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Lotus Elise & Exige

Lotus Elise & Exige Published: 1st Feb 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Elise & Exige
Lotus Elise & Exige
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Few cars are more focused than the Elise: even the most hard-core hot hatch or saloon seems overweight and ponderous when compared with this modern marvel. Colin Chapman’s legacy and mantra: to increase performance, first add lightness! Now 20 years since launch, the original is hot property yet the S2 is the better all rounder.


The Elise was designed with one thing in mind and that was to offer the best possible driving thrills. With a lightweight, good chassis, appropriate stiffness and a mid-mounted engine, it is one of the few cars that offers greater agility than the original Elan. Driving experiences don’t come much more pure; brakes and steering are perfectly weighted and the handling is sublime. Performance from the MGF engine is electric yet up to 40mpg is attainable thanks to the car’s feather weight. The closed-roof Exige is even more extreme and like the Elise sports no ‘nanny state’ driving aids to interfere. In the Elise/Exige, you’re on your own… Are you up to the challenge? You have to ask this because while an Elise is more civilised and friendlier than the superb Seven, it’s still hard core – perhaps too much so for some.


All things being equal, there’s no such thing as an undesirable Elise. The first official high-performance edition was the 187bhp VHPD followed by the Elise Sprint, which was quickly rebadged the 111S, with a 143bhp version of the VVC K-Series. Sport 135 saw only 50 built, with uprated brakes and suspension. Experts rate the Sprints and later 160s the most desired but many on sale will have been uprated to some degree anyway; ensure it’s done properly. S2 cars are much better and with nicer Toyota engines, too, yet purists like the original the most.


Elises can start at £11,000, but will need money spending on the project. Better to find £15,000, at least, for a nice uncrashed car that has been looked after and perhaps the thick end of 20 grand for a top S1. If you prefer an Exige, then you’ll have to dig pretty deep as just 500 examples of the S1 were made along with just 340 examples of the 340R and prices are all over the place, with a £35K+ the ballpark figure. Cars that have had official Lotus Motorsport parts fitted are usually worth more than completely standard cars if done properly. Finding a completely stock Elise or Exige is virtually impossible.


A good one is an utter joy but there’s plenty of apparent bargains on sale that need thousands spent to bring them into line. For this reason, drive as many as you can as an Elise may be so far removed to what you are used to, that even a lemon will feel like a peach to drive – enlist the help of an Elise expert so you get a good one. Condition is more important than spec and be wary of track day cars flogged to death and perhaps crashed – check that chassis carefully for damage. Rust can now be a problem so look for it, especially at the rear subframes. The MGF K Series engine pops head gaskets and cooling is critical. Dampers and brakes don’t last long if used hard – some original parts obsolete. Diffs whine, gear linkages wear and the pedals become floppy. And check the cabin for damp damage.

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