Can more power make the Lotus Elise better?

The Lotus Elise is praised for being lightweight, low-powered, and high fun. So what will turning the wick up to over 200bhp do to it?


Lotus has been turning out the Elise since 1996. It's still praised as being dynamically brilliant, too. Try finding another 17-year-old car that's not only still being produced, but isn't criticized for being outdated...

Its first incarnation was Lotus all over. It was light, stripped-out and low-powered, but it was an astonishing car to drive. It was everything a Lotus was supposed to be and was instantly adored.

The second generation built on the first's success: it was better-looking, a touch faster, and still wonderful to drive. Partway through its life it was given Toyota engines -- its previous Rover units were a touch unreliable so they were a welcome breath of fresh air. The highlight of the range was, according to many, the 111R. It came with 189bhp, a sub-5-second 0-62mph time and a rev-happy engine.

As the 21st century's second decade began, Lotus overhauled the Elise -- gone were the 1.8-litre twin-cam engines of old and in came a 1.6-litre with 150bhp. It was closer to the core of what Lotus is all about, but it wasn't as exciting as you'd hope.

Lotus has, thankfully, brought out a new Elise S. A 1.8-litre supercharged car with over 200bhp and a super-low kerb weight. But...does the extra power take anything away from the naturally aspirated cars?

Thankfully, it handles like a regular Elise -- far better than most things -- so extra go hasn't dulled its on-road skills. Its power, and delivery for that matter, are wonderful.

Where the 1.6-litre car will run out of puff or need to be revved to high heaven, the supercharged car has buckets of torque ready to go. Simply choose the right gear, plant your foot, and hold on as the car flings you into the distance. It's truly wonderful. It doesn't subtract, but adds...more of everything.

I wonder whether the Elise will ever cease production, or, like the Porsche 911, continue to evolve over the years. It's still brilliant, so why replace it completely..?

Engine1.8-litre supercharged
Power217 bhp
Torque184 lb. ft.
0-62 mph4.2 seconds
Top speed   145 mph
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