It looks like a racer for the road, but how does it actually fare on the racetrack?
The Elise has been with us for a long time, over two decades, and it’s still another three years before a brand new model arrives. Lotus has consistently worked on the car to up performance, usually by shaving weight off again and again. So with this new Sprint how has it moved forward? They’ve changed the bodywork and reduced weight. Yet again. How do they do that?
This latest Sprint weighs just 798kg. I’ve sat next to heavier people on airlines. To achieve this waif-like figure, Lotus has been shaving weight absolutely all over. The open-gate gearshift with its shorter throw takes off 1kg. The lithium-ion battery saves 9kg; the forged alloys save 5kg; the carbonfibre seats knock 6kg off the total and on it goes.
Lotus Elise Sprint
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Weight: 798kg (dry)
Top speed: 127mph
Economy: 44.8mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 149g/km, 28%
In total it comes to 26kg, some of that due to the new bodywork, with a front clamshell of which there is simply less, and simpler lights at the rear. With less weight, the new bodywork brings a more aggressive look to the car, although it was hardly a repmobile in the first place.
Sitting behind the new dials, we decided to take this race-light car to the racetrack because that’s how our minds work. The 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine now has less work to do but the same 132bhp. So that means braking, cornering and indeed feel are all improved simply by losing weight.
It’s a delight, a flyweight that can punch really hard. The narrow front tyres mean it steers wonderfully with full feedback to the driver. However, the far wider rear tyres do aid traction but the mix means there is more pronounced understeer.
That makes its presence felt all too easily on the track, but out on the road it’s not such an issue. There you can enjoy the balance of this mid-engined lightweight and listen to the really quite threatening exhaust note. If you want to learn how to drive and corner just on the throttle, then the Elise Sprint would be your perfect teacher and master.
There’s a purity in the experience of driving the Lotus that is hard to replicate in other areas of your life, let alone in other cars. What else could give the same sensation? The answer is the same as it has been for the last 21 years – there’s nothing to match it.
Whether it is worth the £5000 premium over the latest Elise Sport, which itself has lost 10kg, is another matter and one we can’t answer until we’ve driven it.
At £37,300 is it good value? Only you can decide that, and there’s nothing to really compare it with. Although if you do buy one you’ll probably save some money on food. If Lotus has gone to all that trouble to shave off the kilos how can you, in all conscience, keep adding the kilos?