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Lotus Elise S review (2012 onwards)
Summary - Beautifully balance sports car once again has the power it deserves
We like - Sublime performance, silky chassis, utterly involving
We don't like - Stark interior, still a car for special drives rather than everyday use
You haven't been able to buy a properly fast, brand-new Elise for well over a year. The evil killjoy legislators around the world had decided that the supercharged Toyota engine was simply too polluting.
So for a period you had to make do with a regular 1.6 producing just 130hp. It's still a fine car, but now the Elise S is back, with a new 1.8-litre supercharged lump, 220hp and a £36k price tag.
Lotus promises this new Elise S is a real step up in performance and of course, cleaner out of the back end to keep the men in suits happy.
To get around the previous issues Lotus has fitted a Magnuson supercharger that, very cleverly, is integrated into the exhaust manifold along with the intercooler. It makes it compact and low weight.
The thrust in the mid-range is exhilarating
Owners of prior Elise S will have already noted that the power is, if anything, a touch down on earlier incarnations. Don't worry. Torque is up by almost 40%, and that translates to a significantly quicker car on the road.
It's still stimulating to take the engine around to the redline area, but now there's less need. The sheer thrust in the mid-range is exhilarating, so you get the best of both worlds.
The fact that the 0-62 time of the Elise S - 4.2 seconds - is just 0.2 seconds behind that of the Exige S with its 350hp supercharged V6, says a great deal. The Elise's slick, light gearchange helps here too.
Ride and handling
There's not much new that can be said about the handling of the Elise. It's the real DNA of the little Lotus, the root of its character right from 1997 when it had a low-powered Rover K-Series engine.
Such fine, delicate balance is still unequalled by any rival. The test car was tricked up with optional Bilstein dampers and some super grippy tyres for the Hethel track experience, but we've little doubt that the core values are undiminished with the regular setup.
There is, of course, still no power steering, and as a result the feel through the wheel is as tactile and responsive as you could ever hope for. The Elise S is still the most involving sports car you can buy.
The only way you are going to love the interior of the Elise is if you've moved upon from a Caterham Seven. The Lotus is minimalist in a way no other manufacturer would dare to be at this price.
On the positive side, the thin seats are comfortable and provide terrific support when you're hammering along, the ride is nicely compliant in true Lotus fashion, and today you can even specify air conditioning. Hard core enthusiasts won't. Aircon adds unnecessary weight.
The official figures for the Elise S promise 37.5mpg average. You won't get it, but honestly, even 30mpg is welcome on a car with 220hp performance.
The low weight of the Lotus helps the CO2 levels too. 175g/km is again an impressive figure for a high performance sports car.
The MSN Cars verdict
The 2012 Elise S gets the full five stars. There you have it. If this sounds like a boringly predictable result from a journalist infatuated with a car still in production fifteen years after its launch, consider this.
In a world where cars continually become more complicated, heavier and anodyne, the Elise stands out as much as a beacon of sports car excellence as it did at the very start. Just jump in a BMW Z4 or Mercedes SLK and you'll understand the difference instantly.
Need to know
Engine, petrol: 1.8 supercharged
Power, hp: 220
Torque, lb ft: 184
0-62 mph, secs: 4.2
Top speed, mph: n/a
Mpg, combined: 37.5
CO2, tax: 175g/km, 26%
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