Lotus Elise 2011

Lotus Elise CR Review

Rating: 7.0
$67,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
It’s got a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, barely makes 100 kW, and develops just 172 Nm. That doesn’t sound very impressive does it?
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It’s got a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, barely makes 100 kW, and develops just 172 Nm. That doesn’t sound very impressive does it?

In fact, for any self-respecting enthusiast, those numbers are enough to put you to sleep, except for the fact that we’re talking about a special edition of the limpet-like Lotus Elise, which weighs in at a super light 860 kilograms. That alone should put a smile on your face.

With Lotus, it’s all about the power to weight ratio, always has been, and always will be, and the Elise is the pure embodiment of that long held Colin Chapman (founder of Lotus) edict, which he so successfully applied to both his racing and road cars.

Lotus calls this edition, the Elise Club Racer, and Australia’s allotment was just 10 cars in four unique colours (Elite Yellow, Carbon Grey, Sky Blue, Old English White), which means exclusivity is 100 percent guaranteed.

At $72,990 you’ll need to be quick though, very quick. The Elise CR is a veritable bargain (there are just two left in this country, one in Perth and Brisbane) especially when you consider that the 2011 Elise makes do with a 1.6-litre Toyota sourced engine.

If you’re not all that familiar with Lotus and their current stable of road cars, it’s less about straight-line speed with the Elise - although, 6.1 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint isn’t exactly hanging around. Rather, it’s about one of the most exhilarating driving experiences you are ever likely to have, off the race track.

It also feels a lot quicker than the published acceleration figures, at least from behind the wheel. That’s probably because your backside is sitting just centimetres off the ground in seats more akin to proper racing shells than traditional sports pews.

From the moment you turn into your first bend, you will understand with absolute clarity, ‘the Lotus experience’. Slicing through a series of deserted S-bends, without the need to lift off the throttle, with such consummate ease that it doesn’t seem real. It’s as though WRC rally guru Sebastian Loeb has just taken over your body, such is the pace this car can carry through a turn.

If you’re not traversing the hairpin infested Stelvio Pass in Northern Italy, chances are, you won’t ever need to turn the wonderfully tactile, yet small diameter steering wheel, more than a quarter of a turn.

Every motoring enthusiast should have a Lotus Elise in the garage, just for weekend therapy sessions after the soul destroying peak hour grind.

It’s been a while since I last drove an Elise S, but this Club Racer edition feels quicker, more balanced (if that’s possible) through the twisty bits than the standard edition Elise. That could be down to the weight saving tactics from the special race style seat shells and extra lightweight alloys, which are finished in anthracite to match the bespoke gear knob and handbrake.

Those seat shells I’m on about in the Club Racer are truly a wonderful bit of kit. On first sight though, they look positively uncomfortable, back breaking even.

It’s only when you climb aboard and set up your driving position that you realise just how good they really are. Firstly, they’re beautifully colour-coded with the exterior paint job, and rather than being fully trimmed, there’s a series of suede effect pads, which are ergonomically positioned for a surprising level of comfort and bolster.

It simply doesn’t matter how many G’s you might pull in a corner, your torso won’t move a millimetre in these shells.

If there’s a better driving position and steering set-up that exists in a series production vehicle sold today (that includes the 458 and 911), then I haven’t driven that car.

The three-spoke steering wheel with suede effect inserts may as well have been cast to suit your own hands, and there’s a coloured centre mark so drivers can instantly realise the straight-ahead position of the front wheels.

Don’t go thinking Lotus has gone on the cheap with the interior trim, as you glance down and notice the absence of a carpeted footwell, let alone, floor mats. When you’re attacking those s-bends at some ‘blow your mind’ pace, you’ll be extra grateful for the weight saving benefits of the anodised mesh floor and the extruded aluminium pedals.

The lightweight anthracite anodised wheels offset the ‘Elite Yellow’ paintwork on this test car perfectly, as does the rest of the exposed bodywork throughout the cockpit.

Grip levels from the standard fit Yokohama AD07 LTS tyres are right off the charts in wet or dry conditions. Even after a light shower on what had become a very greasy road surface, traction and grip through the twisty bits was extraordinary.

There are no fancy yellow or red Brembo brake calipers to be seen on the Elise CR either, but stopping power is flat out prodigious. That’s something you expect from a car weighing less than 900 kilos and a mid-mounted engine set up.

On paper, you might want to have a whinge about five forward speeds and not six these days, but unless you intend frequent trips from say, Sydney to Melbourne, you won’t miss a sixth gear. More importantly, the gearbox allows for short, fast shifts and the clutch take up is near perfect.

For a car that rides so close to the deck, and one which is so highly focused towards handling, you would be forgiven for thinking the ride might be bone crushing. Certainly, this was my preconception before I ever drove my first Elise.

Sure there are a few rattles when driving on a typically poor Sydney road, but overall, there is a surprising level of compliance from the suspension. Speed bumps are dispensed with without nasty jarring, and the deep front splitter has no problem with driveways.

If you have ambitions of using the Elise as your daily driver, then you’ll probably want to be of lean build and aptly agile. Women wearing short skirts should probably avoid this car. That said, once you learn the Lotus ingress and egress methods, hoping in, and out of this micro supercar becomes routine.

It’s quite the traffic master too, as weaving the Lotus in and out of spaces that simply don’t exist for anything other than a motor scooter becomes second nature after only a few days behind the wheel.

Practicality isn’t a term I would ever associate with a Lotus Elise, but at least there’s a small boot behind the engine, which can swallow two reasonably sized soft bags. There’s also limited space behind the seats, but only for a couple of laptop bags or items such as a camera.

Performance cars, even today, are generally not all that sympathetic to your wallet or the environment. It’s different with the Elise. The naturally aspirated 4-cylinder powerplant uses just 7.6L/100km (we achieved this figure over a week) and produces emissions of a relatively green 176 grams per kilometre.

In the Club Racer edition of the Elise, Lotus have come up with a car that is slightly better in every way than the standard Elise, and well worth the extra few grand, if you can find one.