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Ultimate Lotus Elise - the 290hp/tonne Cup 260. Image by Lotus.

Ultimate Lotus Elise - the 290hp/tonne Cup 260
New Lotus Elise Cup 260 is evolution of 2016ís Cup 250 - only quicker and with more downforce.
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What's all this about?

So, when we tested the Lotus Elise Sprint 220 earlier this year, the company's affable CEO Jean-Marc Gales said that there would be no more major changes to the brand's venerable sports car until an all-new model arrives in, hopefully, 2020; only that there would be a 'few new model names and minor tweaks' in years to come. Well, here's one we knew was in the pipeline: it's the Elise Cup 260, an evolution of last year's extreme Cup 250 and one which uses the newest body design plus updated, better-equipped interior of the 2017MY Elises like that aforementioned Sprint 220.

An evolution? In what way?

In the way that it's more accelerative, checking off 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, compared to the 250's 4.3-second sprint. In the way that it can generate an additional 44 per cent of downforce at its maximum speed, developing 180kg of the stuff at 151mph where the Cup 250 possessed 155kg at 154mph... and yes, that means the older car is 3mph quicker flat out, but that's largely irrelevant. Because another way the Cup 260 monsters the old one is around Lotus' Hethel test track, running a lap 2.5 seconds quicker to clock a phenomenal 1m 32s time in total.

How does it achieve all this?

The downforce comes from louvred front wheelarch vents, a carbon fibre front splitter, a new rear diffuser and the wide, high-mounted rear wing that's (sort of) borrowed from the 3-Eleven track car. Then the 1.8-litre, four-cylinder supercharged petrol engine has had new induction components and revised calibration, to release an extra 7hp/5Nm from the Cup 250 to stand at overall outputs of 253hp and 255Nm.

Finally, while a Carbon Aero Pack-equipped Cup 250 was light at 921kg, the Cup 260 is 902kg in a comparable trim - thanks to lightweight carbon fibre and composite materials that are used for the sill covers (saving 0.8kg), roll hoop cover (-0.7kg), front access panel (-1.1kg) and engine cover (-3.3kg). There are also lightweight two-piece brake discs (-4kg), a polycarbonate rear screen and other standard Cup 250 items, such as the carbon seats (weighing just 6kg each) and a lithium-ion battery (saving 9kg). Stripped of fluids, the Elise Cup 260 weighs just 862kg.

What else has Lotus done to the Cup 260?

There's a close-ratio, six-speed manual transmission, which now features the open-gate arrangement of the Sprint 220 in the cabin. Two-way adjustable Nitron dampers with 24 settings for rebound and compression are fitted as standard to an Elise for the first time ever. Lightweight 16-inch front, 17-inch rear forged alloys are wrapped in Yokohama Advan Neova AD08R tyres, which are 10mm wider on both axles than the rubber on the Cup 250. Braking is provided by AP Racing twin-piston front calipers and Brembos at the rear, with the whole car clocking a power-to-weight ratio of 290hp-per-tonne, when the lightest Cup 250 was 267hp-per-tonne. Emissions stand at 175g/km CO2 and 37.7mpg, the same as they were previously.

Why is Lotus building this Cup 260, in particular?

Next year is the 70th anniversary of the first car built by Colin Chapman, Lotus' founder. Hence why the Cup 260 has a laurel wreath graphic on its left buttress (to mark out the company's motorsport successes), Union Jack flags on the edges of the rear spoiler and the option to paint the bodywork in the distinctive Championship Gold, as seen in the pictures.

How much will the Elise Cup 260 cost?

It starts from £59,500, which is a considerable hike on the £45,600 opening figure of the Cup 250 just a year ago. But, if you're wondering why that should be, then take into account all the figures quoted in the piece above and this one final, salient fact - just 30 examples of the Cup 260 will be built for the entire world, making this a super-rare collector's piece. So get in quick if you're interested...

Matt Robinson - 20 Oct 2017

Earlier articles featuring 2017 Lotus Elise

2017-03-20: Lotus puts Elise on a diet
2017-05-11: First drive: Lotus Elise Sprint 220

2017 Lotus Elise Cup 260. Image by Lotus.       - Lotus road tests
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