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Lotus Elise

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Lotus Elise S
8/10

Latest
Road Test

Lotus Elise S driven

Driven September 2012

Additional Info

Getting in with the roof in place is an absolute neck-cricking nightmare unless you're under 5ft tall or a gymnast, the radio is rubbish and after 50 miles on anything resembling a motorway you'll need a deep-tissue massage and possibly a replacement spine. It's hard to see out of and sits neatly below the beltline of most executive saloons, rendering it a magnet for the dozily unaware. Thank goodness they painted it orange, is all I can say. And yet this new Lotus Elise S is absolutely delicious. Brilliant. A car that anyone interested in driving should sample at least once.

The steering is unassisted and endlessly haptic, the suspension (albeit on smallish 16-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels and optional Bilstein damping on our test car) much more compliant than you might expect for a light, low car like this. There's very little excess or flab in the control surfaces - clutch, six-speed manual 'box, throttle and brakes all working in absolute harmony with the inputs you make. No interference, no static, no waiting.

Find an empty B-road, and this thing is as close to consistently plugged-in motoring nirvana as it's possible to get. This S version tops the 1.8-litre Toyota four-cylinder with a Magnuson supercharger, replacing the now-defunct SC version, and it's probably the most effective of all the Elises in terms of usable power. It makes roughly the same power as the previous model (217bhp), but shoves out 184lb ft of torque at 4,600rpm rather than 156 at 5k. That might not sound like much, but, on the road - where it counts - the S is a much easier car to drive quickly. No, it doesn't sing past 8,000rpm like the old car, battering a rev-limiter around 7,000rpm with a machine-gun stutter, but it feels like it really revels in the process.

It also doesn't feel overly supercharged. There's no huge whine, just a throb of induction roar, and the power builds in a way that's very sympathetic to fast, smooth driving. You can provoke the S into oversteer, but that's not really the point here - grip is huge, lines are tight, joy all but unavoidable. There's just one problem: at £36k without options, this is an expensive second car. A Porsche Boxster/BMW Z4/Nissan 370Z all offer less thrills, but could conceivably be used every day by those without masochistic tendencies.

Tom Ford

The numbers
1798cc, s'charged 4cyl, RWD, 217bhp, 184lb ft, 37.5mpg, 175g/km CO2, 0-62 in 4.6secs, 145mph, 942kg

The verdict
A masterclass in driving involvement - hence the high score, but unrefined and expensive compared to the competition

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