves however full of beans. The whole time I was driving under the influence of adrenaline and vitamin D thanks to the removable roof. I was practically overdosing with endorphins.
Even the police were impressed when we got stopped on the way to a photo shoot by a booze bus, the copper grabbed our camera and took a photo of us.
Sitting low in the cabin, the tarmac is only inches under your behind, the engine is centimeters behind your ears so knowing the precise time to change gears is not a problem. It’s also exciting for owners because the majority of supercars have a mid-mounted engine configuration, and when you start driving the Elise Supercharged, you’ll soon realise it’s definitely in that league.
The Lotus Elise Supercharged is proudly powered by yet another 1.8 Litre four cylinder of the Toyota variety coupled to an Eaton supercharger blowing more air into the engine than a Wonthaggi windmill. Power and torque figures are an impressive 163 kW and 212 Nm. This compares very well against the Elise S’s 100 kW and 172 Nm and the Elise R’s 141 kW and 181 Nm. This supercharger shaves 1.5 seconds off the acceleration time to 100 km/h whilst only adding 10 kg to the kerb weight of the Elise S.
The 6 speed manual transmission is also sourced from Toyota, the C64 used to drive the old Corolla Sportivo and Celica. It houses a close ratio gearbox which is perfect for making use of all the torque supplied by the supercharger and is also good for fuel economy.
Speaking of which, the Elise Supercharged will average 8.5 Litres per 100 km when driven sensibly, add a litre or two when the right pedal is pushed.
The Lotus Elise Supercharged provides a practical sportscar environment, if there is such a thing. Removable canvas roof for those sunny days or those hardcore Lotus enthusiasts that wish to remove 2,205 or thereabout grams of weight. Additionally, the roof removed provides easier access into the cabin. Lotus Australia also offers an optional hard top which is more practical for all weather conditions.
The Lotus Exige is what we like to call the Elise’s evil twin brother, it sports more track like performance engineering with more responsive acceleration, steering and a stiffer suspension set-up not to mention the hardtop roof which should only be removed when swapping the seats.
The Elise Supercharged tested was fitted with the optional Touring Pack which adds $8,000 on top of the $104,990 RRP. The Lotus Elise Touring Pack features full leather seats, carpeted mats and insulation panels which soften cabin noise, driving lights, an iPod connector and few other creature comforts. Alpine 4 speaker CD player, electric windows, boot and a single cup holder which is a true work of art come standard, just enough to keep you satisfied for suburbia driving when not on the track.
Safety features include dual front airbags, Anti-lock brakes,integrated steel seat-belt support structure, passenger foot rest and optional traction control.
The Elise surprisingly has a decent amount of interior room, the pedals are further apart than the Exige for easier driving but not for heal and toeing. The visibility leaves a bit to be desired but sitting on such a short wheelbase checking blindspots is not too different from other 2 seater sportscar I’ve driven. The switchgear is similar to a racecar with LED buttons and alloy knobs to play with, the fit and finish is of a high standard with no shiny plastics trying to look like aluminium trim. It’s the real deal.
There is a challenging 6 kilometre road in King Lake known to most Melbourne car and motorcycle enthusiasts as being one of the best in the state. Having driven many cars and motorcycles on this route, it was easy to make a judgment on this vehicle.
The bottom-end power provided by the supercharger and the close ratio gearbox matched to the supreme handling chassis are a great combination for windy roads such as these, entering corners at what feels like maximum velocity, all I can say is thanks for the huggy seats as it grips me like that aunty you always try and avoid saying hi to.
When exiting a corner in the upper rev range under full acceleration you can just let the suspension and aerodynamics do what it does best, keeping the car stable. There is next to nothing when it comes to body roll because the centre of gravity is so low it just sticks to the road like paint. When driving a roofless vehicle scuttle shake is often apparent when driving hard, especially in the twisty stuff, however in the Elise the chassis dynamics provide a stiff body structure similar to an F-18 without the loop-de-loop feature, the F-18 might only pull the same Gs as the Lotus too!
The Lotus Elise is as roar as they come, it has almost as few electrics as a billy cart to assist your driving. It just doesn’t need them, it has the perfect balance of power to the vehicle’s dynamics and ability.
The normally aspirated steering is great for fast driving; with minimum weight in the front of the car due to the mid mounted engine the wheels turn in without effort and the directional feedback is gratifying. You would think that at very low speeds without power assistance the steering box would be a pain, but it’s surprisingly easily maneuverable even when parking. The turning circle however is true to a sportscar, you know what I’m talking about.
The grip level of the Elise Supercharged is a nine out of ten, the short track combined with the small wheelbase and the sporty Yokohama Advan tyres means very little wheelspin and a car that stays on course. The Yokohama Advan Neova tyres are truly practical rubber, we are told they provide ample levels of grip in all conditions. The Exige on the other hand have semi-slicks which require a bit of heat in them when the road is wet.
The Lotus Elise Supercharged is one of the very best cars to ever come out of the famous Hethel factory. There is little else on the market in the same price range that offers the exhilarating experience that this vehicle does, let’s hope Lotus keep the bar raised with the upcoming Evora and other future vehicles.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Many thanks to Zagame Automotive Group.
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