Lotus Elise Club Racer review: Lotus Elise Club Racer

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Typical Price: £27,500.00
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Beautiful; sublime handling; startlingly good fuel economy.

The Bad Difficult to get in and out of; not very fast; no tech toys.

The Bottom Line The Elise Club Racer doesn't have much in the way of cabin tech and it's rather unrefined, but it's an excellent track-day toy that Lotus purists will adore.

7.5 Overall

Lotus may be building a host of modern sports cars to keep up with the tarmac-shredding Joneses, but it isn't about to turn its back on the lightweight, no-nonsense track cars it's famed for. Hence the arrival of the new Elise Club Racer, a stripped-down, lightweight version of its iconic mid-engined roadster. This £27,500 sports car has a new 1.6-litre, naturally aspirated engine, but sacrifices nearly all luxuries in its pursuit of the purest possible driving experience.

Fat free

Lotus has put the Elise on a serious diet to create the Club Racer special edition. It's swapped the standard car's battery for a lightweight unit more commonly found in motorsports, and removed the stereo system, speakers and floor mats. Even the sound-deadening material designed to insulate the cabin from engine, exhaust and road noise has been ripped out. The end result is a 25kg reduction in weight, a considerable amount given that the standard car weighs a paltry 876kg.

Hostile takeover

Like any track-orientated car, the Club Racer isn't a comfortable place to hang out. The door sills don't run along the floor -- they rise halfway up the car, so getting in and out requires extreme flexibility and underwear that you don't mind flashing to passers-by.

Getting in the Club Racer is harder than it looks.

Once you've limbered up, flashed your nether regions and poured yourself inside, you're in for yet more punishment from the seats, which are Spartan at best. Most cars see proper upholstering as a necessary evil, but weight reduction is king in the Club Racer, so its pews are shod with strategically placed cushions to protect your bum and shoulder blades.

Even when settled in, there's no let-up. The cabin is a cacophony of wind, tyre and exhaust noise, and, if you're not the type to use a wallet, the incessant rattling of loose change against the bare metal chassis. None of these noises is as distressing, however, as the sound of your own sobbing as you realise the only way to rescue your mobile phone from its under-chair prison is to remove the seats with a spanner.

Daily grind

The Club Racer can be a chore to drive, particularly in traffic. Its suspension is surprisingly soft and rides bumps well, but the lack of power steering and the tightly sprung clutch will give your arms and left leg a thorough workout. The aluminium gear stick is unforgiving, too, and enthusiastic gear changes can result in sore palms, a phenomenon we've not noticed on any other model of car.

The unforgiving gear stick will make your palms beg for mercy.

The roof, which can be detached for some top-down thrills, isn't without its problems. It's easy enough to attach and remove, and stows neatly in a cubby hole behind the seats or in the tiny boot, but it doesn't actually protect the car from rain -- at least not sideways English rain. Lotus says heavy downpours in high winds can cause the roof to leak, although this isn't something we encountered during our road test.

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