In a Sea of Overweight Cars, the Lotus Elise and Exige Final Editions Are Instant Classics
After 25 years, the lightweight Elise is going out with a bang.
In this era of cars only getting heavier, the Lotus Elise and its hardtop Exige variant may just be more relevant than ever. However, with sales figures hardly confirming this view, Lotus is now ready to move on with a new line of combustion sports cars. The Type 131 is set to replace both the Elise/Exige and the more mature Evora, and while the larger car is still available in America in GT form, in other markets, Lotus is ending the Elise's 25- and the Exige's 21-year career with the five new models, badged as the Final Editions.
More power at 240 horses already in base Elise Sport 240 tune, along with 10-spoke Anthracite lightweight forged alloy wheels, a new TFT instrument cluster, quality Alcantara at all the touchpoints, and of course the always crisp six-speed manual with its exposed linkage. Starting at £45,500 in the U.K. and €56,500 in Germany, the Final Edition range includes the Elise Sport 240 and Cup 250, as well as the Exige Sport 390, 420, and Exige Cup 430 models. Price-wise, that is on pair with a four-cylinder 718 Cayman.
For the entry-level Elise with the touring suspension, the recipe has hardly changed since 1996. Well past two decades on the market, the current car doubles the juice with a four-cylinder engine supercharged to 240 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, which results in a zero-to-60 run of 4.1 seconds, and a top speed of 147 mph. Thanks to its revolutionary extruded bonded aluminum chassis that later also made the first Tesla Roadster possible, the Elise Sport is a 2,052-pound affair, while the Cup weighs in at 2,032 pounds, or at 1,979 with all the optional carbon fiber panels, lithium-ion battery, and polycarbonate rear window.
Keeping that track-happy specification in mind, Carfection's Henry Catchpole would argue that all the base Elise needs in 2021 is the optional sport seat package, just for a touch of extra support through the perfectly executed corners.
You will hear more about both the Elise, the Exige, and the excellent Evora in 2021 before production would come to an end, all while Lotus Cars gears up to produce its 1,973-horsepower Evija electric hypercar, team up with Alpine for a smaller EV, develop the much-anticipated Type 131 with a combustion engine, and launch an electric SUV that's set to play the same sales hero role as the V8 DBX from Aston Martin.
As clever lightweight engineering has to battle global homologation rules set for the future, it's safe to say that there won't ever be a sports car as basic and versatile as the Elise, the small glove-like Lotus that reached perfection for its final year. If you live in such a place, just grab one while you can.
For other locations, there's the Evora, now also in its final year.
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