Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page


 



First drive: Lotus Elise Sport 240 Final Edition. Image by Lotus.

First drive: Lotus Elise Sport 240 Final Edition
We really donít want the Elise to go. Especially not when it is as wondrous as this Sport 240 FE.

   



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> Lotus reviews

Lotus Elise Sport 240 Final Edition

5 5 5 5 5

If saying goodbye to the Lotus Exige after 21 years was hard enough, having to bid cheerio to the 25-year-old Elise is positively heartbreaking. We'd say the Norfolk concern had saved the best Elise for last with this Sport 240 Final Edition, but then as every Elise we've ever been in has provided an utterly seminal driving experience, that statement wouldn't be strictly true. Nonetheless, this is roadster heaven, right here.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Lotus Elise Sport 240 Final Edition
Pricing: Elise range from £45,500 for Sport 240 Final Edition as tested
Engine: 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door mid-engined roadster
CO2 emissions: 177g/km (VED Band 171-190: £895 first 12 months, then £490 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £155 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 36.2mpg
Top speed: 147mph
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Power: 243hp at 7,200rpm
Torque: 244Nm at 3,000-7,000rpm
Boot space: 117 litres

What's this?

The last-ever Lotus Elise. Can't believe we're writing that, to be honest. Since 1996, this lightweight, simple sports car has been an ever-present on the motoring scene and to think of a world without it makes us quite sad. This is because we've driven a lot of examples of it over the years - our minds immediately turn to a magnificent S1 in lime green, into which a company called Stark from Newcastle had ported the K20A from an EP3 Honda Civic Type R; the induction noise, speed and handling of that thing will live with us forever... but we digress - and we've always deeply enjoyed this roadster.

The terms 'iconic' and 'gamechanging' are used all too readily and often erroneously in the automotive reviewing industry, but the Elise can rightly lay claim to both epithets. More than anything this singular East Anglian company has launched over the years, the Elise best encapsulates founder Colin Chapman's 'simplify, then add lightness' mantra - and it forced other manufacturers to reconsider and re-evaluate the more commonly trod path of simply adding more and more power and grip to performance cars to get a thrilling drive out of them. It's very unlikely, for example, that something as superb as the Alpine A110 would ever have seen the light of day without the Elise existing first. Useful, then, that ideologically similar Alpine and Lotus will work together on future projects, having announced a tie-up between the two marques.

Anyway, this is one of the Final Editions that Lotus announced to mark the passing of both the Elise and its hard-as-nails Exige relation. The FE updates include specific badging on the wings and the rump of the cars, a plaque in their cabins to denote the special run-out status of the vehicle in question, plus new TFT instrument clusters and a flat-bottomed steering wheel finished in leather and Alcantara. Lotus also says these are the best-equipped models in each of the product lines' history, although when your starting point leaps off from the minimalistic kit-list of a Lotus, that's a pretty low bar to have to clear. It's like saying a stick is a more luxurious bit of wood than a twig.

However, besides these sundry updates, a few versions of the FE cars have received more power as their parting gift from Lotus. The Exige Sport 390, we've already reviewed for you (it's the first hyperlink in this piece's intro, in case you want to go and have a look), but over in the Elise's ranks there were just two models to play with anyway: the Sport 220 and the intense Cup 250. The latter of these is mechanically unchanged for the run-out, and rightly so (because it's phenomenal as is), so it's this car which is of most interest. It's a Sport 240, which sees its power (in PS) go from a badge-accurate 220hp on the Sport 220 to a not-quite-so-badge-accurate 243hp for this Final Edition. Mind, 243hp is 240bhp in old money, so Lotus is correct on that score. Anyway, best news of all here is that the Sport 240 Final Edition represents the most affordable way into Lotus ownership in 2021, with a starting price of £45,500. That's not exactly cheap, but is the FE worth the outlay?

How does it drive?

That might as well have been a rhetorical question at the end of the last section of the review. Of course the Elise Sport 240 Final Edition is worth the cash. Because it's bloody sublime. Roof off on a sunny day, getting into and out of the Lotus is a lot easier than it would be with the fabric in situ up top, but once you're in the cabin the interior still has that wonderful, stripped-back air to it. The new TFT cluster enlivens things and the Alcantara wheel is gorgeous to hold, but it's that exposed gear-linkage which dominates proceedings. To sit in, an Elise might not offer you many toys nor distractions from the pursuit of driving, but that's not exactly a bad thing in a car like this, now is it?

Interesting sidenote before we get onto the dynamics: the colour of the car you can see in the pictures is Azure Blue and it's another one of the heritage paints Lotus has dug out of a cupboard to bestow upon the Final Editions. In this Elise's case, Azure Blue is particularly resonant because in the original media images of the car from waaaay back in 1996, the first-ever production model was finished in... yep, you guessed it; Azure Blue.

Anyway, nostalgic sentimentality aside, the Sport 240 - whatever colour it is painted - remains a tremendous car, even right at the death. Part of the upgrades for the Elise FE are a set of ten-spoke Anthracite alloys (16-inch front, 17-inch rear), which are forged so that they save 0.5kg a corner compared to the wheels on a Sport 220. Now that's not huge, but it's a further reduction in unsprung mass and on a car which only clocks 922kg all-in, a 0.2 per cent weight saving has more of an effect than you might imagine. A quick chat to the Lotus bods also suggests the dampers have been retuned once again to best suit the lighter wheels and the result is quite astounding ride quality for a car of this nature.

Honestly, the Elise Sport 240 FE just glides serenely along even the worst roads. It's genuinely ridiculous how comfortable it is, with no indication that it's short-wheelbase, ultra-light and focused on driving thrills before the consideration of anything else. Lotus has long been known for enacting wizardry on its suspension settings but the way this special Elise conducts itself is no less astounding as a result. And in fact, this is the sort of car that'll put a smile on your face when all you're doing is pootling around in it; say 30-40mph, short-shifting through that majestic six-speed manual and listening to a 1.8-litre engine that isn't the most tuneful lump, even if you only consider the sphere of forced-induction four-pots.

But that's the real magic of the Elise. You don't have to stretch its dynamic capabilities to the limit to get the best of it. With its pure, unassisted and unfiltered steering, which is thoroughly delightful, and that unreal damping and its lack of mass and the muscular supercharged mill, it feels a rewarding and energising car when all you're doing in it is keeping up with the flow of day-to-day traffic.

When the road does open, though, you'll find few better sports cars in all the world than the Lotus. Its 1.8-litre motor gets a bit more vocally interesting at higher revs, where it really likes to pull hard towards the redline - you'll fully appreciate the 243hp and 244Nm outputs, because the Elise Sport 240 isn't just wildly accelerative off the line (a 4.5-second 0-62mph time speaks volumes of its urgency), it's properly quick everywhere in the rev range. But it's the exceptional balance and communication of the chassis which is what makes this car the legend that it undoubtedly is. An Elise can flow and dance its way across truly hideous, lumpen tarmac and it feels like it was born to be there. An Elise can grip hard and marmalise a big, sweeping A-road as if it were a car weighing twice as much as it actually does. An Elise can prove itself a vivacious, thrilling machine on track, where its light weight means it doesn't rapidly tire all of its major components out and therefore begin to quickly lose focus. An Elise is, quite simply, an absolute dream to drive in a wide variety of scenarios. Good grief, we will miss this thing so much when it's gone.

Verdict

There's not much we can say here, without getting a touch emotional and tearful. All the reasons the Elise cannot continue to exist well into the 2020s are totally understandable, and it's also exciting that Lotus has a whole new wave of models on the way in to replace this car. But to have to say 'so long' to this fantastic and compellingly rewarding little roadster is painful nonetheless. Therefore, there is no better way to do so than to go out, buy yourself an Elise Sport 240 Final Edition, and then revel in the wonder of it for years and years and years to come. Off you pop, then.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

2 2 2 2 2 Luggage Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 19 May 2021



  www.grouplotus.com    - Lotus road tests
- Lotus news
- Elise images

2021 Lotus Elise Sport 240 Final Edition UK test. Image by Lotus.2021 Lotus Elise Sport 240 Final Edition UK test. Image by Lotus.2021 Lotus Elise Sport 240 Final Edition UK test. Image by Lotus.2021 Lotus Elise Sport 240 Final Edition UK test. Image by Lotus.2021 Lotus Elise Sport 240 Final Edition UK test. Image by Lotus.







 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Old motor show reports | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2022 ©