Hot Elise : Lotus Elise 111R

Car Specifications
1796cc, 16-valves,
Cylinder Layout: 
In-line 4
Top Speed: 
6-speed Manual
5.2 seconds
189bhp at 7800rpm
282Nm at 6500rpm

Lotus the UK sports car specialist releases its latest creation, the diminutive Elise 111R but in many ways it’s a giant killer, we drive one to see just how deadly.

The guiding philosophy at Lotus is simple. Keep sports cars lightweight as possible. Its founder the late Colin Chapman, had devoted his life to racing, not unlike the late Enzo Ferrari. However Chapman was extreme in his belief that the race car should be as light and strong as is necessary and no more in order to complete the race and then fall apart.

Well thankfully this principle no longer applies to his road going cars. However the latest Lotus models are still the paragon of low-weight sports cars. Some call it minimalist but the material content and how it is used is intriguing to say the least. Lotus’ aim was to get their cars weight down to 800-kg, less than half of that of a BMW 5 Series.

Lotus is a pioneer in the use of extruded aluminium parts for the entire chassis of the Elise which is named after the grand-daughter of Lotus’ then chairman Romano Artioli. Space frame construction may have been the trademark of Lotuses but this is not a conventional space frame by a long shot.

The Elise uses hydro-formed extrusion aluminium alloy parts that are bonded together by epoxy. It sounds worrying but this bonding technology has been around a long time and so far has been as reliable as traditional welding techniques evidenced by the numerous examples of the first generation Elise still running around.

The latest 111R heralds the use of the latest engine that is supplied by Toyota. It is a 1.8-litre high revving unit that produces 189 bhp which is quite a feat. It replaces the ageing Rover derived K-Series engine which has long been the Achilles heel of the Elise.

Eager to tap into the lucrative US market, Lotus had to buy a US emissions certified engine or develop a new one but would end up being too expensive. Toyota is a company that Lotus has had good relations with over the years and so happens to have a US certified engine that they were willing to licence to Lotus.

The Toyota engine is a blessing for the Elise because not only is it clean, powerful and refined, it also comes with a slick six-speed gearbox. Enthusiasts have been waiting a long time for such a breakthrough as the old Rover engine did not really make the grade for a miniature super car.

Using all of the189 bhp, slings the Elise to 100 km/h in just 5.2 seconds, right into super car territory. With the top down it makes the right kind of noises as well, the exhaust bark having a purposeful baritone timbre. Shifting the new six-speed gearbox is no hardship at all as it is neat and accurate if a little mechanical.

Truth is the whole experience is very mechanical from all the sounds and vibrations to the feeling that you are sitting in an engine bay with a shrink-wrapped Ferrari-like body around you. Thanks to this intimacy, as the Elise moves and darts around without any pause, lends the impression that you are as one with it.

This is as pure a driving experience as one is going to get but with one luxury concession. It has new servo assisted brakes with ABS as that would be a prerequisite for entering the US market. Not withstanding the Elise easily manages to keep up with far more exotic and powerful machinery on demanding roads and even on the race track thanks to its very favourable power to weight ratio and nimble handling.

This sort of handling has a price paid in terms of ride comfort. While enthusiasts think the ride of the Elise is fine, it is in reality on the firm side but that is a small penalty to pay considering what pleasures it offers in return.

For want of a better cliché, the Elise feels like a go-kart thanks to the completely unassisted steering and its low body weight. Although its dynamics mimic that of a go-kart it has also been tuned for use in everyday driving situations.


Engine: 1796cc, 4-cylinder in-line, Twin-Cam, 16-valves, Variable Valve Timing . Max Power: 189 bhp @ 7800 rpm. Max Torque: 282 Nm @ 6500 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual gearbox, Mid-engine configuration, rear drive.

Steering: Unassisted rack and pinion system

Brakes: f: Ventilated discs. r: Solid discs

Suspension: Double wishbone all round

Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 5.2 seconds

Top Speed: 241 km/h

Fuel Consumption: Combined mode: 8.8 L/100 km

Standard Equipment: Air-conditioning, Stereo, ABS, bucket seats, alloy wheels

Price: $238,000 with COE, 1-year warranty.


It is certainly not a car for everyone but it makes a strong case for those seeking the pure essence of driving. The Elise 111R and its new engine make super car performance an affordable proposition. Admittedly the raw driving experience is an acquired taste but like sashimi, the more you try, the more it becomes a craving. - AL
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