Lotus Elise S Club Racer – Review
By Liam Bird
Forget any notions of TFT multimedia screens or satellite navigation; you won’t find them here. Neither is there any point you looking for automatic lights or rain-sensing windscreen wipers. Quilted leather, cruise control, heated seats? Look elsewhere. Even the air-con is an optional extra. So too, come to that, are the carpets, the radio, anything but the most essential of sound proofing, and the roof too – even the pedals are bereft of their rubbers. Don’t even think about asking where the cup-holders or the i-Pod dock are!
This most spartan of specifications belongs to the Lotus Elise S CR, the Norfolk manufacturer’s most powerful, and needless to say lightest Elise yet. By sticking rigidly and some might say damn-near obsessively to Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s mantra of “adding lightness”, the East Anglian engineers seemed to have approached the business of weight saving in almost the same way a racing cyclist would: If it’s not absolutely essential it’s not really needed. The CR, or Club Racer, is the result of their efforts. It is the most focused and driver-orientated version of their perennial two-seater yet. You almost feel guilty driving it fully dressed.
“Feel a tingling”
You sit low – almost Le Mans car low – in the Elise, your view forward framed by the windscreen pillars and dominated by the tops of the front wings that seem to sit level with your elbows. The thinly padded, almost skeletal driver’s seat moves merely for and aft, the passenger seat doesn’t move at all. Directly ahead of you, just above your knees, sits a tiny heavily sculpted Momo steering wheel, complete with that famous green and yellow badge. It frames a simple two clock dash, and is mounted on a non-adjustable column – you’ve guessed it, a telescopic one would’ve probably been considered too heavy.
Strapping yourself in is akin to hardwiring yourself to the Elise’s bonded aluminium chassis. Turn the key, press the starter, and as soon as the mid-mounted 1.8 litre engine fires you feel a tingling. Or perhaps that’s just me.
In all honesty the Elise isn’t the most evocative of sounding sports cars; it’s a little flatulent sounding actually, no highly strung multi-cylindered wailing, or deep bass warbling here. Nevertheless, what the motor lacks in aural delights it more that makes up for in performance.
“Attack corners with confidence”
If you’ve specced your CR with as few creature comforts as possible the 217 bhp produced by the supercharged (that’s incidentally what the S in Elise S CR stands for) Toyota-sourced motor only has 896kg to push along. The performance therefore is little short of electrifying; 0-60 takes just 4.2 seconds and where allowed, this little Lotus tops out at 145mph. Not headlining stuff anymore perhaps but because you sit so low and there’s no roof it just feels faster.
But don’t go thinking that the Elise S CR is just an all-out racer with number plates and a tax disc. Yes, that little steering wheel does wriggle and writhe in your hands, as your speed increases, but it never kicks back or feels viscous. It just follows your every command and obediently communicates every surface or camber change back to your wrists in a way only a Lotus can. Why can’t other manufacturers make steering systems feel so good?
Then there’s the ride. Lotus have always been famed for their chassis expertise after all. Thanks to a combination of Bilstein dampers and Eibach springs the Elise rides with a compliancy that its low stance and hunkered down looks belie. It grips like a limpet too, allowing you to attack corners with confidence. On the right road, on the right day there’s nothing quite like it.
But, would you appreciate it so much on the wrong sort of day? Hmm… what’s not quite so lightweight about the Elise Club Racer S is its price tag. For similar money to the £35,600 Lotus charge for their little roadster you might just be able to bag yourself a BMW Z4 or Porsche Boxster, especially if you want a roof on your CR S, a carpet or two and radio too. You could even perhaps buy an MX-5 and save yourself a whole bag of money instead – although it’s doubtful you’d get the same thrills.
What it all comes down to is what you really want your sportscar to be. If you plan to use it every day the Elise S’s tiny boot and the roll up roof that fills it probably won’t be right for you. However, if the trials of daily life of are of no concern and you’ve got something else tucked away to do the shopping in. Lotus’s Elise S CR definitely proves that sometimes less really is much, much more.
Lotus Elise S Club Racer
Engine: 1,798cc, 4 Cyl, 16V super-charged Petrol
Transmission: 6 speed close ratio manual. Rear Wheel Drive
Power: 217 bhp @ 6800rpm
Torque: 184 lbft @ 4600 rpm
0-60mph: 4.2 sec
Max Speed: 145 mph
MPG: 37.5 combined.
VED Band: H
Price: £35,600 (car driven £39,600)