The Elise (Summer 1999)
The elise is extreme, extreme in a different manner to the esprit but one which is so true and focused to the original design philosophy of the late Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus. Back to basics, stripped to the bare components that constitute pure driving enjoyment and thrill, the elise is both a return to the benchmark Lotus seven, but also (and once again) an ingenious vision into the future. The Elise manages to provide arguably the best fun available on 4 wheels at any price, and at the same time some of the most advanced engineering design in the industry.

For the first time since the 1960's Elan, Lotus has built a car which simply has no peers - it crushes all opposition with a miniumum of fuss and perhaps only the Caterham can claim to be a serious alternative to prospective buyers. Above all, it is of a pure breed, built as an all out racer and literally stripped to its chassis. As an everday drive however, it also defies belief with a ride quality to match many prestige saloons costing twice the price. Just a glance through the motoring press over the last 3 years will inform you of the enormity of the elise's triumph. On its launch the car had no critics - only test drivers claiming that they had seen into the future and that the definition of the small sports car would now never be the same again. Witness Andrew Frankel's comments in Autocar July 1996:

"In my career to date, it has happened perhaps five times, and few in this business have been luckier than I.  The feeling, you will appreciate, is rare.  It starts with a hollowness in the stomach, converting briefly to deep concern in your brain before filling your heart with euphoria and your head with the knowledge that the car you are driving is no mere step forward or re-interpretation of an otherwise familiar theme; it is a landmark, one of those incalcuably precious housecalls history makes to the present day. I can think of no better way of expressing my feelings toward the elise than to say I would dearly love to own one. It is the first car I have driven that takes you to the summmit of driving pleasure in comfort and at a price many can afford"


The Elise 111s

A wide range of tuning options from 3rd party manufacturers exist for the standard Lotus Elise which improve/change power and torque output to make for a faster accelerating and more urgent car. For my elise however, I decided to go for the official Lotus factory car, the 111s (uprated 143bhp vvc engine and close ratio gearbox and various styling mods) - the first proper new model from Lotus since the car's launch. Although not the fastest configuration for the elise, the 111s offers good depreciation rates as the latest premium version of the car and boasts a slightly more aggressive appearance.

The Sunday Times recently reported that "in the Lotus Elise 111s on a sunny day with the roof down and on your favourite country road, you will achieve motoring nirvana". The testers at "Car and Car Conversions" magazine found the 111s far superior in handling and stability compared to the standard car particularly in terms of agility when flicking through s bend combinations. These feelings have since been echoed by those enthusiasts who have owned both the standard and the 111s. In the 1999 Autocar best drivers car test, they reported that the 111s was the elise to take on the track bar a full blown race version.

After covering 4500 miles in my car I can only advise you that the 111s is no slouch and if you like to play hard at the wheel, high up in the power band then its the perfect match. On the track the benefit of the increased top end is a distinct advantage. In straight line acceleration it sits nicely between the factory sport 190 and the standard car. If funds permitted, I would dive into the latter car at the earliest opportunity  but for the moment, 143 bhp and 0-100 in 14.4 seconds will do me just fine and  with the close ratio box and 225 section tyres already fitted I have a good base platform to upgrade to my own personal track-orientated specification.

 click here for more pictures of my elise


The Jackals Racetrack 1998 Richard Morris