Lotus Elise second coming - Elise Series 2

Lotus has a way of making you sit up and notice and the latest, new for 2002 Elise is a real head turner. This second generation Lotus Elise still keeps true to the founder, Colin Chapman and his philosophy of making his cars as light as is feasible for the job at hand, which then meant racing. But unlike his racing cars that crumbled just after taking the chequered flag, the 1995 Elise Mk I has proven it can last the test of time.

The latest Elise uses the same bonded aluminium extrusion chassis as before but with some changes to make living with it a little easier. By merely lowering the side sill about an inch makes egress and ingress much easier though it still needs the dexterity of an acrobat. This alteration has apparently not altered the strength of the chassis, which remains impressively high. The biggest change is its new Ferrari-look that really garners envious stares especially with the eye-popping orange paintwork. Gone is the demure kit-car look, the new one looking purposeful and sophisticated. Perceived quality has improved thanks to the use of precision injection moulded resin body parts replacing the hand laid glass fibre resin used before.

Lotus has seen fit to make a new hood, though a little fiddly to use, looks miles better and has a good seal thanks to some pretty innovative mechanics. With our tropical heat its good to note the air-conditioning manages to keep the occupants adequately cool.

Improvements on the inside are few but as significant, topping the list are the seats that now get some form of cushion. Noticeable is the upholstering of parts of the bare aluminium facade. This certainly adds weight but buyers are increasingly weary of making do with a bare bones interior especially when there is significant moolah involved.

Curiously Lotus has not given the engine the same amount of attention, being only a paltry 2 bhp more at 120 bhp from the same K-series engine. It has to be said however the engine does feel more responsive and somewhat more refined. One will still have to endure the mechanical cacophony and put any sympathy for it aside in order to extract the full 120 bhp lurking somewhere around 5500 rpm. It would seem that despite a mild weight increase to 750 kg, the Elise keeps its 0-100 km/h times at 5.9 seconds but with air-conditioning, realistically one should see 6.1 seconds for the same sprint. Still respectable and quite nearly supercar fast.

So for all the changes, has the Elise really improved? Not significantly but it must be said that it is still excellent and few are the cars that offer such transparent handling and performance capabilities, that it has a niche all by itself. In fact apart from the obvious comparison to a go-kart, Elise is alone in offering the pure essence of driving, unfettered by anything remotely servo assisted including the brakes which need a hefty shove. Many a powerful car will leave it languishing but none will offer the smiles per mile it drums up. The Elise will still stand muster, even in the presence of far more exotic competition.

Changes to the suspension geometry provide stable handling and is less apt to scare the driver with the abrupt lift throttle oversteer seen in the first one but is by no means eradicated. The unassisted steering can be heavy at times but it is good because one is not encouraged to drive beyond one’s ability to steer quickly. With the weight and constant chattering, the driver is kept from being too enthusiastic. Besides, with the top down the Elise seems to be going really fast even when it is not. The cacophony of tyre roar, engine noise and roaring wind conspire to limit just how fast you want to drive the Elise. It is relatively more civilised with the pretty top in place and the operative word is relatively because it is still a noisy cabin.

Practicality isn’t its strong suit because it constantly makes you decide who or what to bring along. If it’s a date then you cannot go to the golf club. If its golf then your date takes a cab. But if one think selfishly then the Elise is an eminently usable, everyday car if you can put up with the inconvenience of short trips because after having to slither down onto the cockpit, the last thing one needs is having to get out right away. Thanks to its diminutive size, even on narrow roads one is able to carve out cornering lines where larger sports cars have to contend with merely following the lane. Besides, the long way home is usually the right way home and few other cars provide such fun so economically.


Body: Two-Door Aluminium Chassis, Resin-molded Bodywork

Engine:1796cc, Four-cylinder In-line, Four-valve per cylinder, 16-valves total
Max Power: 120 bhp @ 5500rpm, Max Torque: 168 Nm @ 3500 to 4500 rpm

Transmission: Five-Speed Manual

Steering: Unassisted Rack and Pinion System

Brakes: Unassisted, Front and Rear Ventilated Discs

Suspension: Double Wishbones Front and Rear

Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 6.1 seconds

Top Speed: 200 km/h

Fuel Consumption: 6.1 to 9.4-Litres/100km


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