THERE are few cars that have become interwoven in the very fabric of motoring quite like the Lotus Elise. With its lightweight charm and immersive handling, it has become a go-to example of how a sports car should feel. It’s sat in that position for 25 years now, in fact, but sadly – as with most things – that legendary run is coming to an end.
It brings us to this – the Elise Sport 240 Final Edition. And it really is a final edition, too – there won’t be any more Elise models after this, as Lotus moves on to create its upcoming Type 131 and Evija models. So what is this swansong like? We’ve been finding out.
On the face of it, this is much like any other Elise – but it is holding a few cards close to its chest in order to differentiate itself from the rest of the range. It’s got more power, for one, while there’s a little more technology inside, too. But this is still a car centrally focused on the enjoyment of driving, which is just what the Elise has become known for over the years.
It’s still beautifully light, mind you, at 922kg. Further bulk-shedding savings have been made through the fitment of forged-alloy wheels, while you can take the diet further by optioning in optional carbon-fibre panels, should you want to.
What’s under the bonnet?
Sitting in the middle of the Elise is a 1.8-litre four-cylinder supercharged engine, which has been given an additional 23bhp over the regular Sport 220, resulting in a total output of 240bhp and 244Nm of torque. A power-to-weight ratio of 260bhp per tonne ensures that the Elise’s 0–60mph sprint is suitably brisk – it’ll take just 4.1 seconds to complete the dash before hitting a top speed of 147mph. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a beautifully weighted six-speed, open-gate manual.
But because of that low weight, the Elise doesn’t chew through fuel. In fact, Lotus says it’ll return up to 36.2mpg, while its CO2 emissions stand at 177g/km.
What’s it like to drive?
Sidle into the Elise’s cabin – there’s no elegant way to go about it – and you’re met by a cabin that is unashamedly driver-focused. Taller people will no doubt struggle to get comfortable, but those of an average stature – like this tester – will get along just fine. The seating position is perfect and so is the placement of the wheel.
The 1.8-litre engine provides heady, ever-present performance; there’s a decent slug of torque to provide roll-on performance, but this really is an engine that loves to be worked hard. The steering is beautifully judged, too, making it a car that adapts to the road and gets the best from it.
The Elise even rides rather well, capably dealing with the tortuous Norfolk roads included in our test route. It’s a final and very fitting example of just how good the Elise is and always has been.
How does it look?
Lotus has nailed the styling over the years because, to this day, there’s still nothing out there that looks like an Elise. This latest version is the most grown-up yet, but it’s still got that almost insect-like appeal. Small and compact, it takes up a diminutive footprint on the road, which, in truth, is part of its charm; it’s the perfect antidote to modern and ever-larger sports cars.
There is a range of exterior colours to choose from, divided between ‘Select’ and ‘Heritage’. Personally, we’d like to see one finished in the latter’s Racing Green but, in reality, no matter which colour the Elise is finished in, it’s a striking looking thing indeed.
What’s it like inside?
The cabin of the Elise is as bare-bones as you’d expect. But after all, this isn’t some luxurious grand tourer but an out-and-out sports car – and a very lightweight one at that. What is there feels solid and well-made, though, with the large bucket seats providing ample support and the Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel pleasingly devoid of buttons and perfectly shaped.
The open-gate manual is the stuff of proper theatre and gives a very tangible contact point between driver and machine. Not only is it great to look at but it’s a joy to use. The roof of the Elise can be removed too and stowed in the small – but deep – boot. Done by rolling the ‘roof’ away, it’s simple and can be done in under a minute.
What’s the spec like?
As you might’ve guessed, the Elise isn’t a car overburdened by technological features, so you’ll find no ultra-wide infotainment systems nor over-the-air update capability here. That said, Lotus has fitted this latest Elise with a new TFT digital dashboard with the choice of two screens. One relays a conventional set of dials, while the other mimics the display you’d find in a race car, with a digital speed readout and an engine speed bar.
Save for that, it’s largely devoid of hi-tech features. You do get a radio, and the sound emitted by the speakers isn’t too bad.
But this is a car which leaves you to enjoy the act of driving and we’re just fine with that.
The final day for the Elise had to come at some point and, in reality, it moves aside to create space for what will become a very exciting and innovative new chapter for Lotus. But the truth is that the Hethel-based firm wouldn’t be what it is today without the Elise and this Final Edition is a brilliant celebration of what this car has become.
We’re sad to see the Elise go, but this Final Edition model is a fitting salute as it bids farewell. Long may it be remembered.